Nov 11, 2009 12:00AM

Talking Trimapee

This season has seen cult Melbourne label Trimapee both extend and transcend their classic style. Their stock hit shops a few weeks ago, and it's been selling like crazy ever since. We caught up with designer Mario Luca-Carlucci to talk new directions, retail and surprising customers.

"It's hard to think of one person who is a Trimapee person?" Carlucci tells Oyster over the phone. After a few more seconds of umming and ahhing he concludes: "It's really tricky, I guess no one famous in that sense, the garments are just made and designed for people who appreciate design." This season, that eye for design was stronger than ever, with a collection of layerable pieces that went from dark grunge to desert-pale.

"Things have changed dramatically," Carlucci says of the latest work. Trimapee have their roots in a distinctly Melbourne brand of street-wear, slightly dishevelled but still sharp, their original look was based around a stick-legged, indie-kid silhouette. The change in direction was inspired by practicality as well as creativity: "Skinny leg denim may look great, but you can't wear it when it's 40 degrees outside!" This move towards a heat friendly look has certainly been affective. Their latest collection showed hints of Lawrence of Arabia romance, combined with a distinctly Eastern twist of drama. "We wanted it to be really breezy, really light, breathable cotton knits and that sort of thing," Carlucci says. "The collection is dramatic together, but piece by piece it's quite wearable? We don't expect everyone to walk out looking like a Hare Krishna, but it can be worn quite easily and mixed with your day-to-day style."

"Throughout the season we were experimenting with different techniques and we wanted to introduce a lighter colour palette, we wanted to break away from the mould that we were set in," Carlucci explains about this change of pace. "[This season was] about introducing colour and new techniques. We did a lot of handwork, with different appliques and fabrics and fabrications? We experimented with laser cutting, elasticised ruching and overlays."

Although you can't tell from looking at the collection, we're told that sourcing this new fabric was not easy. "We were sourcing locally which was problematic because lots of designers were getting their fabric from the same place," Carlucci confesses. This is a long-standing issue with Australian-made fabrics, but despite higher production costs and the occasional competition for cloth, being locally made is a big part of Trimapee's brand ethos. "We like things that are made locally, we just want to do what we can with that? and don't compromise on that."

Unlike many local labels, that rely primarily on wholesaling to get their clothes on the market, Trimapee have a strong presence in retail. They started with Fitzroy shop The Milk Shoppe Gang, and have recently opened up a second store in Melbourne's prestigious QV building. "With wholesaling you won't find someone who'll buy the entire collection but the beauty of having your own store is that you can see a whole collection, there's better representation that way."

Retail can also be advantageous in that it offers direct contact with customers. "What's been surprising is when you see a guy wearing a women's piece in such a way where it's an eye opener," Carlucci shares. "Seeing a dress worn as a top or a scarf? it's really exciting to see how different people's perceptions of the garments can be carried out," he enthuses.

Perhaps the most surprising thing of all about Trimapee is not their stylish new turn, or the ever changing set ups of their retail locations, but the fact that, in the end, they are men without a plan. "We don't actually have a plan of attack with the label," confides Carlucci. He ponders that, in terms of business it may not be the best approach but "business is on the back end of our thought process. We're more creative, always thinking of ways to evolve as designers and people and push our own personal boundaries." What ever it is that Trimapee are doing, or not doing, it certainly seems to be working.