Sydney-based brand reinvents vintage towels through fashion design

PICTURE BY @TOWELIE/INSTAGRAM

IZZY WIGHT LYRICS




“The word ‘fashion’ implies something that comes and goes, and there’s something inherently flawed about it.”

Whereas towels can be beautiful and crafted with care, they are not often a textile that strong feelings. Towels are given as gifts to distant family members, placed on dog-trampled car seats, or neatly stored in the bottom of linen closets to slowly collect dust (except for those hooded towels that give you animal ears, now they are thrilling).

With the intention of giving her good friend Dani a heartfelt gift, Sydney designer Whim Wilson decided to save these towels from the back of the closet. After a trip to her local operating store, Whim returned with a pile of used towels and a wave of design inspiration.


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Dani’s giveaway was so successful that Whim’s recycled towel project became her own fashion brand. Towel This is where unwanted towels are reinvented, in the form of colorful bucket hats, soft cardigans and contrasting co-ords.

Tell us about you. What is your background in fashion?

I am Whim, the founder of Towel. My first word was “shoe” according to my parents. I was totally obsessed with shoes as a kid. I always thought of fashion design as a path I could take, but ended up studying architecture and later went into fine art.

My 10th grade textile project was a corset with upside-down teacups attached to the bra cups. I think it will always be one of my favorite creations.

How did the label start? Tell us about the process and the challenges.

In 2019, I was living in a really creative and inspiring house with two friends from art school, Eliza and Dani. It was Dani’s birthday and I wanted to make her something unique, quirky and just a pure embodiment of my affection for her.

I saved up a few towels at Vinnies in Newtown and started sewing. In the end, I ended up with a jumper that had a v-neck, big long ceremonial sleeves and ‘Dani’ embroidered on the front. It snowballed from there, but I never expected that three years later I would have this business.

It’s a challenge to work with vintage napkins because each piece is unique. It can be difficult to find a rhythm when manufacturing and it slows down the sales process. But those are also the things that make Towelie so special.

What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time? How has that evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the brand now?

At first, my towels were fun gestures of love that you could also wear to the beach. The pieces I made were bright, lively and unashamedly awkward. More recently, I realized that I could take Towelie in any direction I wanted… I started letting myself be inspired and experimenting more.

Someone told me at the beginning that “wearing a Towelie makes you feel loved. It’s like someone is hugging you”. Although I think Towelie has evolved, that feeling is something that I want to search, in all the pieces I create.

Throughout the process, I definitely became more passionate about slow, circular fashion. I think Towelie will eventually morph into something else, but I plan to stick with what we already have in the world to create new pieces.

How would you describe Towelie designs to someone who has never seen them before?

I would describe Towelie as vibrant, clever and loving clothing; made from vintage towels.

What are you most proud of in your work on your label?

I’m kinda proud that I didn’t mean to start a label. I’m also proud of how Towelie transforms textiles that might have been ignored in the back of a closet into something precious.

Who do you think is the most exciting in Australian fashion right now?

Clover Cutler just released an amazing first collection. Par Moi is a really inspiring brand for me, and I love Threadgate’s ingenuity and Sauce.

What about the Australian fashion industry that needs to change?

The word “fashion” implies something that comes and goes, and there’s something inherently flawed about it. You shouldn’t have to buy new pieces every season to be relevant. We need to stop saying things like “this piece is so hot right now”. We should start saying “this piece is so me, forever”. There also needs to be a lot more accountability in the industry, which can only really happen with government regulation.

I think there’s a huge craze for slow, circular fashion processes right now, and I hope the Australian fashion industry continues to ride that wave.

Who’s in your wardrobe right now?

My most recent purchase was basic range. My favorite pieces are my very cool aunt’s 90s clothes, including a cherry-print silk Yaso maxi dress with spaghetti straps and a cowl neck.

How can we buy one of your parts?

I deposit selections of the most recent pieces on my website. I also make custom pieces. You can contact me directly at [email protected] to order.

Anything else to add?

There is enough fabric in the world. Upcycling and circular fashion are the future!

For more towels, go here.

Joseph E. Golightly