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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE DRESS COLLECTIVE AUSTRALIAN DESIGNER: COCO & MAX

Despite being famously monochromatic, Melbourne is privy to a growing underground movement focussed on the one thing that it missing from the great city’s streets- colour! Amongst the dreary browns, greys and blacks of the city flock, lurid flashes of neon are starting to appear in ever-increasing numbers. One of the ringleaders in this rainbow revolution is emerging Melbourne label Coco & Max, whose Premier 15 collection GEO POP is bringing a much need splash of colour to wardrobes all over Australia. 

The brain child (and actual child) of designers Tess and Andy, Coco & Max combines their individual and collaborative designs for both men and women, with ‘Coco’ featuring a female collection and ‘Max’, a male collection. As for the name of the label, Tess explains, “we had to think of a name that would be suitable and last forever, so we decided to name it after our children-yet we hadn’t had any! At the time I was 6 months pregnant. Coco was born on the 24th of May and she’s the best CEO I’ve ever had!”

The designers’ background in the European fashion industry (Andy is English and Tess worked in Europe for a number of years) has given them credentials that most start-up designers would envy, however Tess is keen to steer away from much of what she learned during her time there. "We used to have to go to Premier Vision in Paris every year.  I found it funny sitting in lectures being told for hours what patterns and hues the fashion industry was using- all copying and complying with which direction to go down. I really don’t care what anyone else is doing.”

The self-confessed ‘pink banana of the bunch’, Tess believes that it is more important to draw from your own environment when it comes to fashion and design: “It’s what’s around that should inspire you- the people, the food, your favourite music, patterns in nature, animals and art. There is so much to take in and Melbourne is certainly a great city to see it all!” 

The designer is not keen to put constraints on her designs or on whom or how they should be worn. Personal style ranks high above fashion for Coco & Max and neither Tess nor Andy are interested in following trends or fads. “We want our customers to be proud of their ‘Coco’ piece that has lasted 10 years, and because we don’t follow trends it will never go out of trend!’

Despite the label’s Melbourne roots, Tess expresses a loathing of all black- “I feel like you disappear in it”- so although she is keen to experiment with her designs as the company grows, she is determined that her rainbow hues will stay. "Each year we do a ‘rolling’ collection, so for winter you’re going to see more geometric bright poppy pieces. Next year certainly isn’t geometric but it will always be bright!” 

Vivid colour is just one of the cornerstones of the label which is also centred on durability, quality and luxury. Having had an insider’s view of how the fashion industry works on a larger scale, Tess and Andy are passionate advocates of ethical fashion, looking to keep environmental impact small and everything as local as possible: “You get good Karma because you’re boosting the local economy and helping build your local community.”

Tess speaks passionately about all aspects of her work from the design studio to the factory floor and her desire to experiment, evolve and expand the label as things begin to grow is as dazzlingly infectious as the bright hues of her designs. 

“We want to be known for our classic prints, interesting cuts and quirky humour. I can’t wait to use different materials like silk instead of chiffon and would love to develop some of our own. We would also love to open our own shop where we are in complete control of the space- to bring back shopping from online.”

Although still facing the difficulties of any start-up label, Tess and Andy are already pioneers of a new kind of fashion world. A fashion world that has been brought down to more personal level than the one they experienced in Europe; a world where individuality is celebrated and manufacture is just as significant as design.

Tess knows that “every Melburnian needs a sleek splash of vibrant neon that they’ll cherish through every season” and it is the design duo’s love of fashion and their championing of a new and better industry that makes Coco & Max the right label to supply it. 

Visit The Fashion Advocate for your daily digest of Australian fashion or shop the Coco & Max collection here.

The Dress Collective: Australian designer fashion online

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