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Meet the independent Melbourne label challenging social norms through wardrobe basics

IMAGES VIA ROMANTICS STUDIO

WORDS BY TIFFANY FORBES

Because fashion can be activism too. 

Where we see mesh skirts and versatile multi-wear tees, Cheryn Ter, the founder of Melbourne label Romantics Studio, saw an opportunity to turn conventional design on its head. Starting her label on the cusp of graduating university in 2018, Cheryn describes her label as “more than just a brand, but a lifestyle”.

Since that time, Romantics Studio has become a platform for Cheryn to experiment with creating clothing that doesn’t always fit into traditional moulds (yes, male gaze, we’re looking at you) while allowing her to showcase her own personal flair.  


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Her pieces span a variety of basics – think tees, skirts and pants – but with a ‘functionality meets artwear’ twist. The small start-up is also driven by a slow design approach, which seeks to ensure garment longevity takes priority (because that’s a twenty-first-century deal breaker in our books).  

I managed to steal a moment of Cheryn’s time to find out what inspires her creative process and how her progressive designs seek to break down societal norms surrounding clothing. 

Tell me about your brand Romantics Studio. What is it all about? 

As part of my course in fashion design and business, we had to come up with a business concept, so I basically started [Romantics Studio] in uni and was kind of experimenting while I was still doing the course just so I could understand the market I wanted to be in and understand the industry in Melbourne. So, to me, Romantics is more than just a brand. It is a lifestyle and a platform to be able to express my ideas. 

In uni, I feel that’s really the time you can be the most experimental, but then the moment people graduate, we just get into work and we don’t really get to do anything for ourselves, so I think my thing with Romantics Studio was that I really wanted to have a platform or space to continue building on that creative side of myself without worrying about losing it. 

 

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You describe your garments as ‘functional artwear’? Does this mean they seek to tell an artistic story? 

Functional artwear is pretty multi-purposed as a phrase. On the one hand, I mean for it to be clothing for creative people, whether that’s something you do for a living or something you do on the side, that was the demographic for the people I was interested in designing for. But on the other hand, the [designs] were like works of art in the way I approached them. I’m not trying to just build a range the way any fast fashion or larger company would, it’s kind of just like an ongoing body of work for me.

In terms of saying they all bleed thematically across each other, it’s because it comes from such a personal space. Often, building a collection can be like ‘this collection is inspired by this and the next collection inspired by that’, but because it comes from such a personal space – in the way that my work is often expressive of the issues I’m dealing with at the time –  they’re all thematically related to each other. It’s not point A and then point B like they’re completely different things I’m trying to explore, instead, they’re all connected. 

Would you say that you draw a lot of inspiration for your garments based on what you are going through at the time then? 

Aesthetically, when I started off I was very inspired by film and cinematography, so I always visualised what my clothes were going to look like in those contexts, but then I think there were also things, not just in my work, but in my life, that I was going through which I definitely drew inspiration from. I think societally too, there’s always this expectation of what you should be doing and what you should be wearing. For example, I feel like there are such strict boxes for what is appropriate for work, or what is appropriate to wear as pyjamas, so a lot of my work expands on that. My first collection was based around things that were considered not uniform, but very traditional.

Take aprons, they are things that we consider functional, but I was like why can’t we wear something like that in our daily lives, you know? Moving forward, in the recent collection, my inspiration had a lot to do with things that people consider taboo. For example, I put cutouts in areas people wouldn’t normally expect them because often we hear, ‘oh cutouts should be here because that’s where it’s considered sexy’, but I’m like no, I can put them wherever I want. I’m not changing the world by doing that, but it’s a part of my exploration. I want people to think about why it’s okay to wear a cut out there but not here? I want people to question our preconceived notions of things more than anything.

 

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Can you tell us more about the ‘slow design’ process? Why did you choose to incorporate it? 

I will start that off by saying there’s a lot more I and a lot of other people can be doing in terms of sustainability. What it means to me or what I’m trying to do with it is explore it from the sense of quality over quantity. So, for me slow design for fashion is about picking and choosing from a design perspective, designing well and not just for the sake of selling, but more so because you genuinely believe in it and believe people will love it and wear it for a long time. Also just ethically, I feel like we don’t need to be buying that much. So, I definitely try to approach slow design from that perspective of I’m not trying to meet a quota of how many things I need to produce each season, I just want to make really special things and if that’s only a few pieces, that’s enough for me, as long as it gets a lot of love and wear. So, in that sense, I will say Romantics Studio is very considered and very curated.  

What is your favourite piece that you’ve created? Why? 

At the moment, I’m really liking the magnetic tank, it’s just this one-shoulder tank with a little tie across that you can tie in a lot of different ways. I like that because it’s versatile and also really special and unique. I really like the lattice mesh skirt as well, because it’s so simple and comfortable. 

How would you describe Romantics Studio in five words? 

Feminine, considered, curated and experimental but also subtle and elevated – for example, some things are basic, but they’re not just any basic. 

You can find Romantics Studio at @romantics_studio or browse their items online here.

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