by Ariel Katz
Creating lifestyle products and loungewear through fashion designer eyes stands as the mission statement behind new Melbourne label PER–TIM. Created by Bernadette Francis and Laura Albee Barton, their up-and-coming label is about to release its second collection—one that's been designed with the bedrooms and wardrobes of "anyone who enjoys relaxing, quality, and little LOLs" in mind.
Their bright studio is tucked away in Melbourne's inner-city suburb of Collingwood. "It's close to a sweet cafe where you can get coffee everyday of the year, aptly named Everyday Coffee, and we get to share the space with inspiring and diverse neighbors so there's a good buzz in the air. Architects, furniture designers, costume designers, a film production company, a personal stylist—to name a few. And we've got a decent amount of space to do our thing in."
The travel-inspired "United" is their second collection, and it's been no small undertaking for the duo—both of whom work full-time jobs to support the project. "This last year has definitely felt like we are a married couple bringing up a small child!" they shared with laughter.
Francis and Barton both work across all aspects of the business in tandem, but agree they each "have our strengths." Having completed honors in Fashion Design, Francis has the requisite technical garment knowledge, while Barton (who's worked for over seven years with various local labels in PR and marketing) is well versed in the business side of things. "We use PER–TIM as an extension of our mutual appreciation of each other so it's also about fostering the strengths and weaknesses in each other in order to make our business grow."
When we started, it was very important to both of us to only create products which we felt were necessary, which weren't wasteful and which weren't already being similarly produced.
When their debut collection "Club Bed" was released in 2013, it focused around the state of sleep. (PER–TIM itself is a nod to that, with "period" and "timeless" being the names of genes that oscillate to regulate circadian rhythms in certain animals.) While the label's aesthetic remains focused on "relaxed, comfortable, lounge and leisure wear," the "United" collection was devised after the duo holidayed in Asia and it sees them explore the ideas of travel and movement. It also expanded the brand to incorporate products like towels, tote bags and laptops cases in addition to dresses, kimonos and playsuits. "PER–TIM is more than just bedding and loungewear. When we started, it was very important to both of us to only create products which we felt were necessary, which weren't wasteful and which weren't already being similarly produced—it's our means of being sustainable."
Words like unity, pareidolia, humanity, odysseys and multiculturalism helped inspire the current collection—alongside ideas regarding race and gender which are represented through classic color tenets of girl pink, boy blue, black and white skin. From that foundation, "it grew to questioning the concept of travel, moving places from where you are primarily located, interacting and mixing with different cultures, globalization." What they've come up with comprises comfortable, functional and adjustable garments, made with easy-to-wash and durable fabrics, and luggage-friendly reversibility and two-in-ones in mind. They're also determined to make functional fun. "Oh and the 'little LOL' that underpins everything we do, it may not be obvious on first glance but we try to explore serious concepts under a non-serious disguise."
PER–TIM products are manufactured locally in Melbourne, and being a Made in Australia label allows them to have greater quality control over their end product. "It means being able to support the local industry, which is sadly dying, [as well as] work closely with some really talented makers and ensure that it's all done ethically and sustainably. It also allows us to make relatively small runs, and we're able to oversee everything a lot more effectively and make adjustments and changes easily."
They have always sought to use the label as a means to collaborate with designers from a broad range of fields. Locally, they've worked with Tristan Ceddia of Never Now, Jordan Dolheguy of Totem Visual, Matthew Adey of House of Vnholy, photographers Phebe Schmidt and Anna Mackenzie, Pine Footwear and filmmaker Sally Tabart. "The amount of support we've received from other designers, fashion and other disciplines in Melbourne—it's been so overwhelming. There is a really strong creative energy and network in this city and it makes you want to keep making even when the times are tough."
They're adamant that collection three will be something different again. "We established PER—TIM to be the umbrella for the ongoing collaboration between us, and with others. The idea is that it is a platform for practitioners from varied disciplines to work together. Each collection culminates in tangible lifestyle products which address those mundane tasks people undertake everyday—all created with an underlying sense of humor. We want it to be a thing that just grows organically, be enigmatic in its offerings and be loose enough to constantly evolve." Along with that there's some exciting musical collaborations in the works, hopes of international stockists, a list of dream collaborators that stretches from the likes of Solange to Lil Bub the cat and then there's the matter of teaching themselves HTML so they can work on making their website bigger and better. "What do they say, pressure makes diamonds or something?" they question.
Keep an eye on PER–TIM's online store for the upcoming "United" range or to purchase the available products from the "Club Bed" collection.
Studio photos by Ariel Katz, "Club Bed" collection images courtesy of PER-TIM