Australian made-to-order label Form by T is making slow fashion size-inclusive



“I would just like people to know that the clothes they’re buying are made with lots and lots of love.”

There’s a certainty to everything Form by T does, from the values it stands behind to the elegant silhouette of its clothing, set in comforting tones of ochre and muted browns. Being a made-to-order label, versatility and timelessness are two of the pillars that inform everything it does.

It makes the sort of forever pieces that are meant to be carried from season to season and year to year, altered and mended and then going softly into the ground when the time comes. First established in 2018 by Tessa Manshaden, Form by T has always been quintessentially Australian. 

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

Its ethically-made designs are made with fabric sourced from Australian suppliers, and supply chain transparency is of the utmost importance to Tessa. Slow fashion has exploded in popularity over the last few years, and many consumers are now seeking out labels like Tessa’s that create pieces that are made to last.

There is a growing understanding that investing in quality clothing is necessary if we’re serious about reducing the astronomical amount of textile waste we produce each year. But unlike many slow fashion brands, Form by T leads the way with a considered made-to-order approach, allowing it to cater to a diverse range of sizes – a crucial step to achieving size inclusivity in the sustainable fashion space

I spoke with Tessa to unravel the threads on slow fashion, sourcing sustainable fabric, and the significance of making clothes to order.

Hi Tessa, can you introduce yourself and Form by T to FJ readers?

My name is Tessa Manshaden and I launched Form by T in 2018, and my sole purpose was to create a fashion label that creates sustainable staples for my customers’ wardrobes. I make everything to order myself in my studio in Melbourne. 

What inspired you to contribute to the slow fashion movement and make clothing to order?

It sort of started when I was writing my business plan, and I also watched the documentary called The True Cost which pulls back the curtain on the fast fashion industry. After that, I decided that I wanted everything to be ethically made, and when I started making it I loved the fact I could cater to all body shapes and sizes. 

Made-to-order also means I can only make what’s needed so there’s less waste. There’s no need for me to go on sale or mark my clothes up just to go on sale at the end of a season. It also means there are less carbon emissions because nothing is being sent from overseas or from supplier to supplier, and when clothes are shipped from overseas, everything is wrapped up in single-use plastic. We’re plastic-free. With the off-cuts, I can make scrunchies, or at the moment I’m making facemasks. I really am trying to be as waste-free as possible. 


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I’ve noticed you said that you don’t import anything from overseas and that you source all your fabric from Australia. What’s your process when it comes to finding which fabric is suited to you?

Yes, so all my fabric agents are in Australia and I only use natural fibres that will be biodegradable at the end of their lifecycle. For example, polyester clothes can take up to 200 years to decompose, but something like linen can take less than two years. I use fabrics such as linen, organic cotton, wool, and I also use some deadstock fabrics as well that are leftover from bigger fashion houses they can no longer use. It gives them a second chance to stop them from going to landfill.

My organic cotton is made in Melbourne and certified organic. Some of the companies we’re with are AMBT, my hemp [comes] from Hemp Wholesale Australia and my linen comes from Potter Textiles in Western Australia. They use European flax and they’re really transparent about their supply chain. All their mills are checked yearly and they have supply certification on request. All my fabrics come with their Oeko-Tex Certification and I think that’s really important. 

Is there a reason why Australian slow fashion brands tend to import their fabrics from overseas?

My suppliers are here but a lot of the fabrics – because there are no mills, really, in Australia – like linen come from overseas, but from an ethical factory that’s monitored through this company. It’s good that it has all those certifications already. It can be quite hard as I design around the fabrics I can find, so if I can find a beautiful fabric that has all the certifications, then I sort of think of what piece I can make from that. 


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Slow fashion can sometimes be confusing for the consumer to navigate. Do you have any tips on where to start?

Ask a few questions before you purchase something. Go to a brand’s about page and just see what their ethics are. Being ‘Australian made’ isn’t always ethical, so I think it’s good to look for certifications. Look around rather than making impulse purchases. Especially with fast fashion, as their price point is so low because they’re mass producing and not paying workers and these workers don’t have good working conditions.

When locally made pieces aren’t that price point I think it’s great that customers can look and be like, “Oh, wow, that’s made-to-order and natural fabrics which are quality and will last me a long time, so it’s worth the investment. These are investment staple pieces that I will wear and wear”. I think it’s good to really think about it [the clothing] before you buy. 

What are your go-to staples this winter?

A few of my favourite pieces for this winter which I made last year and updated this year that I live in are the wool tartan pants. They’re just super warm, cosy and wear really well. They just look so fun with everything. All of my merino skivvies, too. Merino is such a beautiful fabric, it’s anti-bacterial and keeps you warm. It’s the perfect staple piece.

My new jacket, the Konnie jacket, which is made from deadstock wool, is really just a great shape that goes with pants and dresses. It’s a bit oversized so it can layer, and it’s also made with corozo buttons which are made from a nut, so they’re biodegradable. [The] Organic cotton loungewear is what I’m going to change into as soon as I get home. 


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What do you hope people will take away from Form by T?

I would just like people to know that the clothes they’re buying are made with lots and lots of love and that I want them to be super happy with the pieces that they’ve had custom made. I want them to wear it for years and years and really love and treasure it and [for it to] make them feel like absolute goddesses.

What does the future look like for Form by T?

My dream is to have an open studio with a bit of a shopfront so customers can come in, get fitted on the spot, and I would have more people sewing so it would be a shorter turnaround. I’d love for it to be three to five working days. Just having a beautiful space where people can come in and feel the quality of the garments and be able to see them in real life, because it’s very hard to shop online sometimes. That’s my dream for the future. 

Explore Form by T’s new Winter Edition 4.0 here.

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