Meet our creative friend, Tara Whalley, a Melbourne-based fashion designer, known for her signature hand-painted prints.
We first met through Melbourne’s The Big Design Market, where she helped organise Merry People boots to be featured on the catwalk. Her designs burst with vibrant colours and patterns, a perfect pairing for our Merry Boots!
Since then, we’ve kept in touch, and when our fashion-forward take on the classic gumboot, Tully, was released we knew she would love it! Armed with all four Tully Boot colour combos, Tara shares the journey of her label, takes us through her top tips on styling Tully, and more…
We’d love to hear more about what inspired you to start your own label. As well as what have been some of the challenges, and your merriest moments, along the way?
I started my fashion brand in 2015, after returning to Australia after a year of working with war-affected Mayan weavers. It was an opportunity of a lifetime, and an experience I cherish- designing woven products to help the women generate income to buy basic medicine, provide food and educate their children.
While living in Guatemala, my camera was pinched. My friend and I spent the night running down storage water pipes and through the jungle to try and catch the thief, but we couldn’t find them. So I started painting a lot to capture memories as I figured my paintings might not get stolen. It also felt less intrusive with the locals to sit and paint a scene or a memory rather than take photographs. So this started my painting practice of painting wherever I went to capture memories. My clothing collections become travel diaries, every artwork has a story.
It was this time in Guatemala that formed my painting practice- translating experience into artwork for fabric print and a clear direction for the basis of my fashion signature style. My collections are made in Melbourne with natural fibres, digitally printed to reduce environmental impact, utilise offcuts to minimise waste, are available in sizes XS to 10XLovely and feature my hand painted artwork.
Starting a label had been a lifelong dream, and taking the leap has created some very merry moments. I never even properly considered art as a career until 5 of my year 12 artworks were selected to be shown in TOP Arts at the NGV. That was a real turning point for me, where I thought- hey, maybe I give this a shot. No other artist out of the 57 artists selected had as many shown.
In more recent years showing my clothing collections at New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week has been incredible. Designing for the Frankie Magazine on the 2024 Diary was a dream!
You’ve been able to try out all the boots in our Tully Boot collection!
We’d love for you to give us a walk-through of the outfits you styled for each colour combo – what was your thinking behind each one?
Look 1: Plum Tullys | Wood Grain Orange Pants
For this look, it was so easy to highlight the orange pop in the Plum Tullys - it was like they were made for each other! I kept the top half simple with a plain black top (which picks up on the wood grain stripe in the pant) and let the orange do the talking!
Look 2: Plum Tullys | Homely Dress (Standard Length)
The two plum tones SING together! I also love how the orange picks up on the orange in the print. These Tullys were made for this dress!
Look 3: Plum Tullys | Chateau Garden T Dress
So easy to style with the purple and berry tones!
Look 4: Teal Tullys | Vie De France Sleeveless Ruffle Dress
I am enjoying how this colour seems to extend the outfit to the ground. It feels seamless and effortless. It sings with both the green and the blue in the print, and feels soft and tonal.
Look 6: Black Tullys | Jewel Jacket and Skirt
This is a look I had a lot of fun with. The outfit is sharp, so I chose the sleek Black Tullys for this one to balance the accessories. This print will be available online soon!
Look 7: Black Tullys | Swan Ruffle Apron Dress
I love the volume of the dress balanced with the cool grounded feeling of the boot. Black was an easy choice for this look to match the swan in the print and the hat!
Vie De France White Tank Dress
The perfect yellow for the highlights in the print, and the orange works so well with the baked goods!
Our Tully Boots are bright and bold - like your designs! - with a head-turning silhouette. From your experience, what is your number one piece of advice for putting together an outfit with the Tullys?
For building these looks, I started with the boot, and held it up to my wardrobe like a metal detector. What you are looking for is a print which includes the colour of the shoe in the pattern!
I found that the Tullys are really easy to pair with the pants from my collection too. The width of the pant leg feels really balanced with the shoe. I enjoyed pairing the dresses with volume, and drama with the boots - they are really comfortable, but give a really nice slim line at the ankle which balances this style of dress. My apron and tank styles both give this silhouette.
Tell us about your most recent collection, Chateau Collection. What was your process for taking these designs from sketched ideas to a colourful reality?
Last year I had such an amazing time painting at my Artist Residency in Champagne, France. The experience formed this collection- sitting under trees painting butterflies and wild strawberries, studying antiques in the Chateau and documenting the amazing French pastries we ate! It is a very eclectic collection and I think you can feel the joy of the experience within the prints.
This is the biggest collection I have ever made, and features 10 new hand painted prints over 17 shapes, many of which are made to order, made in Melbourne and are available in sizes XS-10XLovely.
I moved to Wangaratta straight after the Residency and spent time further developing the collection, working on shapes, getting the feel right. To put the cherry on top, I had a great time painting a massive backdrop (6x3 meters!) which is actually a painting of the studio I had within the Chateau. I felt it was a nice way to complete the story.
What’s your must-have for a perfectly merry morning?
A perfectly merry morning for me is painting to my heart’s content with a great coffee.
If you designed a print for Merry People, what would the inspiration be?
I love painting plants, flowers, objects… something around a Merry theme would be perfect. Painting a print for Merry People sounds like a great idea! Watch this space.
What’s your favourite tip to share for styling colourful patterns?
Wear print head to toe or choose any colour in the print and match it back with block colours!
And of course, which Tully colour combo was your favourite!
I love them all but I especially love the Plum Tully - I use this colour a lot in my artworks… the orange too!