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Toilé Studios is the Naarm-based label creating multifunctional wardrobe solutions

PHOTOGRAPHY BY YANG JIANG FOR TOILÉ STUDIOS

WORDS BY IZZY WIGHT

“It’s a series of garments that are always building… constantly modifying and moulding”

French for ‘canvas’, toile is the cheap, plain fabric often used in the prototype of a clothing design. It’s the drawing in pencil before you reach for the pen; the carefully applied lip liner before you cement the look with a matte liquid lip. Often made of beige-coloured cotton or muslin, a toile is often thought of as a first draft – a work in progress.

Despite launching five womenswear collections under her label, Toilé Studios, Naarm designer Nadya Kusumo believes her practice is a constant work in progress. Describing the Toilé Studios journey as a ‘whirlwind’, Nadya launched her boundary-pushing brand only six months after graduating from fashion design.


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


With a focus on upcycling, multifunctional garments and ‘innovative wardrobe solutions’, Nadya transformed her ‘imaginary’ fashion project into a very real success. Toilé Studios’ latest collection, Softwareis made in collaboration with Chinese 3D designer Jennifer Li. A reimagining of the traditional ‘florals for spring’, Software fuses ‘the delicate nature of petals and the tough materiality of chrome’.

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

 

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Hi FJ! My name is Nadya and I’m Chinese-born but was raised in Indonesia. I moved to Naarm (Melbourne) six years ago, graduated from the RMIT Bachelor of Fashion Design two years ago and started my brand Toilé Studios eighteen months ago. What a whirlwind!

Where did the name come from?

Toilé Studios started out as my ‘imaginary’ brand from my honours year at RMIT. In the course, we had to do a lot of experiments in the form of toile before making the final garments. The name ‘Toilé Studios’ started off as being kind of a comedic play on words but as I progressed, I kept the name.

I feel that it actually embodies my fashion practice as a constant experiment and work in progress. It’s a series of garments that are always building… constantly modifying and moulding itself.

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

 

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My graduate collection (which was featured in Melbourne Fashion Week 2019) gained some interest and people started inquiring about placing orders – which I am super thankful for to this day. I wouldn’t be here without my first few customers!

Graduating in conjunction with the start of the pandemic, I decided to gradually start taking regular custom orders during Melbourne’s lockdown in 2020. The brand organically grew from then on.

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?

In my honours year, my practice was predominantly based on upcycling and creating multifunctional garments. However, when I started making custom orders post-graduation, I realised selling upcycled products as a small scale business is very challenging.

It’s super time consuming to source similar or identical secondhand garments and sometimes there weren’t any suitable ones available. Keeping the fabric consistent was quite difficult as I was working with different types of fabric compositions and weights.

With my current pieces, I’m focusing on multifunctional garments – which have become quite a signature for Toilé Studios. But I have been wanting to go back to my upcycling roots when I have the time and resources, as it was (and still is) one of the building blocks of my brand.

My next capsule collection will have some elements of upcycling; it’ll be shown at Paypal Melbourne Fashion Festival’s Independent Runway this month alongside some other amazing designers. I can’t wait!

How would you describe Toilé Studios to someone who’s never seen it before?

 

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From a design point of view, Toilé Studios finds inspiration from archetypes in the past, elevated with innovative aspects of the present… creating the future wardrobe.

I like to call the collection ‘innovative wardrobe solutions’ for those days where you just can’t seem to find anything in your wardrobe. Most of our pieces are reversible, detachable and can be worn a couple of different ways… you’ll never get bored of them. [Our pieces] are thoughtfully designed to consider the customer’s wardrobe, imagining fit and layering potential.

Is there a sustainable aspect to your practice?

I like to think that modularity and multi-functionality are the ways I address over-consumption. My customer can consume less clothing, but get more wear out of it. [Our pieces] can be worn backwards, have detachable sleeves, can be layered separately and can be styled in multiple directions. Every piece serves multiple purposes, dressed up and down.

Material-wise, our current fabric library includes natural materials like ZQ-certified wool and bamboo jersey. For activewear fabric where I chose to use synthetics, I opted for low-impact recycled polyester with a guaranteed ethical and transparent supply chain, sourced from our reliable local manufacturers. It’s quite the challenge as these choices of fabric cost considerably more, but I think it’s absolutely worth it!

What do you wish you knew when you started?

 

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I wish I knew that as a small business owner, you’re going to think about your brand 24/7! You have to be the designer, sewing machinist, marketer, administrator, photographer, stylist, accountant and much more. It’s very exhausting but very rewarding!

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

That every single one of my pieces is still handmade by me (more recently with the help of my production assistant Kiara). We still operate on a made-to-order business model to eliminate excess stock and only manufacture individual orders complete with specific measurements. This ensures the ability to cater to a wide range of body shapes and produce long-lasting, personalised garments made for you and only you.

Dream Australian collaborators?

 

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I’ve always been a huge fan of Australian jeweller Megan of Mgn Jewellery. It would be an absolute dream to collaborate with her.

Go-to playlist in the studio?

I don’t really listen to music while I work, but I’m obsessed with listening to true crime podcasts. Weirdly enough, they make me feel laser-focused. My go-to podcast would be Rotten Mango or Dark History on Spotify. I can’t work without them now!

How can we buy one of your pieces?

 

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You can purchase them directly from toilestudios.com or from our Australian stockists Error 404 store and Sucker. We also have stockists overseas: Café Forgot, Mall NYC and Yugen.

Toilé Studios is one of the labels showing in Melbourne Fashion Festival’s Independent Runway. Get your tickets here.

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