Virginia Van Heythuysen
Thomas Puttick works from a small studio space in Sydney’s inner-west, but his outlook is on the world. The 25-year-old luxury womenswear designer, who began making patterns at 12, has signed a contract with Hong Kong-based retailer Lane Crawford.
As one of six fashion brand runners-up in Lane Crawford’s inaugural Australian Creative Call Out, Puttick’s eponymous label will be stocked for at least two seasons across China and Hong Kong. The relationship includes mentoring, business advice and the opportunity to feature in marketing campaigns.
“Lane Crawford are the first retailers to move from conversation to buying the brand,” says Puttick of his breakthrough. “You’re constantly keeping your head above water, with retailers circling and waiting to see if someone picks us up.”
Puttick launched his label in only 2017 and the same year was a regional finalist in the International Woolmark Prize. This year his e-commerce site opened and in May he released his fourth and most recent collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, Sydney.
Alexander McQueen inspiration
His career journey began much earlier, however. Key influencers were his oil painter grandfather and seamstress grandmother, his first teacher in the business. By age 15, in no doubt as to the direction he was headed, he had completed a pattern-making TAFE course.
“After school I went to London and worked for a designer,” says Puttick. “Then I got a six-month internship at Alexander McQueen, working on womenswear print and also as a hand drawer, for two collections. I’m so grateful to have had that work experience.”
Puttick returned to Sydney to do a fashion and textile design degree at the University of Technology, combining it with internships with Alexander Wang and Helmut Lang in New York, and work with Christopher Esber in Sydney.
“At Helmut Lang, I worked with the design director as the womenswear design developer, focusing on details – pockets, buttons – and assessing what elevates the garment.”
Career women his target
The experience gave him an understanding of the technical skill and standard of luxury required for the kinds of clothes he wanted to create. “The women I design for are career driven, they pay attention to details and fabrication and want clothes that they can feel good in and confident in.”
Puttick has a business partner, one main patternmaker plus several contractors. He deals with one factory in Italy and directly with mills. Seventy per cent of fabrics come from Italy, the rest from Sydney.
He believes that accessory offerings are the way to grow his business and will be releasing two styles of shoes with his next collection in September. He also has plans for a limited range of knitwear. With a clear vision of the career woman he designs for, Puttick has developed a silk cashmere singlet dress and a singlet that he envisages a customer slipping on underneath one of his work shirts. He’s also employed new leather techniques in embroidery and printing, including an extravagant form of blanket stitch for his raw-edged garments.
“I feel the last few months have been about developing key ideas,” he says. “My style is pared back in this period of maximisation.” For Puttick less is more, with more to come.
The Fashion issue of AFR Magazine is out on Friday, August 31 inside The Australian Financial Review. Follow AFR Mag on Twitter and Instagram.