Melbourne accessories brand QLAP is all about upcycling and experimentation

New Melbourne accessories brand QLAP is doing something very interesting with upcycled and deadstock materials. 

“Our brand aesthetic is probably best described as handmade, upcycled design but that kind of sounds like we are a couple of Nannas’ turning old dresses into quilts,” jokes Deej, one third of the founders behind QLAP.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we like to think we’re a little bit trendier … Combine that with an emphasis on street style, taking elements from sportswear and loungewear and you have our overall style.”

What’s with the name?

Begun as a bit of a hobby after a few drinks in 2020, Deej and Owie brought in Dec and officially launched the brand in 2022. While Deej has a background in Fashion Design and Merchandising, the other two members also have major roles.

“While roles are very much shared in design, we all have our strengths. Owie has a keen eye for trends and unique ideas while I have the experience and technical knowledge to form them into a concept, Dec helps us finalise and turn these concepts into achievable designs,” says Deej.

“While studying fashion design, I found myself discussing trends and ideas with Owie, a long-time friend who I had no idea was into clothing and design, probably more than myself to be honest. We always talked about starting a label, but more far-fetched ideas than anything else,” Deej explains.

“Once I graduated, I went straight into my current full-time job as a footwear designer and though it is a great job, I still had an itch for sewing my own stuff. One night after a few drinks, Owie and I started putting ideas together for pieces we wanted to make and it all kind of flowed from there.”

According to the team, the brand began as a way for them to put a label on the bits and pieces they were making, but then other people wanted to purchase them. “We constantly had people asking us where they could get them so we decided to scale up for custom orders and eventually our first two-piece collection.”

As for the rather odd name? Well, Deej says it’s a bit of a trade secret: “The name QLAP comes from an inside joke we have with our close mates growing up, not quite ready for the real meaning to come to light just yet …”

Upcycle everything

One of the coolest things about the new brand is the focus on sustainable and slow fashion using deadstock fabrics or upcycled materials, and the team makes everything by hand in their spare room. 

“The main issues we have had [with launching the brand] is with the production, as we are making everything ourselves it’s hard to weigh up the time it takes to design, cut and sew product in any quantity. We are currently moving our focus back to 1-of-1 pieces and custom orders, as we feel we have a stronger passion for experiment and design,” says Deej.

The focus on design experimentation and upcycling comes from the group’s main inspiration Nicole McLaughlin, the “queen of upcycling and experimentation”, explains Deej. “Her designs have paved the way for creative freedom and she inspires us to stay away from commercial fashion and stick to what we are really passionate about.”

“We are definitely still working on our brand concept and although I have experience, we still find that, as a collective, we are very new to the industry. We are really excited to be exploring and experimenting with whatever we like. Whether it’s recreating our favourite trends or thinking outside the box to solve problems in design.

“The great thing about being a small brand, working in 1-of-1 and custom orders is that we can almost entirely use remnants and offcuts. When using deadstock materials, we pretty much only use cotton due to the quality, ease of work and the fact that it’s biodegradable.

“Not to say we don’t love our nylon and polyester, luckily for us, it’s only a short trip to the thrift store to find a second-hand jacket we can give a second life – though not as a jacket,” says Deej, with a laugh.

As for the future, the long-term goal for QLAP is one that the team has always held, to start their own small factory or find an existing supplier they can work with. 

“I guess growing to the point where it could take over our day jobs has always been [our goal] at heart and a less long-term goal would be to have an actual studio in the future, it’s starting to get a little cramped in our spare room/sewing lounge,” Deej says.

“Overall, we are looking forward to having a stronger presence in the industry and being able to share our passions with like-minded people and brands.”

Contact the QLAP team via the brand’s Instagram account @qlapau.