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The magic of Naarm-based fashion label Moss Tunstall

PHOTOGRAPHER TED MIN

STYLIST – ELLA MURPHY

HAIR AND MAKEUP – MOOCHI MCCONVILLE

WORDS BY IZZY WIGHT

“I wanted people to feel seen, appreciated, sexy and just themselves. That’s still my sentiment for the label today.”

As a constantly overstimulated, inundated, internet-using consumer, it’s easy to become a little disenchanted with the world of fashion. The in-store experience is now online, our favourite designers are a DM away and we’ve stopped poring over special-edition September issues. As a fashion writer, sometimes even I forget what a wonderful art form a garment can be.

Imaginative, enchanting and the perfect amount of unsettling, Melbourne-based label Moss Tunstall’s latest campaign is a reminder of the magic of fashion. This isn’t a lookbook, it’s a fantastical short story illustrated with experimental denim, oversized bows and blue face paint. “Outstanding Courage and Coolness Whilst Flying follows the strange and effervescent relationship between an aspiring jet setter and mischievous gremlin”, designer Ajay Jennings explains.


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“Seeking to be somewhere and something out of this world, [the girl] Clementine has grand aspirations of taking flight. However, her attempts in takeoff are stunted time and time again by her blue-coloured counterpart’s puzzling games.” If that doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will. Today, Ajay unveils the mystery of his fashion label, Moss Tunstall.

Tell us about you. What’s your fashion background?

I’m Ajay Jennings, an artist living in Naarm, Australia. My fashion background is rather small. I graduated from RMIT in 2016 with a BA in Communication Design and have spent the better part of the last ten years as an avid painter. Style as a concept is something I grasped at a very young age but fashion is something recent for me.

How did the label get started? Talk us through the process and the challenges.

 

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Moss Tunstall spawned off the back of a trip to Europe I went on in mid-2019. I was completely intoxicated by someone I was dating and she introduced me to a new side of fashion. I’d been experimenting with painting and printing over old clothes and when I met this person, my creations were appreciated by her and her peers in a way that was really attractive to me.

Once I got back to Australia, I jumped straight back into my studio and began a new body of work. This became the inaugural Moss Tunstall collection, Krasner. I wanted to create a label to present and sell this body of work through – that’s when the pseudonym ‘Moss Tunstall’ found me.

Once I had enough garments to photograph, I proposed a shoot to some friends from around the traps (photographer Jesper Hede and stylist Nat Pluchinotta). Then viola, the debut campaign Suburbanites Go to the Beach was birthed. The challenge was getting people to see it!

What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time? How has this evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the brand now?

I had simple ambitions for the label at the beginning. To be truthful, I just wanted to give a second life to pre-loved clothing. I wanted people to feel seen, appreciated, sexy or just themselves. That’s still my sentiment for the label today.

As for the evolution, Moss Tunstall grew larger than I anticipated. When I launched the brand, I had a part-time job as a picture framer, was freelancing and working towards my own shows, so the brand was really just an afterthought. Now it’s a full-time gig – which I’m extremely humbled to say – and I get to give it a lot more attention.

How would you describe Moss Tunstall to someone who’s never seen it before?

I don’t know… maybe bright and ridiculous?

Where did the name come from?

 

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My father suggested it. He – a very unlikely contributor to my career creatively – just blurted it out when I mentioned I was looking for a pseudonym for my project one evening. I’d been living with my folks after returning from overseas and the bags of clothing I constantly lugged around piqued their interest. I gave my parents a rundown of what I was creating and trying to achieve.

Out of left field – like it was on the tip of his tongue my entire life – my father suggested Moss Tunstall. It was the name of my grandfather’s co-pilot in WWII. “The coolest man I’ve ever seen,” my father told me. It was very serendipitous and sweet. I don’t condone violence nor do I think war is a solution to anything, but I love the name and the sentiment of it coming from my father.

What are you most proud of in your work on your label?

Creatively, it would be the campaigns and the ongoing relationships I’ve formed through making them. After spending time developing a concept with different artists, coming together for a day-long dance is thrilling!

What do you wish you knew when you started?

How to operate a small business.

Who do you think is most exciting in Australian fashion right now?

Jordan Gogos, aka Iordanes Spyridon Gogos, aka Gogos.

What about the Australian fashion industry needs to change?

 

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Nepotism. Heads of the major fashion festivals, powerful brands and magazines should do more research and look into smaller labels they can support. This will hopefully bring some much-needed diversification to the industry.

Dream Australian collaborators?

Rowland S Howard, Ramesh Nithinyendran and the National Gallery of Australia.

Go-to dinner party playlist?

Sade, Julie Cruise or Menahan Street Band.

Who is in your wardrobe right now?

Moschino, Burberry, Margiela, Levi’s and Reigner, to name a few. Mostly secondhand.

How can we buy one of your pieces?

 

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Through our online store.

Anything else to add?

Moss Tunstall is hosting a pop-up store and exhibition at Missing Persons in the Nicholas Building from December 1 to 2. Opening night is Wednesday December 1 from 6pm to 8pm. Please come through! Wheelchair access is available via lifts, refreshments will be provided and sounds by artist Cale Sexton will be playing.

Shop the Moss Tunstall collection here.

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