Five Minutes with Quillan

April 28, 2021
Five Minutes with  Quillan

Quillan is a slow fashion brand based on an intriguing amalgamation of passions, namely the importance of personal expression through the artistry of fashion and a solid belief in co-creating a better world for us all. It is through these passions that Quillan has developed a fashionable line of clothing made from natural materials, which follows sustainable practices to protect our environment and supports small ethical factories and suppliers.

We sat down with Kimelyn, the founder and designer of Quillan, to chat a bit more about how she developed a passion for slow fashion and how their pieces are designed and produced ethically and sustainably. We absolutely loved hearing more about their ethical production process, and the incredibly talented South African women who craft Quillan’s beautiful and unique hand-knitted collection. Keep on reading to learn more about Kimelyn and the truly inspiring work she is doing with Quillan.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started Quillan?

Since I was a tiny human, I have absolutely loved clothing. I still love waking up in the morning and deciding what to wear for the day, I am fascinated how the subtle differences in our moods and our energy levels and our sense of self each day, determines what we choose to wear. I believe that clothing can be so much more than just a way to cover up and protect ourselves from the elements, it is a self-reflection of who we are and even more, a projection of who we would like to be and the values we hold. It is a little like a glimpse into our centre.

I have always felt strongly about each of us holding onto our unique identity and having the freedom to express who we are. I was that kid who turned up at a school 'dress up' party dressed head to toe in a self-made clown outfit, wig and full make up included, when the other kids had simply worn a skirt over their jeans and T-shirt.

As I matured and became more exposed to the world and the reality of our impact on the environment and on other living creatures, I started to become more and more focussed on working out how we, as a collective, could make a positive impact (or even just starting with less of a negative impact) through making conscious and informed choices as we live our lives.

It is as a result of these core passions that Quillan Studio was born.

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We love your approach to creating high-quality clothing made from natural fibres. Can you tell us a bit more about how your pieces are designed and produced?

There are many elements that play a part in the design, patterning and manufacturing of each Quillan garment.

Firstly, there is the careful choice of fabrics and raw materials. We only use sustainable natural and organic fibres - hemp, organic cotton and linen. So much healthier for us, for the environment and for the workers in the industry.

Often a style will develop naturally once I have the fabric in my hands. Working with the weight, drape, colour and texture of each fabric, the garments seem to design themselves and I spend time sketching and tweaking until I have a basic idea of what the garment looks like.

From there the pattern will be made, and after sampling and some more tweaking and often resampling for the perfect look and fit, the final design will be ready for production. Most of our production is done in a small family ethically run factory in South Africa and some is done in our Studio in Melbourne.

We believe in slow fashion and we want our garments to be loved and worn through many seasons, so we consciously build quality into our patterns as well as into our production process.

Our beautiful and unique hand-knitted collection is knitted by a group of disadvantaged women in South Africa. The women we have been working with are enormously talented and they have such strength and determination to do what it takes to provide for their families and loved ones. It is inspiring, and it is also a reality check on my own life to be involved with these amazing women and to hear their stories and to see their day to day challenges and how they deal with them. Yarns are sustainably sourced from small local and ethically run farms and dyed using non-toxic dyes.

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Why was creating sustainable, eco-friendly clothing important to you?

I feel that we as a collective, are now open to the reality that we are stewards of the planet and of each other, we can no longer ignore the ill treatment of other humans and keep stripping the Earth of raw materials and manufacturing enormous quantities of waste. There will be a breaking point and it feels closer than ever.

I believe that as individuals we can make a significant difference to each other's lives and to the wellbeing of the Earth. Because I love clothing, this is where I can start my journey - slow fashion using biodegradable natural fabrics, ethical factories, trans-seasonal styling and quality garments to last many years.

The hand-knitted range is a passion project, I grew up in South Africa and I carry in my heart both the absolute beauty and vibrancy of the country and also the extreme poverty and desperate need of so many of her people. I feel drawn to do something to make a positive impact. This is where the idea of finding a way for disadvantaged women in South Africa with amazing knitting skills the opportunity to knit whenever works for them, to earn income to help support themselves and their families.

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What does the future hold for Quillan?

Where to start? I have so many ideas about where we can go from here, the future is wide open at this stage. We are working towards broadening our range to include a wider size range and also gender-neutral styles, this is very exciting because both are much needed in the slow fashion realm. Zero-waste patterns are also in the works, a fascinating combination of producing no fabric waste and unique and creative garments which emerge from this process.

As for the knitting project, the pool of knitters is currently small, but we aim to grow into an established community, enabling each artisan to earn a full income.

It is so exciting and I wake up each morning so grateful that I am able to be a part of it all.

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