Kaylene Milner – From New York to New Beginnings
She may not yet be a household name in Australian Fashion, but designer Kaylene Milner is picking up where she left off and setting the tone for her label, all within her stride. Kaylene left Sydney headed for New York after making waves with her debut collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia in 2012. Upon her return, we caught up with Kaylene to discuss her New York fashion experience, the recent launch of her Autumn/Winter 2014 collection and her appreciation for fellow homegrown talent.
BYO: How did you start out in fashion?
KM: I was studying music but I just got sidetracked really (laughs)
I probably really took an interest in fashion in about 2007. A couple years out of high school, a friend brought me back a copy of the International Vogue collections, she’d been in Holland and had bought it for me then as I don’t think they were stocked in the newsagents back then.
I became obsessed with studying every single collection and read it back to front and thought “Well this can’t be too hard to do” (laughs) Rather than thinking wow this is so amazing I thought it would be pretty easy, which it obviously isn’t… 5-6 years later I’m realizing how much work goes into it.
BYO: So you have been designing for 5-6 years?
KM: I pulled out of my uni course and took a chance on getting into the Ultimo TAFE fashion course. I graduated in 2011, so I have been designing outside of a school environment since then.
BYO: In terms of your experience tell us about how your internship at Diane Von Furstenburg came about?
KM: well that was really a result of being chosen to launch my brand at fashion week in Australia in 2012. It gave me the exposure and gave me the opportunity to apply for this great prize.
I guess I launched my brand there (Mercedes Benz fashion Week Australia 2012) and took a hiatus while I went to New York and did the brief internship at DVF and a brief internship and subsequent work at a trend forecasting agency in New York.
When I came back I thought “Well I know what it’s like working for a company and I know what it’s like doing trend forecasting but I still have the desire to pursue my own thing”.
It was about May of this year when I decided “Yep that’s what I’ve got to do”.
BYO: So you kind of solidified the brand by then?
KM: Well I hadn’t been working on it when I was overseas, it was more purely about getting experience.
I just felt that straight out of fashion week, I wasn’t ready. I needed to learn a few more things first.
BYO: Describe your brand in a sentence?
KM: I think the silhouettes are very much informed by what’s happening globally in fashion and can be quite chic and sophisticated but at the end of the day I’m still a bit of dag and I always like to include a bit of my personality in it. (laughs)
BYO: What do you mean you’re a dag?
KM: Well I mean I just feel like a bit of a phony if it’s 100% chic or sophisticated. It’s always got to have a bit of quirk to it.
BYO: How would you describe your quirk?
KM:I guess I would never do a straight up floral dress or something I guess it would have to have a twist to it.
I mean the inspirations for each collection usually comes from something a bit left of center.
BYO: What’s your current collection inspired by?
KM: The collection I just launched for Autumn Winter 2014 started with the imagery of Rosicrucianism, which was something I remembered from studying music and it tied in with a project back then. I was looking at this really strong religious imagery but it’s so modern at the same time. So that was the starting point, but then I started looking at 1960’s Teddy girls, and then I started looking at this really fantastic picture of 1925 Drexel Institute girls rifle team. They’re just so tough and so cool!
So I guess some of the silhouettes are quite feminine but then it’s got that tomboy edge to it. Which I guess is what relates back to my style. It’s never full on feminine or full on tomboy it’s swinging between the two.
The lines definitely get blurred as to what the initial inspiration was. But as the very end result I just want to stand back and think, “I want to wear that“.
That’s a big of why I want to do it. I want things to wear which should be the biggest perk of being a designer designing women’s wear.
BYO: Describe your customer?
KM: I guess my customer is someone who likes to dress well but likes a bit of humor in her clothing. She appreciates quality but doesn’t take it too seriously.
BYO: Where can we buy your collection?
KM: This is my first season since Fashion Week 2012, so this season I’m selling my online store. The site is live and ready for pre order for Autumn/ Winter 2014.
Next season I will be wholesaling to boutiques.
For the first season you just have start and step into at some point.
BYO: What’s your biggest motivation?
KM: Being my own boss motivates me. Being able to indulge the ideas I have and see them come to life.
BYO: Where do you see your brand growing?
KM: I’d love to work on it fulltime, as the brand grows I’d love to extend the collection to accessories and footwear… but one thing at a time.
I love that as your grow and there’s more awareness there’s more people who want to collaborate on projects, that’s exciting.
BYO: In terms of collaborations who would you want to collaborate with?
KM: I would love to collaborate with local artists on some prints.
I’m trying introduce more of a hand done sort of feel to them because I feel there has been already such saturation of digital imagery, which is why I like the idea of collaborating with painters and illustrators.
I think there is a really great way to adapt what they do into clothing.
BYO: And in terms of your musical side, do you want to incorporate that into your fashion?
KM: I think it always influences a little bit where I’m coming from. I’d love to down the track, be able to put on an event and get live musicians in and create a 360 cultural experience and cover everything. But at the moment it’s more just my escape. I don’t get enough time to do it these days but I’m recording an album with my band next weekend. It’s completely different to the Sydney fashion scene.
- Maria Maung
Photography by Toni Veziris