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How Naarm-based duo Maroske Peech turned an experimental design project into a thriving fashion label

PHOTOGRAPHER – PHEBE SCHMIDT

PRODUCTION AND STYLING – Thalea Michos-Vellis

MAKEUP – PENELOPE BURKE

HAIR – ALEXANDER JEFFREY MOON

WORDS – IZZY WIGHT

“It’s hard to hand over your work to the real world but that’s become the most fascinating part, seeing our customers play their part in the story.”

There’s a distinct set of experiences that comes with growing up immersed in the creative arts. However firmly or loosely you identified with your after-school side hustle, there are faint memories of putting on your mum’s lipstick for your first dance recital or stage show, slipping your Bloch shoes into your schoolbag or partaking in the unspoken competition for the slickest bun.

Maybe you were more of a sports kid (I maintain you’re either one or the other, I will not accept both) but for the ex-dancers, actors and musical theatre nerds, there will always be a lingering nostalgia for the stage. For Melbourne-based design duo Elisa Keeler and Jordan Conder, this nostalgia was the inspiration for a thriving creative project and independent label, Maroske Peech.


Keep up to date with ethical designers over at our Fashion section. 


Melding the worlds of art and fashion, Elisa and Jordan design experimental pieces with a subtle nod to the dance world – think strappy spiral leggings, high-cut leotards and boleros our ballet teachers could only dream of. I spoke to the duo to discover more about their creative beginnings.

Tell us about each of you. What are your respective fashion (or other) backgrounds?

We met studying fashion at RMIT before each moving into the fashion industry independently. While we were studying, we began to work collaboratively and talked about sharing studio space to continue our own fashion practises. There are parts of our backgrounds (other than fashion) that have inspired some of our past collections, like dance and an attraction to the stage. We’ve both lived in smaller regional towns, so the showbiz spotlight and big city dream always felt like something that only happens in the movies.

 

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

The label really came about by accident while we were designing with what little spare time we had between work. We were making clothing for fun and posting the images to our social media. Back then, most garments were one-off and made with fabric scraps we had collected from past uni work. We also weren’t really keeping any records (ha!).

Suddenly, we were getting hit up by big stylists overseas and people interested in purchasing our pieces. Distal Phalanx contacted us to stock a capsule collection, which was an amazing opportunity. There was then this moment we both looked at each other and thought, ‘Oh my god, we have a fashion label!’ We didn’t start creating with the premise of becoming a label, so the biggest challenge was to start thinking of the brand in a business context instead of as an experimental practice.

What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time?

We just wanted to share our garments, test out different ideas, experiment with sewing techniques and take interesting images. We wanted to develop our skills and refine our aesthetic. We also just love creating images that tell a story and we have the means to be able to fabricate outfits to assist in the narrative.

 

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How has this evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the brand now?

Authenticity is at the heart of what we do – we’re just two people with a small fashion label. We’re ultimately geeks and we hope that our work can resonate with people who feel the same way. It’s hard to hand over your work to the real world but that’s become the most fascinating part, seeing our customers play their part in the story.

How would you describe Maroske Peech to someone who’s never seen it before?

That’s a difficult task as the label is so visual and draws from a lot of different references. We’ve sometimes called it flexible ready-to-wear 0r demi-couture, but we feel that Maroske Peech is always in a state of flux. I think sometimes words fail us – particularly in fashion where people want definitive answers or buzz terms – so you have to see our work to fully understand.

Where did the name come from?

Maroske Peech is our mother’s maiden names combined. There’s a really musical phonaesthetic quality to the name. Like the phrase ‘cellar door’ (famously regarded as one of the most beautiful and euphonic sound combinations), we hope it evokes a mysterious and alluring mood. It’s somewhat traditional to name a fashion label after your mother (like Rodarte or Proenza Schouler) and it’s a lovely ode to these important people in our lives.

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

Overall, we’re proud that we proved we can make it. Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves to realise how far we’ve come; we’re releasing our seventh body of work this August. Our newest project I Just Sold My Soul plays on our continued interest in the stage – but this time we are looking at the audition process and the ‘fake it ’til you make it’ attitude. We are also offering a broader size range, which we’ve been working on for a while now and are super excited to share.

What do you wish you knew when you started?

Nothing! Our naivety is what fueled our desire to do this; not feeling held back or tied up by a business structure or budget. Those things can come later. It’s important to us to maintain a sense of freedom now that we’re a brand – it keeps what we do important to us and our customers

 

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

The accessibility of Australian fashion. When we were growing up, it felt like less than one per cent of Australian designers would be showing in NYC or Paris. Having your brand name alongside international labels seemed unattainable. Thankfully, the modern landscape has completely changed. We’re no longer just limited to an Australian audience – we’re able to see our pieces all over the world.

What about the Australian fashion industry needs to change?

The fashion industry needs to be less trend-driven and think more about longevity. Independent labels like us design, sample, toile, dispatch and pack all in one location. Bigger labels send couriers around the world for certain finishes and processes. I think keeping the supply chains simple means you can control ethical manufacturing practices while keeping what is left of the industry here alive.

Dream Australian collaborators?

We adore questions like this because it feels like casting a spell! The Australian Ballet, Bloch or Energetics would be a really amazing experience… we can already imagine all the fashion dancewear pieces would be so fab and versatile. It would be a dream come true to collaborate with performers or singers to design tour outfits – we’re thinking Madonna x Jean Paul Gaultier for the Blonde Ambition tour, but with Kylie Minogue.

Go-to dinner party playlist?

We love the harpist and composer Nailah. Their work is beautiful and perfect for a dinner party.

Who is in your wardrobe right now?

We both wear a lot of secondhand vintage. Some current favourite brands we’re on the hunt for are Just Cavalli, Versace Jeans, ’80s or ’90s Moschino, Jean Paul Gaultier, Dolce and Gabbana (vintage only), Mugler and our forever favourite, Alaïa! We tend to mix secondhand with new wave independent designers like Alix Higgins, Spencer Lai, Brendan Morris, Olivia Rowan, Alison PyrkeEgg Lemon and anything from Distal Phalanx.

How can we buy one of your pieces?

We’re releasing our new collection on August 22. You can check it out on our website or follow us on Instagram for more updates.

Shop the Maroske Peech collection and discover more here

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