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Finally, a brand devoted entirely to turtlenecks has arrived

WORDS BY EMMA ANVARI

Life’s too short to wear boring clothes.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved the feeling of a good turtleneck. They’re sleek, they’re stylish and more importantly, they get my lizard-like body through Melbourne’s chilly winters. In or out of fashion – I don’t care. I love them. 

To my seriously pleasant surprise, there’s a small, recently-launched Melbourne-based label dedicated to perfecting the art of the turtleneck. Hand-crafted in her tiny studio apartment, 24-year-old Claire Anderson’s fashion label Juno Araya offers made-to-order turtlenecks in sizes six through to 24, in a variety of colours and assorted prints. 

Each design is created using either 95 per cent recycled polyester with original prints, or deadstock fabrics from local suppliers. 10 per cent of the profits from each purchase are also donated to Ethiopian NGO Mekedonia Homes, which seeks to improve the lives of both the elderly and disabled in Addis Ababa. 

I sat down with Claire to chat about all things turtlenecks, including her creative process, her T-neck obsession and why Harry Styles is somewhat responsible for Juno Araya’s existence.

Tell me about your relationship with fashion. What sparked your interest in it?

I actually grew up in a rural Queensland town, so there was really no shopping. My mum would always sew my clothes for me and some of my earliest memories are going fabric shopping with her. But it wasn’t until I moved to Melbourne that I got a bit more momentum and really immersed myself in that world. 

What made you decide to start a business? I saw you only started your Facebook page in July this year. Is that roughly around the same time you started Juno Araya?

Yeah, it was. I started sewing towards the start of lockdown, so in April I bought my own machine and started sewing again. I actually only properly taught myself to sew in May! Deciding to start the business was a combination of things. Personally, I wear turtlenecks every day – in summer, if I’m going for a run, whatever. I’m always wearing a turtleneck. To me, there’s a really big gap in the market. Whenever I looked on the market the only real options were sort of high end $600 plus or AliExpress for $10 a pop. There was no middle ground. So I thought, ‘I’m making these turtlenecks, I really like them, why not turn it into a business?’.

Why just turtlenecks?

Obviously, in Queensland I’d never even seen someone wear a turtleneck; it was totally unheard of! I bought my first turtleneck when I moved to Melbourne and I was like “I love this”. I just loved how it looked, I loved how it fit. Adapting to the winter was difficult so having a built-in scarf was a functionality thing, but then it moved into ‘I just really love turtlenecks’. The reason for only turtlenecks is because I thought the best way to start would be to just focus on making them the best possible.

 

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I saw you use 95 per cent recycled polyester. How important is having a low carbon footprint for you?

It’s really important. Everyone knows that fashion is, I think, the second-highest contributor to landfill. It’s probably a fifty-fifty combination of actually finding the quality fabric and then also making sure our footprint is a little bit lighter. Another thing we do use is a lot of deadstock fabric. If that fabric wasn’t utilised it’d just be going to waste. 

Tell me about the artists you collaborate with for your prints. 

The first artist we worked with is an Ethiopian artist currently based in the US. I saw one of his pieces on Instagram and thought ‘Oh I would love that on a turtleneck’. I guess I never really knew it was a possibility – I didn’t even know fabric printing was a thing until I started this role. So I got in touch with him and it kind of seemed like a two birds one stone kind of thing. I think it’s always really important to support the artists that you like and in this case, I got to support the work of someone I really admire and also get a really cool print for my turtleneck. 

What’s your creative process like? 

My work style is pretty haphazard. I’ll see something that I like or I’ll see a print and send it to the printers. Then I’ll make up a sample for myself, show it to my partner and he’ll give me the nod of approval as to whether we should put it up on the website. I’ll use that sample for the photos and then everything else is made to order, so there’s really no fabric going to waste. That’s why we’re really lucky that we can offer such a large size range because it is made to order.

How important was it to you to be inclusive? Is that something you set out to be?

Yeah, that was one of the most important things up there with only offering turtlenecks. It was really important to offer those sizes, and honestly, it’s really simple as well. I just drafted a pattern for those sizes and as the orders come in I just make those sizes. Having been plus-sized myself, having plus-sized family members and friends, it was just a given that that would be what we offered. 

 

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What’s your favourite part of your process?

Wearing my own turtlenecks is pretty exciting or seeing one of my customers wearing something they’ve ordered. It’s kind of like a full-circle moment.

Why did you decide to donate some of your profits to Mekedonia Homes? Is there a connection there?

Yeah, actually my business partner – and my life partner – is Ethiopian. Our overall dream would be to one day set up our workspace in Ethiopia and be able to employ local people. I asked the artist that we used (because he grew up in Addis Ababa) if he knew a good charity we could donate to and that one was suggested by him. So, there’s a personal connection with both my partner and the first artist that we’re using. 

What are your goals for Juno Araya?

To be able to set up a workspace in Ethiopia. It’s about being able to employ people but pay them a living wage and make sure working conditions are good. My other goal would be to one day see Harry Styles wearing one of my turtlenecks. [Laughs] That was actually one of my main motivations starting my label. He was supposed to be touring in November. I know he always tries to wear local designers on tour so I thought, ‘Okay I’ve got to get my butt into gear to get him into my turtleneck’. 

junoaraya.com

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