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Naarm-based designer Corin Corcoran turns trash into treasure with her recycled pieces

Photography by Rebecca Marian Irene

Words by Kate Streader

“I started sewing and designing clothes as a kid. We didn’t grow up with much, so upcycling and transforming clothing has always been a big part of my life.”

Corin Corcoran has been designing clothing for much of her life, having learnt to sew and upcycle clothing in her childhood out of necessity. She called on those skills again later in life when seeking an outlet for her mental health struggles and found catharsis in transforming damaged pieces of clothing into beautiful designs.

After earning an audience through showcasing her designs in DIY photoshoots, Corin launched her eponymous label and moved to Naarm to immerse herself in the city’s fashion scene.


Discover more up-and-coming local designers in our Fashion section. 


Her handmade designs continue to recycle clothing that would otherwise be discarded into new pieces. Her work has a gothic-meets-romantic aesthetic – think structural corsets and dresses that look as though they’ve been plucked from the Renaissance, albeit a bit rougher around the edges.

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

 

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I’m Corin Corcoran, a proud Weilwan woman based in Naarm. I’m a self-taught sewer, I started sewing and designing clothes as a kid. We didn’t grow up with much, so upcycling and transforming clothing has always been a big part of my life.

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

The brand started on my loungeroom floor in a sharehouse in Newcastle when I was 18. I was struggling with my mental health and needed an outlet. I went back to my roots of cutting up old clothes I owned and transforming them into something new, I started doing photoshoots with my housemates and my iPhone camera and people seemed to enjoy what I was doing.

I quickly realised moving to Naarm would be beneficial for me and my career, which is when I started experimenting more with different materials and concept-based work.

 

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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? 

In the beginning, I was a broke artist wanting to do something new. I think needing an outlet and dealing with trauma in my life, I was subconsciously taking clothing items that were used and no longer wanted, finding the beauty in them and transforming them into something new.

[That] helped me to deal with my own traumas, transformation and view of myself – being able to appreciate the damage of these items, and myself, and find the worth in them. That has now become the main concept of my work and what I am trying to achieve.

How would you describe Corcoran Corin to someone who’s never seen it before?

A slow fashion brand/journey of appreciating form and growth at the root of what it is.

Where did the name come from?

I’ve always been self-conscious about my birth name (Corin Corcoran) and wanted to change it. But I realised it’s what I’ve grown into and to not be ashamed of it, which felt like the perfect summary of my brand because it is so personal.

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

 

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I’m shocked I was able to achieve everything I’ve done so far. Growing up with dyscalculia and learning disabilities, I never thought I would be able to make clothing because I struggle with basic skills. But working around that, moving to a new city to create my work, being a part of Fashion Week, and even being hired as a designer, I know that my younger self would be shocked and very proud of what I have achieved.

What do you wish you knew when you started? 

I wish I knew how exploitative the industry and big businesses are before I started and had the confidence to do something about it and be my own boss in the beginning. I also wish I knew the worth of myself and what I was making.

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

All the mob/blakfellas and brands being vulnerable and talking about confronting topics in an industry that is known for ignoring it, the amount of shows highlighting First Nations design, and people learning so much through that, seeing where it’s going to take us in fashion excites me the most.

What about the Australian fashion industry needs to change?

 

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Normalising conversations around where clothing is coming from and ethical choices. Normalising First Nations design in the mainstream and including it in all shows and shoots, all year round.

Dream Australian collaborators? 

I would love to collab with Haus of Dizzy, Thottie Spice and Rowland Vision.

Who is in your wardrobe right now? 

I’m big on collecting items. At the moment I’m really into John Fluevogs shoes, Fidan Novruzova and vintage pieces that I can get my hands on paired with my Clothing the Gaps statement tees

How can we buy one of your pieces?

 

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I currently have one-off pieces made from cherished items online at Studio Fear. I also do customs and work through my direct messages!

Anything else to add? 

Always was, always will be Aboriginal Land.

See more of Corin Corcoran’s work here

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