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How Remuse Designs’ Tamara Leacock is bringing her ethical dyes to the Australian fashion industry

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH CONVERSE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY NADEEMY BETROS
WORDS BY KATE STREADER

Tamara has teamed up with Converse for the launch of its new sustainability-focused shoe repair and customisation space, Renew Labs. 

Hailing from New York, now Melbourne-based ethical designer Tamara Leacock worked in various facets of the fashion industry before launching her own label, Remuse Designs

From runways and high-end labels to working behind the scenes at fashion magazines, Tamara saw the industry from all angles during her time living and working in the fashion capital of the world. Although those experiences helped shape Remuse, living in America became creatively stifling and relocating to Australia served as a reboot of sorts. 


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“At the time, there was a lot of political and social tension with quite a few police brutality cases coming to light,” she says. “Unfortunately, that’s been a reality in The States for a long time but pre-Trump it was just very uncomfortable and for me, as an artist, I just couldn’t think. I was really stressed all the time and I just wanted to move.”

So in 2015, Tamara made her way to Melbourne where she began working with Fitzroy-based label Design by Jude, where she still works in addition to running Remuse. 

“When I moved here, I just wanted to take all of my experiences working in fashion and create a label of aesthetic cohesion and something that would be a voice within the ethical fashion landscape but something that would also prioritise and support and leverage underrepresented voices in ethical fashion landscapes,” she says. 

Much of Tamara’s work has spawned from seeking to bridge gaps in the industry. In the US, Tamara worked with Harlem Fashion Row, an organisation which hosts runway shows for designers of colour in an aim to dismantle the barriers many POC face in the American fashion scene.

“My point of reference is inspired by afro-futurism and looking at how communities of colour have created imaginative worlds through art, fiction and music as a way of escaping difficult social realities. So my work is, you know, kind of fusing all of those things and really speaking to that as its narrative,” she says.

Her designs are transeasonal, dynamic and gender neutral, extending their lifespan beyond trends and seasons. “I listen to what consumers and even models who work with me are wanting and how they feel comfortable representing their bodies in the world,” she says. 

“I try to find ways of designing pieces that are versatile for many different types of bodies which will allow and accommodate much more of an expression of self, I feel.”

Tamara also focuses much of her energy on the slow fashion movement through ethical, ecologically-conscious design practices with Remuse. Having taken sustainable fashion and natural dyeing courses at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, she now works with non-animal based natural fibres and low-impact dyes. 

Certified by Ethical Clothing Australia since its inception, Remuse utilises recycled materials and artisan techniques with its small, quarterly collections. 

“Natural dyes are amazing, however with some natural dyes they require metal mordants [which fix the dye to the fabric], additives, chemicals, iron, aluminium. There’s this fairly newly-developed dye called low-impact fibre reactive dye. They don’t contain heavy metal mordants,” she explains. 

“They are man-made but because of how they bond to the fibre, they are colourfast but also, they don’t have a lot of the yucky stuff conventional and commercial dyes use.”

Her knowledge and experience working with low-impact dyes saw Tamara team up with Converse for the recent launch of its new sustainability-focused shoe repair and customisation space, Renew Labs Fitzroy.  

As well as hosting a workshop on indigo dyeing, Tamara created a limited run of exclusive hand-dyed pieces for Converse’s Renew range, including sneakers and apparel. 

“For me as a consumer and someone who also works in fashion, I felt like [Converse] were very much aligned [with my ethos], particularly with the project being a way of extending the life of your shoes, reducing waste, using a lot of renewable and circular fashion methods. So not only did I feel aligned with the brand, but I felt aligned with the project,” says Tamara. 

When working with other brands, Tamara considers their ethos, branding and how they represent diverse talent before agreeing to a collaboration, which are all things she believes consumers should take into account before purchasing from brands and labels, too. 

She believes in “having more of a conversation with designers and brands and also being very upfront as a consumer with what your ethics are and what you’re hoping that a brand could accommodate. And also looking at the fabrication, what fabrics and materials are used and advocating for more natural fibres versus polyester-based materials.”

Find out more about Remuse Designs here and Converse Renew Labs Fitzroy here.

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