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Studio Marlene is the Melbourne label building a uniform for your every day

IMAGE VIA STUDIO MARLENE

WORDS BY GITIKA GARG

“I considered not only how it would speak to those close to me but how it would exist as an all-inclusive uniform in my broader network.”

Like many Australians, designer Emily Poole found that Melbourne’s lengthy lockdowns were the ideal time to bring to fruition the ideas she’d had bouncing around her head for the last few years.

With a background in fashion design and pattern-making, she used her newfound spare time to launch Studio Marlene, a label focused on building a uniform for your every day.


For more fashion-related features, browse through our Fashion section. 


Pared-back and minimal in its approach, Studio Marlene creates seasonless staples it releases in limited drops. With a focus on conscious production – the label sources all its fabrics locally and produces everything in Melbourne – and functionality, Emily’s intention is to create items that form the backbone of her customer’s wardrobe.

Its first release, The Marlene Shirt, encapsulates these values – it’s a minimal, classic long-sleeved button-up made from locally-sourced jersey knit fabric. There’s a unique set of challenges and perks that come with starting a label in lockdown, and below Emily tells me of her process and vision for her brand.

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

My name is Emily. I’m the single creative mind behind Studio Marlene. I’ve studied fashion design and pattern-making, I have a degree in fashion merchandising and a bachelor degree in communication design. I’ve loved dressing up and making things ever since I can remember and over the years I’ve experimented and explored different creative avenues – I don’t think these adventures will ever stop.

 

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

I always knew I wanted to start my own something but life and confidence made it seem all too daunting. My partner is a filmmaker and photographer, he’s constantly working on cool projects and has always encouraged me to push myself and try new things. During lockdown, he started a publishing company and finally I thought ‘Okay I want to start something too’. Like so many, COVID gave me a lot of time and space to think and get creative. In lots of ways, the forced pause was everything I’d been asking for.

I knew I wanted my pieces to be ethically made and sourced locally, and my five-kilometre lockdown radius ensured that. It took a lot of time and energy but I established great relationships with my makers who are in Brunswick and [a] fabric house in Abbotsford. Trying to get anything done in lockdown is tricky, let alone start a business. Like everyone else, I experienced delays and setbacks, which made the release of my first drop all the more exciting.

 

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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 first, I wanted to create a platform where I could see the ideas that drift through my head come to some kind of fruition. As the project started to take shape it quickly evolved into something more specific when I became obsessed with the idea of developing a uniform.

Initially inspired by the women surrounding me, this idea took a different form as I considered not only how it would speak to those close to me but how it would exist as an all-inclusive uniform in my broader network. Distinguished by a consideration to all shapes and sizes and with permanence in mind, The Marlene Shirt was born.

The quality and getting the fit right was everything to me. It took some time and patience to build trust in consumers, however, once they knew how the product looked and felt, they wanted more. I’ll continue to make my shirts if there is demand for them – that feels far better than making purely for profit. I hope to encourage and educate people on the beauty of slow fashion – we have a little way to go in that department.

 

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How would you describe Studio Marlene to someone who’s never seen it before?

Studio Marlene is a seasonless label producing individual pieces rather than collections [and] each piece is ethically made in Melbourne. Distinguished by simple yet crucial design details, The Marlene Shirt speaks to an exploration of inclusivity, functionality and how our staple pieces continue to serve us.

Where did the name come from?

The name comes from actress and feminist Marlene Dietrich. Her commitment to all forms of freedom was incredible and I think I fell in love with her when I learnt she wore a pantsuit out in Paris when it was illegal for women to do so.

Who is in your wardrobe right now?

I’m loving international favourites Ottolinger, J.Kim and Charlotte Knowles and local labels B-R-B and Wackie Ju.

Go-to dinner party playlist?

I’ve been repeating this playlist lately.

 

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What do you wish you knew when you started?

Being a one-woman show is both liberating and terrifying. Seeing each of my practices come together to build something that was entirely my own creation was super satisfying, however, I wish I wasn’t so hesitant in the beginning to ask for help.

I wanted to do it all on my own, so if it was an utter failure I could only blame myself. It’s been the happy mistakes that have helped to shape the brand and being fortunate enough to work alongside and collaborate with like-minded people has become my favourite part. This is what I hope to push as Studio Marlene continues to evolve.

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

Local Melbourne label Wackie Ju is one to watch for sure – known for a multidisciplinary approach to fashion and design, all-inclusive and free from social constructs. The dream? To be part of their non-binary utopian universe.

How can we buy one of your pieces?

I’m shooting my latest collection this week actually and will be opening pre-orders on my website shortly after. There are a few fun new colours to look out for.

Stay tuned for Studio Marlene’s new releases, which will be available here soon.

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