Finalist 2021

Tara Whalley

Tara Whalley

Tara Whalley's collections are made in Melbourne with natural fibers, are available in sizes XS-10XLovely and feature Tara's hand-painted artwork.

In 2020 Australian designer Tara Whalley was invited to premier her fashion collection at New York Fashion Week, now in 2021 she stole the runway show again at Paris Fashion Week.

Tara Whalley established her self-titled fashion brand in 2015, after returning to Australia after a year of working with war-affected weavers.

This time in Guatemala that formed Tara's painting practice- translating experience into artwork for fabric print and a clear direction for the basis of her fashion signature style. Her collections are made in Melbourne with natural fibers, are available in sizes XS-10XLovely and feature Tara's hand-painted artwork.

Design Brief

For Paris Fashion Week I needed to create 8 looks, and create a range of amazing hand painted textile prints that told a story. I wanted to reflect on my adventures through Victoria’s High Country, and paint the native plants I saw on my hikes through the mountains, and translate them in a modern way.

I also wanted to create a fantastic horse print that captured the feeling of the free horses in the region. In the shapes of these looks, I wanted to take my garments further than I had in previous collections and add in more structure and more detail. I wanted to create some outfits that would help people emerge confidently from lockdown, with flattering cuts and looks to help you stand out in a crowd.


This project was developed by:

Design Process

  1. Gather inspiration. In 2020, between lockdowns, my husband and I explored Victoria’s High Country. It is a special place to me because my Grandfathers lived in Myrtleford, and my dad has very fond memories spending time there with him at his farm on Whalley lane(named after him). We enjoyed taking our time to drive up, popping into opp shops, admiring antiques, and spending days hiking the different mountains around Hotham and Bulla. I spent time sketching wild flowers on the mountain, to translate into paintings later.
  2. I also used a similar process to paint the wild horse print and the antique porcelain print, sketching when out and painting up ideas with gouache in my studio. I am very proud of my artworks for this collection as they capture the feeling of the area, but are also very fresh, wearable and contemporary.
  3. Building a collection. Once I had my theme and a strong collection of artworks to use, I brought them into photoshop to clean up and translate into textile repeats. In this stage I play with scale and start to think about what kind of fabrication and shape might suit the print. At this time I am also editing my garment shapes and refining the silhouettes of the collection. I am very happy with the design repeats as I reworked them many times to make sure the repeat was perfect for the shape and there is enough variation in the design.
  4. The ideas are sampled and sewn up. Edits are made to adjust the fit, look and colour to make it just right. I love how the clothing collection looked - the prints suit the garments, are strong, bold and flattering. This collection is my best one yet.
  5. The collection is sent to Paris for Fashion Week!

Design Excellence

My label is more than just a clothing label. It is so unique with hand painted artwork you could recognise a mile away. My clothing shapes I have tested over time for years at markets such as Finders Keepers and Big Design Market. I know what my customer loves to wear and what shapes they feel amazing in.

For the runway I wanted to create bold, wearable shapes, that pushed my current selection, and that would suit a variety of events for a post lockdown life - weddings, the office, going out- and outfits my customer could really feel fantastic in. The fabric and make are high quality, and built to last and be treasured.

The prints are designed to be show stopping, and items that you keep because they look so special and unique, like a work of art. Both the repeats of the textile design and the artwork are above and beyond the standard that is available on the market. They show a high level of creativity, wearability and refinement.

The collection is cohesive and tells a strong story. I am really proud to showcase my collection at Paris Fashion Week, which is an amazing opportunity. This in itself added a whole layer to my collection and elevated the presentation of it to an international level.

Design Innovation

My customer wants to feel stylish, comfortable, and creative, and my collections allow that. My garments go to size 10XLovely (about a size 34) allowing more customers to feel seen and amazing in my clothing. Many brands don’t offer so many sizes, and I wanted to make sure I could cater to this need in the market. This is very rare in Australia, especially for Made in Melbourne labels.

My shapes respond to feedback from my customers to make sure the fit is amazing and easy, and will be loved for a long time and won’t go to landfill. I was also excited to develop my accessories collection in 2020 to make sure we didn’t waste any fabric, and these items also allow customers to purchase a small piece of the collection easily.

For my artworks, I am constantly working on my technique as an artist, painting every day. I am constantly creating new repeats to showcase the artwork so the customer receives the highest quality product possible. I pour my heart into these collections, and I am especially proud of this latest one.

Design Impact

My clothing line is made in Melbourne and helps support over 10 Australian businesses, not including my own. Most items are made to order, so I don’t carry excess stock, ensuring that clothing is made on demand for those who will treasure them.

My prints are limited edition causing my clothing to have an added special value, and also helps the looks not date as they are unique and not made on mass. I digitally print my fabrics which saves water (compared to screen printing), and is better for the waterways. I encourage customers to care for their products so they last.

All offcuts are used to create accessories, and scraps that are too small to sew into a product are turned into stuffing for couches and boxing bags. My collections stand out and are unique and contribute to the creative fabric and identity which is Melbourne, and better yet, my designs have been showcased internationally at New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week, further highlighting the creativity in Victoria.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

Most items are made to order, so I don’t carry excess stock, ensuring that clothing is made on demand for those who will treasure them.

My prints are limited edition causing my clothing to have an added special value, and also helps the looks not date as they are unique and not made on mass. I digitally print my fabrics which saves water (compared to screen printing), and is better for the waterways. I encourage customers to care for their products so they last.

All offcuts are used to create accessories, and scraps that are too small to sew into a product are turned into stuffing for couches and boxing bags.

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