Danielle Atkinson is the creator behind popular Sydney based fashion label Milk From A Thistle. Designed and made in Australia, the label has just released its new collection for Spring/Summer 2013. In this Q&A, we chat to Danielle about her latest range and what inspires this Australian designer…
Tell us the story behind Milk From A Thistle… how did you come up with the name and what led you to start your own label?
Milk From A Thistle was created out of a love for fabric design. I studied textile design and printing, with a possible view to creating a homewares brand, but at the time it seemed that clothing was an easier platform to get my prints out there. It started with a few printed tank tops sold at the markets and grew from there. The name was a last minute thing really. One of those situations where you have to quickly decide on something just before you have to get the business cards printed! I was listening to an album by Joanna Newsom at the time and one of the lyrics was,”I wasn’t born of a whistle or milked from a thistle.” It just kind of stuck.
When designing your new Spring/Summer collection, did you have a particular muse in mind?
Not really, but I do often think of Cate Blanchett when I imagine a celebrity in some of my clothes. She has a good mix of masculine and feminine. She looks great in a tailored blazer but equally appealing in a frock. She is a great supporter of Australian fashion and always dares to be different.
On a global scale, who would you love to collaborate with?
I would love to collaborate with Marni. I love their bold use of print and colour and I love how their clothing crosses so many demographics. You can see it on a 25-year-old or a 70-year-old. It is wearable but makes a statement. Marni is for a woman that is inspired by design and not fashion.
How important is it to you to ensure your designs are produced and manufactured in Australia?
Very important. I can’t imagine it will ever be any other way. Logistically, it’s just easier – you have more control and it’s easier to troubleshoot issues. Manufacturing isn’t an easy process, but I feel that making locally allows you to control each step of the process far better. I have a wonderful maker based in Sydney who appreciates and has an understanding of the time and effort that is spent doing what I do. Although doing production in Australia is getting harder, and is increasingly more expensive, I believe that it’s worth every penny.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing today’s designers?
I think the current retail climate hasn’t helped things but I do believe it’s always been cash flow. Managing the production of one collection, whilst designing and sampling the next collection, and still waiting to be paid from stockists from the season before. It’s a constant treadmill that can get tiring but you just have to keep on keeping on. I also think it’s getting harder to really have a point of difference. There is lots of competition out there, whether these labels stick around for years or have fleeting success, they are competing for rack space in the same boutiques as you, so it’s important to offer the best possible package you can – a great collection, accessible price-points and flattering shapes.
How would you describe your personal style?
At the moment, sadly, I would have to say practical. I have two young children, both under age 4, and some things just work better than others. Whilst I am not sitting around in tracky daks all day, I have started to get a really refined appreciation for great basics that wear well and have great shape. I am always a sucker for a great pair of jeans and a perfectly faded black tee that hangs beautifully and is super soft. Yep, practical.
What were the last three fashion items you recently bought?
I bought a beautiful leather tote bag from Funkis. A natural leather that is just getting better and better with more wear. A Zoe Karsson sweater; I love her slogan tees and sweaters. I also bought a pair of Insight military green low-slung pants with a slim leg. I love them, though they aren’t the most comfortable things to run around after my two young kids in, but I persevere!