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Home : Arj Selvam, For-Tomorrow Media, Paris Fashion Week, Spring/Summer 2010/11

Arj Selvam – Interview –

22 July 2010 | 9 Comments

Source: The West Australian
Images: For-Tomorrow

If there’s a local designer who proves you don’t need to follow the conventional route into the fashion industry to be successful, then Arj Selvam is it.

For a start, he is not design-school trained. A University of WA engineering and commerce graduate, he is entirely self-taught.

“After I graduated I worked in the mines for about a month before I realised I hated it,” he laughs.

“I knew I was going to be destined for something else.

“In my final year at uni I had already started looking into the fashion side of things, just researching and drawing, and in my first year out of uni it all started to happen.

“I’d been interested in fashion for as long as I can remember but I just hadn’t thought it was feasible after a six-year degree to turn around and do a complete career 180.”

But that’s exactly what he did.

Selvam’s lack of formal training has in no way prevented his directional menswear (and small capsule range of womenswear) from sparking the interest of international buyers, nor has it prevented him from securing the finest materials and some of the best Australian pattern-makers in the business to get his label off the ground.

“I literally got a sewing machine, bits of fabric from here and there and started making really simple garments,” Selvam explains of his label’s beginnings.

“I didn’t plan to start a fully fledged label; initially it was just a T-shirt idea. But I just thought, ‘well, if I’m going to do this, I might as well do it properly’.

“So I put together a collection of the pieces I had done and started working on making contacts with people in the industry.”

Selvam was born in Sydney but moved to Perth in 1997. He moves back and forth between the two cities, as the majority of his pieces are manufactured in Sydney with Dion Lee’s production team – no small coup.

“I’ve got a really good team on board now and one of the best pattern-makers in Australia, and they all really believe in my concept and my product, which I think is incredibly important,” he says.

A lover of avant-garde designers such as Rick Owens and Ann Demeulemeester, Selvam finds design inspiration in disparate places, from traditional symbols of Australiana to architecture and the concept of minimalism.

The spring-summer collection is called The Black Stump and it’s indicative of Selvam’s desire to create an internationally recognised label that has deeply Australian roots.

The key to what these Australian roots might be are to be found in the materials Selvam uses, and the names he gives his garments. Think sheepskin leather, oilskin, angora, wool and waxed cowhide; “Drover” coats and boots, “Stockman” belts and “Ironbark” high-waisted pants for women.

There’s an obvious nod to rural iconography in these names – the drover, the stockman, the farmer, the shearer – and Selvam is committed to including organic fibres such as bamboo in his collections.

But this isn’t exactly R.M. Williams terrain; it’s edgy Australiana for Rick Owens fans.

“There are a lot of menswear designers out there doing directional clothing and, while each label has its own signature, a lot of them are doing a similar thing,” Selvam says.

“I don’t want to take the Australiana concept too literally – it’s not meant to be country bumpkin in feel – but rather to be inspired by the landscape and materials.”

Only a couple of collections in, Selvam is already designing a full complementary line of accessories, from boots and belts to jewellery and headwear.

That’s an ambitious ploy for a relatively new designer but Selvam says his work has already sparked interest from clients overseas, particularly in Paris where he intends to take his new collection, Ironbark, early next year.

“A lot has happened even just in the last month,” Selvam says.

“I’ve also had some interest from London. It’s still small but it’s good to see that momentum starting.”

9 Responses

  1. ozzie Says:

    Did he just say alot Australian designers are doing the same thing? do you think he has a mirror?

  2. Erik.B Says:

    Think he was alluding to international designers but the stuff looks different to Australian labels anyway

  3. ozzie Says:

    You’re kidding me right? you think this looks different to Australian labels? haha.. This whole Rick Owens/Drk Shadow/Julius/Chronicles thing has spiraled out of control. That middle mens shot doesn’t look like Number Nine/Stolen Girlfriends at all!

  4. the soup Says:

    i think there is a lot of potential here, definetely going in the right direction. Most australian labels havn’t set them selves right in order to make them as big as labels such as m.a+. pricing/quality and its competitors are set right with arj selvam with great meaning behind the label and its individual pieces

  5. Mr Agree Says:

    i can’t agree with you more Mr above comment, i think it’s the first time an australian designer has actually pulled their head out of their arse and done a high quality collection of unique yet australian influenced pieces, im talking higher than what is currently available in the au market..that top right image looks like a modern take on the drizabone — genius! this shit is way better than vanishing elephant, what a joke.

  6. the soup Says:

    You guys have to think of the word “potential”. Think of how number (n)ine & all them started out, they weren’t anything amazing at the start but gradually became a major impact to the avant garde of fashion. I personally think that with A.S, the quality and pricing arangement has automatically set the competitors to be amongst minimalistic labels such as m.a+/obscur ect. For arj selvam to be big it needs to be on racks next to the big labels to raise awarness for people that it is “good enough” to be there. for labels like c.o.n, it is good that we have local labels like these for those who can’t afford Rick owens. Hopefully A.S isn’t affraid to fail!

  7. Erik.B Says:

    Who said it looks like number nine/stolen girlfriends? Concur with above 2 comments

  8. Mitch Says:

    Have any of you guys ever walked into Rm williams, the quality of their australian made garments are top tier, their shoes are world the interview above mentions it’s taking those ideals/notions/principles, adding design direction and taking it to an international audience, it’s never been done than i know of! The direction screams edgy Australian stockman and he’s mentioned the use above of Oilskin, WTF..Oilskin is a uniquely Aus produced material, not to mentioned the kangaroo fur for that vest… im blown away by the concept.

  9. spm Says:

    i’m personally looking forward to this friday night when arj will showcase this collection at styleaid. he’s a highlight. plus i agree with one of the previous comments – i think that jacket third across is genius too. the fact that he’s garnering so many comments suggests that he’s on to something. plus i think the true litmus here is the fact that the comments are so polarised. it’d be boring if everyone was like ‘oooooh, wow’ or the opposite ‘ewww, how common, how done’. the fact he’s getting both is great. naturally, the true test will be the debut this friday. i, personally, can’t wait.

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