Thirty Five is a Melbourne fashion brand focused on innovation and evolution

Thirty Five is a fascinating newly launched Melbourne-based fashion brand by designer Canwen Zhao. Originating from a need to have fewer clothes, the concept of creating pieces that have more than one use is based on an ancient tradition.

“[The brand] was inspired by the philosophical principle from the Tao Te Ching,” explains Wen, “‘One gives birth to two, two gives birth to three, and three gives birth to all things’. 

“The brand embodies a new type of sustainable fashion product with multi-functionality, adaptability to various scenarios, and high freedom of evolution. 

“Drawing from this ancient wisdom, Thirty Five seeks to create clothing that reflects the timeless values of versatility, resilience, and interconnectedness. By combining traditional craftsmanship with modern innovation, the brand aims to offer garments that not only transcend fleeting trends but also adapt to the diverse needs of contemporary lifestyles.”

This interesting design concept comes from Wen’s thoughts about over-production and the sheer number of clothes most of us now own. Her studies, first completing a Bachelor of Fashion Design [Hons] at RMIT, and then a Masters in Fashion Design at Deakin University, also informed her idea. 

RR melbourne fashion designer interview CANWEN ZHAO THIRTY FIVE

“Thirty Five was initially born out of a storage issue caused by an excess of  out-of-season clothing in my wardrobe. This led me to contemplate consumer purchasing desires and the prevailing issues in the fashion industry, such as overproduction, fast fashion waste, and excessive packaging,” she explains. 

Another factor: “Due to my own UV allergy, the designs also cater to the needs of  individuals with skin conditions, featuring physical sun protection designs such as long sleeves and long pants. These designs incorporate elements of traditional Chinese clothing shapes, providing a practical and stylish alternative for those who cannot be exposed to sunlight for extended periods.”


“The brand’s commitment to innovation and evolution is  reflected in its designs, which seamlessly blend form and function, tradition and technology,” Wen says.

“Each piece is meticulously crafted to provide maximum utility while maintaining a distinct  aesthetic appeal, allowing wearers to express their individuality with confidence and ease.”

RR melbourne fashion designer interview CANWEN ZHAO THIRTY FIVE

This ‘confidence and ease’ can be seen in the elevated streetwear aesthetic of Thirty Five with its fusion of ‘Retro and Futuristic elements’.

Wen says influences like Alexander McQueen – “renowned for his avant garde designs and dramatic runway presentation” alongside “Prada’s innovative approach to fashion, blending contemporary aesthetics with traditional craftsmanship, serve as a constant source of inspiration for my designs”.

She is also a fan of Aesop: “While primarily known for its skincare products, Aesop’s commitment to sustainability, attention to detail, and minimalist aesthetic resonate deeply with my design philosophy. Their emphasis on simplicity and functionality inspires me to create garments  that are both stylish and practical, with a focus on longevity and versatility.” 

“Thirty Five’s aesthetic is characterised by a harmonious fusion of retro and futuristic elements, creating a unique visual language that is both nostalgic and forward-thinking. 

“Drawing inspiration from diverse sources such as  vintage fashion, contemporary art, and cutting-edge technology, the brand’s designs offer a fresh perspective on classic styles while pushing the boundaries of innovation.  

“Vibrant colours play a central role in the brand’s aesthetic, adding energy  and dynamism to each garment. From bold primary hues to soft pastels, the colour palette is carefully curated to evoke emotion and evoke a sense of joy and vitality.  

RR melbourne fashion designer interview CANWEN ZHAO THIRTY FIVE

A bag that becomes a dress

“Central to the brand’s aesthetic is a commitment to multi-functionality and innovation. Each piece is designed with versatility in mind, allowing it to  be worn in multiple ways and adapted to different occasions. 

“Innovative features such as adjustable straps, convertible silhouettes, and modular components add an element of  playfulness and adaptability to the brand’s designs, inviting wearers to experiment and express themselves freely.” 

Thirty Five is also very inclusive. Wen has a wide range of colour options for each design; she believes that colour therapy can “help alleviate emotional issues among urban dwellers”. She has also included “small design details and material choices to enhance the inclusiveness of garment sizes”.


Wen’s commitment to innovation can also be seen in her attitude towards production and sustainability. 

“The brand focuses not only on upcycling second-hand garments but also on increasing the longevity of clothing by combining materials from three to four second hand garments through repair, hardware replacement, tailoring, and flat collage, resulting in a completely new garment,” Wen explains. 

“Thirty Five also repurposes leftover fabric from clothing alterations to create beautiful, detachable or fixed bags, serving as convenient storage solutions and  reducing plastic use in packaging, thereby increasing sales rates in the secondary market.” 

Wen says she has also focused on “posing questions and fostering interaction with  consumers through small-scale exhibitions, pop-up stores, runways, etc., to enhance  engagement and increase customer retention”. 

“I’ve also mainly used online sales channels and pre-order models to minimise resource waste during sales processes and reduce impulse shopping frequency and hoarding risks.”

As for the future of Thirty Five, Wen [pictured above left] has big goals: “To achieve a similar scale to Lululemon within ten years, becoming the go-to brand for practical, versatile, and portable clothing for travel and everyday wear. Establishing a one-stop shopping ecosystem where customers can purchase all their daily clothing needs from the brand’s website.”

To shop Thirty Five, go to, and you can follow the brand @35.thirty_five. Wen also works on film and television projects and can be contacted at [email protected] 

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