Finalist 2022

Patchwork collection - 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.

The patchwork collection by Tara Whalley utilises offcuts from her Paris Fashion Week Show to create a new collection. Globally 92 million tonnes of textile waste is created each year. When garments are cut from a roll of fabric, offcuts are created. Instead of throwing away the extra fabric (standard practice), Tara has made it a challenge to use up every piece! The garments are made in Melbourne, and are sewn together square by square. By creating a new collection from fabric that already exists in the world, Tara endeavours to minimise textile waste, and create pieces that are treasured.

Design Brief:

In 2020 Australian designer Tara Whalley was invited to premier her fashion collection at New York Fashion Week, in 2021 she stole the runway show again at Paris Fashion Week. That collection featured a range of prints, hand painted by Tara, that reflect on her adventures through Victoria’s High Country. Making this collection created offcuts. While other brands might throw this fabric away, contributing to the 92 million tonnes of textiles waste created each year, Tara Whalley uses everything.

The Patchwork Collection garments are made in Melbourne, made-to-order, and are sewn together square by square. The offcuts that are too small to turn into garments, are turned into accessories, and the scraps are sent to a local factory to become boxing bags. By creating a new collection from fabric that already exists in the world, Tara Whalley endeavours to minimise textile waste, and instead create pieces that are treasured.


This project was developed by:

Design Process

Inspiration: In 2020, Tara and her husband explored Victoria’s High Country. It is a special place to her because her grandfather lived in Myrtleford on Whalley Lane (named after him). She enjoyed taking her time to drive up, popping into opp shops, admiring antiques, and spending days hiking the mountains around Hotham. She spent time sketching wild flowers on the mountain to translate into paintings later. Her artworks capture the feeling of the area, but are also wearable and contemporary.

Building a collection: Once Tara had her theme and a strong collection of artworks to use, she brought them into photoshop to translate into complex textile repeats. At this time she also edits her garment shapes and refines the silhouettes of the collection.

  • The ideas are sampled and sewn up. Edits are made to adjust the fit, look and colour to make it just right.
  • The collection is strong, bold and flattering.
  • The collection is sent to Paris for Fashion Week 2021! Clothing orders come in, and clothes are made to order, producing offcuts.
  • Accessories are made from offcuts, but experimentation with patchwork begins. The goal is to find techniques that can be used to make clothing items that are beautiful, but still have an accessible price point.

2022 - The Patchwork collection is launched! While some shapes have been repeated from Tara's past collections, some new silhouettes are added, adapted from the existing range, responding to customer feedback. The print combinations have been considered to make it the most appealing combination possible. The patchwork sizes have been considered to be flattering, use up material sizes available, and also be interesting with the right amount of labour to ensure the price point is still accessible.

Design Excellence

Tara’s label is more than just a clothing label. It is so unique, with hand painted artwork you could recognise a mile away. Her clothing shapes have been tested over time for years at markets such as Finders Keepers and Big Design Market. She knows what her customer loves to wear and what shapes they feel amazing in, and having a good size range also allows many people to have access to the collection. Labelling sizes as “Lovely” and “Extra Lovely” contributes to this.

The prints are designed to be show stopping. These are 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.

Tara was really proud to showcase her collection at Paris Fashion Week, which was an amazing opportunity. This in itself added a whole layer to her collection and elevated the presentation to an international level. To then build on the collection to utilise all offcuts with traditional hand sewing techniques, not only elevates the first collection, giving it more longevity, but also celebrates and elevates sustainability.

Design Innovation

While the patchwork technique is not a new technique, creating ways to make offcuts useful and desirable is a challenge. In order for any garment or offcut to be saved from landfill, the product has to be desirable and also have longevity. Patchwork is useful as it can be used as a technique to use up the smallest scraps, but is also a wholesome technique, usually used for creating heirloom quality items.

Tara has found ways to utilise this technique to make the garments desirable to the customer and also have a reasonable price point. The Tara Whalley customer wants to feel stylish, comfortable, and creative. As well as trying to have a lower environmental impact, Tara’s brand is customer focussed. Her garments range from sizes XS to 10XLovely (about a size 34). This allows more customers to feel amazing in her clothing. Many brands don’t offer this range, and Tara wanted to make sure she could cater to this need in the market. Tara’s shapes respond to feedback from her customers to make sure the fit is amazing and easy, and will be loved for a long time.

She was also excited to develop her accessories collection in 2020 (a collection that is ever evolving) to make sure even the smallest offcuts were utilised. These items also allow customers to purchase a small piece of the collection easily. For Tara’s artworks, she is constantly working on her technique as an artist, painting every day. She recently returned from an artist residency in France where she developed a new body of artwork. She is constantly creating new repeats to showcase the artwork so the customer receives the highest quality product possible. Tara pours her heart into these collections, and she is especially proud of her latest one.

Design Impact

Building in ways to minimise and use ‘waste’ to lower Australia’s contribution to textile landfill is very important. Smaller businesses often encourage larger businesses to be more mindful with waste, which helps to make a bigger impact. Creating beautiful, hand made products and garments from offcuts using specialty techniques helps sustainable clothes be desirable items that are cherished for a long time. Making items like these goes against the trend of fast fashion.

Tara’s clothing line is made in Melbourne and helps support over 10 Australian businesses. Most items are made to order, so she doesn’t carry excess stock, ensuring that clothing is made on demand for those who will treasure them. Her prints are limited edition causing her clothing to have an added special value, and also helps the looks not date as they are unique and not made on mass. She digitally prints her fabrics which saves water (compared to screen printing), and is better for the waterways.

She encourages 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. Tara Whalley’s collections stand out and are unique and contribute to the creative fabric and identity which is Melbourne, and better yet, her 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 Tara Whalley doesn't carry excess stock, ensuring that clothing is made on demand for those who will treasure them. Her prints are limited edition causing her clothing to have an added special value, and also helps the looks not date as they are unique and not made on mass. She digitally prints her fabrics which saves water (compared to screen printing), and is better for the waterways. She encourages customers to care for their products so they last.

The Patchwork collection uses a significant amount of offcuts, which minimises waste and lowers environmental impact of the brand. The Patchwork collection celebrates traditional making techniques, which adds value to the product, increasing the lifespan in the wearers wardrobe. All smaller 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. Tara Whalley walks to her makers as often as possible to lower the carbon footprint of the brand.

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