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Art, Comfort and Dresses: Tessa Chong in Thornbury

Thornbury local Tessa has a quiet gentleness about her.  The first few times I met her in the shop she didn’t say much–but her outfits make a bold statement in their simplicity.  Here, we discuss finding inspiration, comfort, and why Melbourne is so cool.

Tessa is wearing the Wide Stripe top and a black linen skirt, both by Birgitta Helmersson.

Tessa is wearing a Birgitta Helmersson top + skirt.

I’m an illustrator and work at Elk Accessories as a graphic designer.  I studied graphic design at Uni but sometimes I wish I’d studied fashion because it would be nice to know how to sew.  I’m trying to build up my illustration portfolio — it feels like a slow process since I’m too interested in trying everything to have a focus right now.  I did this series with Daiso objects because I wanted to do more Art Direction, so I got a photographer friend and we spent the day working on that project.  It’s fun to just explore and see where it leads me.

I love browsing different designers for inspiration, like Kowtow, they have such nice shoots and collections and an excellent ethos, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually worn their clothes.  I’ll sometimes go into one of those weird internet holes and have a wander.  I do buy a lot of Alpha 60, I always go back to them.  It’s easy to put their pieces with something else, they have distinct Alpha pieces but a few that blend nicely.  You don’t want to buy that certain thing from a label and you walk down the street and it’s immediately recognizable as that label.

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Primoeza top

Comfort is a big thing for me.  I’ve worn glasses all my life so I don’t even notice them now. I spent a lot of effort trying to find the right contacts but they were such a pain and then when I got them I never wore them. I have a backless Alpha 60 jumpsuit which feels a bit sexy, but I don’t find myself “dressing up” too much and I only started wearing makeup in the last few years.  I love an interesting cut and I often go for a boxy shape.  Some patterns or colors I feel I’ll just get sick of it, so a piece needs to be versatile.  I’ve got a bit of a uniform in rotation at the moment  because I bought my own apartment last year and I’ve buckled down a bit on spending.

I do like going to the city for shopping.  I work in Preston so it’s nice to mix it up and get out of the bubble.  I love finding secondhand at opshops and Camberwell market; I love how hit and miss it can be, sometimes you find something amazing but sometimes nothing.  It’s so fun to have a rummage and not really know what you want.  I hate needing to find one specific thing which always ends up feeling frustrating.

People say Melbourne is all about layering, you have to be prepared for almost all of the seasons in one day.  You can see what fashion people follow depending on their areas; Richmond is completely different from Collingwood, for example.  I grew up in Armadale which is so different from this neighborhood.  Even the young people, they seem to be into the tacky 90’s vibe with shaved heads and khaki pants and maybe a mesh top and I can’t imagine wearing any of that.  There’s so much variety here and people have their own style. 

 

Mentioned in captions: Birgitta Helmersson / Primoeza / Verner / Lost & Found Market / Cali Vintage Shop

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