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How this Melbourne fashion designer transformed a lockdown project into a thriving label

Photography by Shelley Horan

WORDS BY JASMINE ALAVUK

An iso project that got way out of hand.

I’m always incredibly impressed by people who managed to be productive during Melbourne’s hard lockdown – dragging myself out of bed each morning in time for a Zoom meeting felt like an insurmountable challenge at times. One such impressively productive person is Eleanor Hutchison, who is at the helm of the emerging Australian label Warmcore.

After losing her job she decided to turn her boredom and free time into a fashion project and began to sell her pieces to her friends and family. Described on its website as “an iso project that got way outta hand”, Warmcore’s engaged following love the label for its punchy, colour block designs and focus on inclusivity.

Finding their way to the consumer direct from Eleanor’s workbench, Warmcore’s brightly coloured, comfort-focused clothing is ethically made and designed to empower the wearer. I grabbed a moment of her time to find out more about starting a label during a pandemic and the challenges of flying solo. 


For more fashion news, shoots, articles and features, head to our Fashion section.


This project emerged during COVID. What were you doing prior to 2020, and how did you come up with the idea to start Warmcore?

So I studied costume design. I didn’t do fashion, and I worked in a place that makes animatronic creatures for shows and museums and theme parks and stuff (you can look them up, they’re called Creature Technology Company). During lockdown, I got really bored because I couldn’t work, so I started making jumpers. I started sending jumpers to my sister and my friends. And basically from word of mouth, people started messaging my private Instagram.

And then finally I made 30 of them and just sold them all and then realised, “Okay, this is what I’m going to do for now until I get back to work”. So that was the very end of the first lockdown. And then I went back to work for a few months, and I was still making jumpers then, really quickly, I realised I’d made 150 jumpers in that time. So I made an Instagram for it and I made a name for it really out of the blue. It sort of just happened by accident.

Did you have any previous fashion label/design experience?

I started sewing when I was really young. Mum taught us to make our own pyjamas pants when we were little. I guess it was something that I was naturally good at and I think I developed this special awareness around sewing from a young age. I’m not good at math, but I can draw and I can sew. I was like, “Well, I’ll be good at it. I don’t know if I’ll be successful. It’s really hard to get a job, but I’ll give it a go.” There wasn’t a lot of thought behind it – I just really liked sewing.

Your tops are such fun items – I like that they add a welcome pop of colour to any outfit. What inspired the Warmcore look? 

I call them the squiggle tops! I actually started making things for myself with that design years ago. And so I just made a skivvy and it was a design I always had. It’s been a thing I like making and I guess I just picked the right time because people really like it right now. It took a few goes to get it right. But there wasn’t a whole lot of insightful thinking behind it. It was just something I tried and it worked, and it looks flattering. 

How do you manage running a label on your own? 

It’s just me. My sister made my website, and I work with Shelley Horan, who’s a photographer – she’s incredible. She’s been doing her own business for a while and we talk a lot about the business side. Running a business involves a lot of admin, so it was a rude awakening when I realised I can’t just make clothes all day because there is so much paperwork and admin and it takes a lot of time! Because it’s just in my room, I can do it at all hours and not feel like I’ve worked myself to death.

If I’m feeling stressed, I’ll make things – it makes me feel better – especially new things. This morning I wasn’t really feeling like making orders, so I just got my iPad out and did some drawing for some new stuff instead. And on days where I feel like “Oh, I can’t handle standing up all day sewing”, I’ll do the admin side. 

What challenges have you overcome that you’re most proud of?

When I first started, I had to model my own work, which I really hated because I’m not a model. All my photos from my early days are pictures of me with my head cut off and I was getting messages from people, which were totally fair enough, like, “Why are your models all skinny white girls?”. I felt quite confronted by that. People would be like, “You’re not being inclusive”. I was like, “I can’t be right now”.

That was quite a challenge because it really felt like I was starting a business all on my own – it was just me doing everything, including modelling. And since then, I’m really glad to have been able to increase the inclusivity just by being able to have amazing models. I really love celebrating different bodies. We’ve been able to create something that is a celebration. I think that’s my favourite thing about it. I want to make something that is well made, and I want to make something that is made for all bodies. I feel I’ve been doing pretty well at getting towards that point, which I’m really happy about.

What advice would you give to other local, independent emerging designers?

Just do what you can, when you can. And don’t stress about what people are saying. Also, if you’re doing really well, don’t quit your job straight away. You’ll go a bit nuts. It is very solo at this end and you need to have people that you see every day to give you the positive feedback.

What’s next for Warmcore?

Something which my brother-in-law called “Even Warmercore” wool designs. And so I’ve got some wool things happening and I’ll do more skivvies and different designs. I really like the fleece and I really like how affordable it is for people so I will keep doing that. But I found way better colours this year so I’m really excited to actually do more fun designs. I like to hope that I’m still at the point where I can still try and throw – or lack of a better word – throw shit at the wall until it sticks. I might be doing a bit of  trial and error and I’ll probably make 10 of something and sell them, and then not do that anymore. Or maybe special additions. I think I’d like to do a couple of those this year. I love winter. It’s my favourite, so I’m really excited to try all this new stuff and see where it goes.

Check out Warmcore’s range here.

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