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Christina designs and handmakes sustainable alternative fashion with loads of colour & character, and free of gender stereotypes

21 February 2020

Designer Spotlight: CLEAN the Label

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Ethical & sustainable alternative fashion designer, Christina: ‘One’s style doesn’t have to be minimal and neutral in colour in order to achieve an ethical and sustainable relationship with fashion

I am Christina Lean and I am the solo designer and maker behind CLEAN the Label. I live in the home I grew up in, which is in Thornlie, a suburb a bit outside of Perth, Western Australia. I still live with my parents. A couple of times a week, my mum and I look after my baby nephew whilst his parents are at work. He is a clever little guy and really fun to play with!

Christina designs and handmakes sustainable alternative fashion with loads of colour & character, and free of gender stereotypes

I originally started my label during my fashion and textile studies as a unisex alternative streetwear label. That was in 2016. Over time, my designs have been becoming more skewed towards womenswear with some things still unisex – I believe clothes really have no gender.

Young men modelling colourful gender atypical outfits from Christina’s collections: ‘I believe clothes really have no gender’

The most important thing about my label is it’s ethical and sustainability focus. I tend to use second-hand fabrics, vintage bedding, or scraps that I have acquired through my own sewing projects. I am also exploring the possibility of using new fabrics that have been ethically produced.

Slow fashion ‘Shape Invaders’ button up shirt by CLEAN the Label: ‘What interested me in fashion at first was the psychological aspect revolving around why we wear particular garments’

After I finished high school, I studied fashion and textiles for 3 years at South Metropolitan TAFE graduating in 2016. What interested me in fashion at first is the psychological aspect revolving around why we wear particular garments, why certain individuals love certain styles and what an individual is trying to express to society without words.

Slow fashion ‘Lazy Daze Joggers’ colourful and sustainable non-gendered track pants by CLEAN the Label

When I finished up my training, I felt driven to continue and sell garments under my label that I developed during my studies. I just came to love ethical fashion and alternative fashion, which at the time was such an unusual combo.

Sustainable patchwork tote bag made from repurposed fabric offcuts by CLEAN the Label: ‘It has been a challenge to get exposure and sell, so this is a hobby at the moment’

I joined Madeit only a few months back when I was searching for more Australian indie labels online. It has been a challenge to get exposure and sell so this is a hobby at the moment - if my label ever takes off, I will be so grateful and would love to turn it into a business!

The home studio of slow fashion brand, CLEAN the label consists of a single table with an over-locker and sewing machine: ‘I don’t have the luxury of having a bigger crafting table, so I do all my patternmaking and cutting on the floor’

My creative workspace is in my living room. I don’t have the luxury of having a bigger crafting table, so I do all my patternmaking and cutting on the floor. My crafting table has my two sewing machines – a 4-thread overlocker and domestic sewing machine where I do most of the work. It is the most comfortable place for me so I tend to come up with ideas in this room. It’s well-lit and a little cluttered here and there, which I like because I find a little clutter interesting.

Pattern-making and cutting in progress on the CLEAN the Label studio floor

When I design clothing now, I don’t draw because I’m not very good at it anymore and I like to let the cloth and trims tell me how to design. For new cut and sewn styles, I go straight to patternmaking and sewing to get a clear and physical idea of the garment being developed. The garment patterns made tend to be used over and over in different collections - either as they are or slightly modified.

Embroidered and embellished vintage denim jacket by CLEAN the Label: ‘I loved subculture fashion… rejecting of mainstream fashion and keeping designs young and playful’

I am inspired by a combination of factors. In my earlier student days, I loved subculture fashion and bits of it have stuck with me as I’ve become older such as the colours, rejecting of mainstream fashion and keeping designs young and playful.

Christina, designer and maker of CLEAN the Label, working at her sewing machine on a brightly striped shirt

In terms of what inspires my actual collections, there is no one thing as I’ve been taught that inspiration is everywhere: nature, storytelling, music, a particular feeling, and so on. Usually, my work revolves around the yearning for euphoric feelings and playing make believe.

A bright multi-fabric button up long sleeve shirt by CLEAN the Label: ‘Usually, my work revolved around the yearning for euphoric feelings and playing make believe’

When coming up with a collection, I gather what I have collected over time and sort out which fabrics, vintage garments (to be reworked) and trims go together in colour and tone.

Rainbow stripes on a simple cotton ‘Pollyanna’ dress from CLEAN the Label: ‘I do try to make garments that can be worn with alternative or non-alternative fashion pieces’

I am aware that some people who like colour and print don’t participate in subculture fashion so I do try to make garments that can be worn with alternative or non-alternative fashion pieces. That is the whole purpose of my Pollyanna Dress style – a simple sleeveless smock dress where you can pick a size and fabric that you like. It isn’t too out there but its boldness is dependent on the chosen fabric.

Rainbow headbands made from remnant fabric scraps by CLEAN the Label

Alternative fashion has - over time - really lost its special DIY aspect and I wanted to bring that back in my label. Big fast fashion companies were capitalising on, and mass-producing alternative fashion, including a lot of renowned Japanese street fashion brands who are the biggest influences on alternative and subculture fashion.

A rainbow striped button up shirt in detail: ‘Mass production typically leaves behind a trail of environmental damage, not-so-great quality products’

Mass production typically leaves behind a trail of environmental damage, not-so-great quality products, unethical treatment and compensation for labourers and unhealthy consumption habits. It’s no different to mainstream fast fashion.

CLEAN the Label Work in Progress: cutting a pattern from signature bright fabrics

I wanted to help other alternative fashionistas realise that and to go back to the roots of being original and rejecting the mainstream dress standards; not just in aesthetic but also in how things are made and obtained.

Close up of a bright, layered outfit made up of CLEAN the Label pieces: ‘Most importantly, handmade inflicts minimal harm on the environment, and labourers are being compensated fairly.’

I love handmade for several reasons. I am a huge supporter of small businesses and I love to buy handmade clothing and accessories and shout out the brands on my label’s Instagram. When someone buys locally crafted goods, they are essentially supporting a dream and looking after the individuals involved in the craft.

Christina modelling one of her own ‘Painted Love’ button up shirt; a ‘Pollyanna’ sleeveless dress

Handmade products are also way more interesting than the mass-produced equivalents and they can be treated as works of art. Most importantly, handmade inflicts minimal harm on the environment, and labourers are being compensated fairly.

A CLEAN the Label creation being wrapped for sending, with a hand-written note from Christina: ‘My work reflects my values of sustainability by using fabrics that are unqanted, second-hand, or ethically produced.’

My work reflects my values of sustainability by using fabrics that are unwanted, second hand or ethically produced. When I have big off-cuts, I keep them so that I can patch them together for another garment to minimise waste.

Christina modelling her vibrantly coloured made-to-order ‘Electric Garden’ short-sleeve button down shirt: ‘I sew everything myself and the patterns I use for my designs are my own.’

I sew everything myself and the patterns I use for my designs are my own. I have done pieces made from existing garments that either involve unpicking them and using the fabrics pieces or modifying them with extra fabric or embroidery.

Christina modelling a modified embroidered denim jacket and embellished denim skirt from her collections

I chose to sell on Madeit to share my work with an audience outside of my original core audience, to reach a more local customer, and to show people that there is a big alternative fashion community who do care about having a healthier fashion mindset that doesn’t change their aesthetics. One’s style doesn’t have to be minimal and neutral in colour in order to achieve an ethical and sustainable relationship with fashion.



Visit CLEAN the Label to find rule-breaking, vibrant slow fashion: cleanthelabel

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