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Pure Obsession is the Naarm-based label making your business its pleasure

IMAGE VIA @SHOPUREOBSESSION/INSTAGRAM

WORDS BY IZZY WIGHT

“It’s the symbolic gesture of transforming an item like a tie – which has historically represented masculinity workplace – into something fresh and non-gendered.”

Aside from the male-gaze skewed fantasy of the ‘sexy secretary’, the concept of ‘businesswear’ is usually associated with steely-eyed, middle-aged men, flat shades of grey (not fifty, flat) and sad below-the-knee pencil skirts. While it is moving in a slightly more fashionable direction, dressing for ‘the office’ still feels like unnecessary sartorial punishment. How am I supposed to be a girlboss under these conditions?!

Trust the sparkling promise of Naarm’s incredible design talent to find a solution. After conducting an on-a-whim styling experiment, freelance photographer, designer and stylist Kat discovered her obsession with redefining workwear. Using primarily repurposed ties (yes, like the dad-at-wedding, Avril Lavigne ties), Kat created Pure Obsession – a unique collection of genderless corsets, miniskirts, leotards and tees.


For more fashion-related features, head to our Fashion section. 


Working through all the challenges a startup fashion label brings, Kat’s creative vision was brought to life in Pure Obsession’s inimitable debut collection. Holding consciousness, accessibility and transparency at the centre of her design, Kat has solidified Pure Obsession’s spot as one of Melbourne’s most exciting creative arrivals.

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

My name is Kat and I’ve been working as a freelance stylist and photographer for three years. I mostly work with local brands and artists, specialising in press shots, costume design, unique editing and editorial shoots. I love any shoot where I can creatively express the concepts I’m obsessed with. My Instagram account is @rosepure; that’s usually how people find me!

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

 

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At the very start of the first lockdown, I was trying to practise creativity and styling at home for when I could shoot again. I remember I had a bunch of ties laying around. I started experimenting with putting them on my body and thought ‘hey, this would look cool as a dress’. After sewing them all together, I posted a photo of the dress on my styling page and it blew up. I received heaps of messages asking where the piece could be purchased.

While I always suspected I’d lean towards design in the future, it wasn’t until I received this validating feedback that I pushed myself to take the leap. From there, I enrolled in a few intensive sewing, pattern making and small business operation courses. Working for other small labels really excited me and provided helpful insight when I was deciding how to create my own.

This year, I worked as much as I could between hospitality closures, got a studio in Brunswick and when the most recent lockdowns hit, I purchased hundreds of ties and just sewed every day. Once that lockdown had lifted, I’d made a 30 piece collection.

Thinking back to the challenges, my biggest hurdles were finances and my own impatience and perfectionism! I have chronic illness, so my ability to work can be limited. I found it hard to balance working my other jobs enough to both sustain myself and start up the brand. In the beginning, I knew I didn’t have the sewing and design skills I needed to execute my ideas properly. I had to have a lot of patience to learn and put the design on hold until I was ready.

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?

At the start, I was trying to make recycled clothing exciting and create one-off pieces that I personally would wear. When the idea of using ties came to me at the beginning, I didn’t originally plan to make a whole collection out of them. I just got obsessed and had to keep going with the idea!

Now it’s a fully evolved concept centred around the symbolic gesture of transforming an item like a tie – which has historically represented masculinity and power in the workplace – into something fresh, non-gendered and wearable.

How would you describe Pure Obsession to someone who’s never seen it before?

 

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Flirty, recycled, catering-to-all, hates global warming, loves attention, DIY, anti-boring, unafraid.

Where did the name come from?

Making a whole collection around ties seemed very… obsessive. The way my brain processes creative concepts is by letting them continually preoccupy my mind. Lockdown definitely gave me cabin fever, but working on Pure Obsession really held me together.

The time allowed me to fully research and explore every design option. The ‘obsession’ carries out in the branding like our ransom letter logo (designed by Studio Balcony) – we want customers to be as j’obsessed with the brand as we are.

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

The unique design element! I wanted every piece to be one-off, handmade and really unique. I hope this notion prompts people to hang onto their Pure Obsession items longer (in conjunction with the free repair service we offer), as fashion waste is one of the industries biggest problems.

Our brand imagery is also something I’m really proud of. When the tie idea started taking form, my friend (and creative director of our debut collection) Joao suggested we do an ’80s office theme editorial. Makeup guru Elizabeth Ivy made the coolest looks and hairpieces, she really encapsulated the fun feeling of the brand. It’s anti-business businesswear.

What do you wish you knew when you started?

 

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Things take time! Even though the industry feels quite fast-paced, it can be so worth it to slow down your process and build your skills. I wanted to take my time in the design process and work out how to make every piece gender fluid, adjustable in size and price accessible. Also, ask for help when you need it! Or hire people who are good at what they do (instead of trying to do it all yourself).

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

Wackie Ju, Jules Bramley, Ramp Tramp Tramp Stamp, Alix Higgins and the new DIY brands that have a focus on up-cycling, size inclusivity and supporting local talent. Exciting brands are ones that represent and hire a diverse range of people; always keeping sustainable practices at the centre of what they do.

What about the Australian fashion industry needs to change?

Smaller Australian labels are slowly taking over the industry – and with this, I hope comes greater transparency and less greenwashing. I still see brands using umbrella terms like ‘sustainable’ and ‘ethical’ without any explanation of what happens behind the scenes. I think that really needs to change so customers can make the right choices.

Also, sizing needs to increase (the average size of Australian women is 14, yet this is often the largest size available) and sample size (generally a six) needs to change. It would be great to see more up-cycling or exploration of alternatives to waste and less gatekeeping in the industry.

Brands should be making customers feel a strong connection with the clothing they buy, so they’re less inclined to discard it. Whether that means more information, a personal or integrating the audience into the process. This is why our ‘Trade Initiative’ was created, where customers can go and purchase recycled materials themselves and swap them for a discount off of a product or custom order. Giving them the power to be able to choose and visualise their materials before they get transformed is really special.

Go-to dinner party playlist?

Sega Bodega’s Romeo album, then Amaree when it heats up.

Who is in your wardrobe right now?

Sexiaz Lingerie, Crochet Bae, Mowalola, Egg Lemon, Telfar, Maroske Peech, Emily Watson, Savers, Barragan, Miracles, Praying, Charlotte Knowles and Pure Obsession!

How can we buy one of your pieces?

 

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You can shop now at shopureobsession.com!

Anything else to add?

If Pure Obsession was a song, it’d be ‘Come Into My World’ by Kylie Minogue.

Shop the debut Pure Obsession collection here.

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