Fashion Interview: Black Milk Clothing
Somethingyousaid.com recently caught up with the guys at Black Milk – an Australian fashion label which had humble beginnings in 2009 but has gone on to attain a large, dedicated global fanbase. They operate exclusively online and specialize in nylon clothing with a large variety of designs and prints that reference everything from Star Wars to unicorns via Harry Potter:
As a male making clothes almost exclusively for females how does creator James Lillis get insight into what his customers want from their clothing?
Luckily jL has an office made up of almost entirely women who are always more than ready to give their feedback on designs! He’s also a very particular researcher, and really listens to feedback that customers give us on Facebook and through emails.
How involved is James in the various aspects of the label now that it has grown so much since its humble beginnings in his Brisbane apartment?
jL is still very involved with every aspect of the brand – he has final approval of all garments, and likes to keep on top of everything from social media to release schedules. He doesn’t get much sleep, but the spirit of Black Milk hasn’t diminished at all since the day we began.
The popular mantra for Black Milk is ‘Give me nylon or give me death’. Is there a currently a trend toward more synthetic fabrics over more traditional ones or do you feel you are still serving a niche market?
Neither, really. We use synthetic fabrics because you can’t use our printing process on natural fibers! Simple as that.
As a label that designs for women with stretch fabrics have you ever considered expanding into the male market or using more traditional fabrics like cotton? If so, how do you think this would impact the identity of the label?
We wouldn’t use cotton for our main printed lines because, as mentioned above, you can’t effectively print onto cotton. As for expanding to a male market, we do have a lot of men who wear our gear and that’s enough for us.
Are you designing your own prints in house, using stock fabrics or a combination of both?
It’s a combination of both – we release printed gear, that is all done in-house, and designer gear where we use our own unique cuts but source fabric from all over the world.
The label operates and distributes exclusively online which is still quite unique. With this in mind, how important is social media to your business model?
Social media is vital for us, because it lets us communicate in real time to people who might be halfway across the world.
There currently is a strong emphasis of customers wanting something unique and exclusive from their fashion labels, a trend largely driven by social media sites like Pinterest, LookBook, Twitter and Facebook. How important is it to your business model and/or customers to have something exclusive from your label via limited editions or runs?
Not hugely important – we feel that people makes the garment their own through styling. We do limited runs of things, but that’s mostly due to fabric limitations or to free up space in the store for new, awesome gear!
Does the label have a set team of graphic designers, models and photographers or do these roles change based on the current needs or aims of the label?
We have our own, set, in-house team. Models might change depending on the type of shoot, but other than that we have a full-time team of awesome people.
Take me through the lifecycle of a typical piece from your collection. From inception through to distribution.
It usually begins in jL’s head, makes its way to paper as a sketch, then onto the graphics teams’ computers as a pattern. From there we print a test sample for approval, and once it’s given the green light we print a size range. After that’s approved, we shoot and release! That’s the condensed version, but we do take a lot of pride in testing and sampling each product to make sure it’s 100% approved.
Where do you consider the best markets are for your label at the moment and why do you think this is?
It’s difficult to say – we have very passionate fans all across the world, from Brisbane to Warsaw! It’s not so much a location thing as a mindset thing – we appeal to women (and some men!) who really want to express themselves through fashion and are a little bit daring when they do it.
Who do you primarily make your clothes for?
Most of our customers are women aged 15 to 25, but there are so many people who fall outside that range that we take that range with a grain of salt. Everyone from mums to football players rock our gear.
Your latest collection, “Mass Effect’ was inspired by the popular video game trilogy of the same name. It seems like a bold choice of inspiration considering your major client base consists of young women who would not have played through the game series. What was the genesis of this collection and has there been any feedback from your customers so far?
Our Mass Effect collection was extremely popular with our young, female customer base. Just goes to show that stereotypes, especially concerning geek culture, are often way, way off!
As traditional music industry incomes become marginalized, more and more artists are looking at alternative revenue streams. Over the last few years the stigma attached to sponsorship has waned with otherwise reputable independent artists. How does your label view this current trend of artist sponsorship from non-traditional sources and is this something your label has partaken in or considered?
If someone approaches us and they represent something cool, and they’re are talented and creative, we’re generally happy to work with them. We’re not overly concerned with trends or stigmas.