Recently I’ve had the absolute pleasure of documenting the behind the scenes giggles at a photoshoot for GARY and popping by Holly’s studio to pry into the creative processes behind this new ethical Melbourne label.
GARY is the linen-loving botanical-clad lovechild of northside babes Holly Banfield and Alice Rooney. A summer project that has grown into a real Aussie bloke with all the hallmarks of adulthood; a joint bank account, an ABN and a tax file number - which Alice was struggling to secure when I arrived at the studio. She seemed relieved to put aside the bureaucracy for a while to sip tea and finish Holly’s sentences.
Because I’m the guest I get the real mug, Holly is drinking out of a upcycled jar and Alice has a paper cup that’s been reused at least four times. It doesn’t get more Brunswick than this.
Who are you when you aren’t Team GARY?
Alice: We both work in retail at David Jones which is how we met. We both intern a couple of days a week with different local business and both run our own projects which you can find on Instagram at @hbhbstudios and @alicemakesthings.
Holly: We both studied textiles. I have a Bachelor of Science majoring in Fashion Technology and Alice has a Bachelor of Arts (Textile Design).
What - or who - is GARY?
Holly: He’s a bloke, but he’s okay with being feminine.
Alice: We wanted a really blokey Australian name. It was the first name that came to mind, probably because of Gary from Puberty Blues.
Holly: We were thinking of Aussie vernacular and the contrast between beautiful drapey linens and delicate prints how funny it would be to have -
Alice: Very obnoxious Australian slang. If you look really closely there's funny little phrases like ‘true blue’ and ‘rack off ya moll’ hidden within the native prints.
What’s your favourite part about working together?
Alice: It’s really great to work with another person, they always have funny things to say and push you a lot more than if you were working by yourself.
Holly: It’s a lot easier to make decisions. I mean that fight - not even a fight, a discussion about the pockets - I made a pocket that was way too small. It was a silly afternoon.
Speaking of pockets, I’m super excited that GARY has pockets. They are often inadequate or absent in women’s fashion. Was this a deliberate inclusion?
Holly: Historically women’s garments didn’t have pockets to increase handbag sales and because women are not supposed to own possessions! We’re fighting for pocket equality.
Alice: Pockets are very important. Holly put a lot of thought into making sure you can fit your phone and your hands in them comfortably.
What’s in your pockets?
Holly: The essentials: my phone, safety pins, sultana snacks.
Alice: Little Hangings jewellery, pens, also snacks.
You’re assembling a pretty substantial girl gang of Melbourne creatives - last week in Richmond you had a dozen gals working BTS to bring your garments to life - how has this come about?
Alice: We’re just super lucky to have so many talented friends.
Holly: It’s really exciting. I mean you just have this idea and you’ll talk about it with someone and they make suggestions and all of a sudden you’re like you should just do it. You should help me.
Alice: GARY is a big community.
Holly: #TEAMGARY. All our pals. The girl gang is great and it’s growing, people are telling their friends. It’s exciting seeing so many girls wearing the product and wanting to support the brand.
What’s in the future for GARY?
Holly: I don’t agree with seasonal collections because it should never feel like something has a lesser value. Maybe it will grow, like with a base version of all of the styles. Maybe we’ll modify garments for what people want or need. It’s about your own style more than anything else.
Alice: Each piece is something you’ll wear for many years to come, something you can adapt. All of the hemlines are really generous so you can let it down or pass it on through the girl gang.
Holly: The only thing we’ve thought for the future was Alice drew a beautiful cliff face while she was in Tassie and that’d make a beautiful placement print.
Alice: More nature.
Holly: Definitely more nature, keeping a similar aesthetic. Growing more than stopping this and starting something new. A constant continuation. It’s all trans-seasonal too.
How do you ensure it’s made to last?
Holly: We use fairtrade linen, it’s really soft at the moment and really beautiful and linen only gets better and softer with age. We’ve chosen fibres that will last. We wanted it to be able to be handed down between sisters.
Alice: And Holly is very good at sewing, so they are all really well made.
And where are they made?
Holly: Handsewn here in Brunswick and hand screenprinted in Northcote.
Alice: Super local.
Holly: One bus ride away from each other.
Alice: We should say bike ride it’s more environmental.
Holly: We drink from jars!
Environmental responsibility clearly manifests in your desire to create timeless pieces in organic fabrics, is there anything else you do to reduce GARY’s ecological footprint?
Holly: The design process is where I’ve taken a lot of time to minimise waste, for example with the kimono the pockets are cut from the negative space around the neckline, fabric that would otherwise be wasted off cuts.
Alice: We do all we can to minimize wastage by using our materials as efficiently as possible and recycling what we can. And using paper packaging rather than plastic.
You can treat yourself to a lil GARY here and follow him on Instagram and Facebook.