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From faux band merch to fully-fledged label, here’s how Naarm’s Die Horny found its feet

PHOTOGRAPHY BY ADEN MCLEOD
WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

“A lot of my work is made by experimenting. Many mistakes happen along the way and most of the time it’s for the best.”

Like many people around the world, designer Neo Frost lost her job in events due to COVID. Softening the blow somewhat was the fact that she’d already realised the events industry wasn’t the right fit for her. She felt, in her own words, “unable to use my creativity to its fullest potential”. With a background in art and newfound free time, after her partner brought a sewing machine home she decided to dedicate herself to creating.

She started repurposing old garments, covering them in abstract embroidery – T-shirts and striped shirts were fused together with exposed stitching and loose threads dangling, and caps were covered in splatters of bleach, with words and fabric appliques layered on top. Despite having no prior experience in fashion, the one-of-a-kind pieces she created were gaining traction, particularly once she began posting them to an Instagram account she and her partner had made for their joint music project, Die Horny.


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


The account instead became a place for them to share Neo’s designs, and Die Horny the label was born. After a few months of selling her work via Instagram, she was approached by Melbourne boutique Error 404. Now stocked in both Error 404 and fellow Melbourne store Sucker, the label has become a firm fixture of the up-and-coming local fashion scene (it’s even been featured in Northside-specific TikToks, so ubiquitous are the label’s caps in certain parts of Melbourne).

I spoke to Neo about her unconventional journey into the fashion industry, how her German heritage feeds into the brand’s distinctive aesthetic, and what inspired their memorable brand name.

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

It’s quite funny because I have no experience working in fashion. Before Die Horny I was working in events as an event manager. I didn’t feel like I was on the right path – something was missing. I was unable to use my creativity to its fullest potential. I am a multidisciplinary artist. I started off expressing my creativity at a young age through painting, drawing and tattooing. Over the years I have experimented with different mediums and drawing on fabric was one of them. I had no prior experience in designing patterns or sewing however I took up sewing in 2019 after losing my job in events due to the pandemic.

My partner bought me a sewing machine and I haven’t stopped creating and learning since. I am self-taught and work in an analogue way by creating everything by hand so I move very slowly. I’m constantly experimenting in unconventional ways and pushing the boundaries. I use the sewing machine to create abstract embroidery designs onto garments, I usually make it up on the spot. I’ve always been inspired by the avant-garde fashion culture in the ’80s, architecture, experimental films and sounds like the crackling of a broken record, reversed tapes, soundscapes, noise and ambient. I use music as a tool to guide me in a direction.

 

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A post shared by DIE HORNY (@die_horny)

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

Die Horny was born during the pandemic in my Thornbury home. The idea of Die Horny initially arose as a music project with my partner in early 2020, along the way we found ourselves making garments for our project and it slowly evolved into a clothing brand. Being ethically conscious we always source all our materials locally, second hand and buy deadstock materials. We started selling our garments on Instagram and a few months later we were asked to stock in a store and it took off from there. I haven’t had a day off since we started but I have enjoyed every minute of 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 originally wanted to express the beauty of unconventional things. I love imperfections and I tried to project that through my work. Most of the materials are recycled so I spend a lot of time deconstructing old garments and constructing them back together in my own way. I love taking an old garment and turning it into something new. There’s something really beautiful about it. The result feels timeless and wasteless. A lot of my work is made by experimenting. Many mistakes happen along the way and most of the time it’s for the best. We use a lot of words on our garments to express sexuality, romance and seduction like ‘erotica’, ‘tender’, ‘liebe’, ‘pleasure’. My mother is German and a lot of inspiration has come from our German heritage.

How would you describe Die Horny to someone who’s never seen it before? 

Gender fluid, art brut aesthetic. Unique one-off pieces.

 

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A post shared by DIE HORNY (@die_horny)

Where did the name come from?

My partner and I were actually creating electronic music at the time and we were brainstorming ideas for a band name. Somehow through bantering one day we came up with Die Horny and thought it would be a great band name. Then we created an Instagram before we released any music and even joked about how it could be funny making merch before we made the music. We started playing around with sewing, fashion and art and it kind of somehow went from a band idea to a fashion label.

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

I guess I’m proud of the whole process and how far we have come. I did not think we would be where we are now. It’s super powerful and overwhelming to realise that you can pick up new skills so easily and create things that are receiving such positive feedback while doing something you genuinely love. It really fuels my creativity on days I’m not feeling particularly inspired, having a social media platform that encourages my art.

What do you wish you knew when you started? 

Pattern design, business, admin and all the back end stuff. You can never not know enough about business and I’m terrible with that stuff but I am learning more each day.

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

Jordan Gogos is really a stand out for me, a true visionary and inspiration. There are so many talented emerging designers in Naarm at the moment and it’s so amazing to see.

What about the Australian fashion industry needs to change?

I’m not actually sure what needs to be changed in the industry but it’s always great to see more support for independent designers. I have seen a lot of growth and changes over the years, there’s definitely a lot more freedom and gender diversity today than there ever has been. I’ve experienced an overwhelming amount of support from local and NZ designers – so many people have reached out to us along the way. Having that kind of community here in Naarm really helps and boosts your confidence which is so nice to see. I also think that more inclusivity in sizing needs to be addressed and that’s something I am looking forward to being able to provide in the future.

A lot of my pieces are one-off and commissioned but we are starting to incorporate graphic design and look forward to having an online store that stocks printed pieces in every size so I can always have something available for anyone looking at the time. Also as I pour so many hours into each design having some that are financially accessible is something we can also provide doing runs of design prints. I think fashion should be accessible for anyone no matter what size or how much money they have. That is one thing that the fashion industry does create – it’s not historically been accessible for people who aren’t thin and wealthy.

 

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A post shared by DIE HORNY (@die_horny)

Dream Australian collaborators?

There are so many incredible artists in Narrm I would love to collaborate with. I am currently working with a couple of artists for an upcoming collaboration which I’m very excited to share.

Go-to dinner party playlist?

Hmm… jazz always starts off my dinner party, gently sets the mood for conversation at the table. After dinner, it can go from krautrock to Italo disco to new-wave synth. My friends and I share so much music together so playlists are endless.

Who is in your wardrobe right now? 

I love supporting our local Australian and New Zealand designers. At the moment I’ve been living in my Be Right Back. I am a fancy tee and Ka-He merino wool pull suit pants. I’m a big fan of Jordan Gogos, I own a few of their magical wearables. Posture Studios, Eeetyn’s arm warmers, Sschafer, Karla Laidlaw and Toile Studios. Non-local designers, Msbhv (Poland), Nakt (Berlin), Tony Tafuro (Brooklyn), Off White, Pleats Please and Comme Des Garcons. I usually source bigger designers second hand through eBay or Ppennylane Selling.

How can we buy one of your pieces?

We have been stocking in Error 404 in Fitzroy North for a year and a half and would love to continue to stock there in the near future. You can purchase garments in-store and online. Our other stockist is Sucker, based in Brunswick. We value both store’s ethics as they align with ours. They both continue to support local creative like-minded designers and create a safe place for our community and our environment. Lately, my partner has been playing around with digital graphic design ideas for clothing and we plan to get a website up and running and start selling stock there also. You can follow @die_horny on Instagram to keep updated on work and any new platforms to buy our work.

You can find Die Horny here.

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