Remuse: A Sustainable Afro-Futuristic Brand Based in Australia

We caught up with sustainable fashion maven Tamara Leacock to chat about designing consciously in Melbourne, Austrailia. 

Tamara Leacock is a seasoned designer from New York City and moved to the beautiful coastal capital of Australia. While in NYC under the artist name ReciclaGEM, Tamara created one of a kind wearable art and recycled designs inspired by socio-political events and American ideology. Stuck in a microcosm of congestion, noise and concrete, this trailblazer resurrected her spirituality and rebranded as REMUSE after moving to Melborne.

I wanted to move really far away and personally it lead me here. But what kept me here was how much opportunity there was for developing a creative practice.
— Tamara

For Tamara, moving to Melborne provided a plethora of untapped resources. She participated in a program at the Council of Fashion and Textiles, which gave her a platform to bring her pieces to market in a well-presented forum.  

Not many brands make an authentic claim that their collections are inspired by nature. Her current collection is motivated by the natural environment and other worldly places.

"Even being here in Australia, I’ve gone through many spiritual journeys and challenges that have made me look deeply into the energy that I operate within;  not only on the visual level but underneath all of that. The energies I feel and see from people really helps to inform the dying process, the colors used and I find that also the natural environment around us match who we are as people." 

The Remuse collections are also a reflection of musicians, artists and visual makers who are doing amazing work. Afro Futuristic influences, in particular, have been a driving force for her cultural aesthetic. "I think exploring that cosmic beyond this worldly place has informed the designing, silhouettes and colors I use".

When many sustainable designers are resistant of traditional seasonality, Remuse strategically releases collections 4 times a year. This gives Tamara the opportunity to revisit material choices and to find more organic and sustainable options. The brand proudly works with all natural fibers and organic fabrics. Tamara’s personal favorite is calico/ unbleached muslin – it’s a beautiful natural raw material that you can put your own personal stamp on. Remuse has been proudly certified by Ethical Clothing Australia – an accreditation body that works collaboratively with local designers to ensure that the Australian supply chains are transparent and legally compliant. 

While in NY, Tamara was keen on natural dyes but transitioned to more low impact options. “Natural dyes required mordants like iron oxide and alum powder and other ground metals that weren’t very safe to use and I found an alternative through the sustainability program that I did at FIT which are chemical dyes that are low impact." But with any dying process there is runoff so for future collections Tamara is interested in exploring how these silhouettes can be replicated in ways that may not require any dye.   

With anything in the sustainable space, it’s always a work in progress “because any time you take from the environment it’s not 100% sustainable, but I would like to continue to explore better ways of what I’m doing now.
— Tamara

 Innovative sustainable design is continuing to grow. The brand is also starting to experiment with mushroom leather and is learning more about biodegradable fibers. Additionally, she is in conversation with an organization called Fibershed based Melbourne, where they are starting to bring to market Australian grown cotton. Although it may not be certified as organic, it uses almost no pesticide and hardly any water usage.

Remuse is just one year old and is steadily growing. However, Tamara faces many challenges. Like many indie fashion designers, Tamara is pretty much doing everything herself. Additionally, obtaining these almost exclusive fabrics are quite expensive, where as in NY, Tamara had access to more sustainable fabrics that were fairly cheap. 

However, one of the more personal challenges has to do with her being a woman of color in predominantly white space. There are really amazingly talented women of color in the creative sphere but Tamara describes the media coverage and visibility as “flat and not inclusive”. 

When I first moved here I started styling…. I’ve worked on shoots where choosing a model of color was some sort a performative choice for the people in my team. And I was just like – they’re a great model – use them because they would look great in your clothes.

 In terms of my model choices – I look at bodies differently than a lot of the people in the industry here.  While there are so many creatives of color and because it’s a very white country – I think that there’s this blind spot in the industry to all of this talent.

Tamara feels that some of her counterparts see models of color in a way where they must add some entertainment value to our work – it’s not about entertainment value – it’s about choosing the people who is best for the job without fetishizing their melanin.  

We get tired – when I’m at a photoshoot and an uninformed person wants to touch my hair. There’s work being done but POC are getting tired.
— Tamara

None the less, like any other woman of color, Tamara is working through racial barriers. But working under the Council of Fashion and Textiles alongside designers that she’s respected for years, is quite an achievement. "To be in the same program as some of these designers, and getting my first whole sale order in Tasmania – it felt really good to feel like hey I’m finally doing this. In NY – I felt so disorganized – and here I’m clear about where I want to take this and people are responding to that clarity and it feels good."