Charly Thorn was given her first sewing machine at the age of six and discovered a passion for fashion that has taken her all the way to Australian Fashion Week.
From drawing dresses to making doll’s clothes out of scraps of paper, she was drawn to the idea of creating her own unique looks as a small child.
“I think the magic of clothing drew me in very young because you can be anything you want when you put the right outfit on,” Ms Thorn said.
“My half sister also went through NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art) for costume design and would make me outfits when I was young, so I guess that’s where I was exposed [to fashion].
“That’s the exciting part for me, that I can make anything I dream of.”
Those dreams led Ms Thorn to a career in fashion.
After completing an internship at Birdsnest in Cooma, the 23-year-old moved from the Snowy Mountains to pursue her fashion dream in Sydney by studying a Bachelor of Fashion Design at TAFE NSW’s Fashion Design Studio.
“I took the opportunity to spread my wings and learn,” Ms Thorn said.
After recently graduating, Ms Thorn was lucky enough to be hand-picked as one of five designers to launch her collection at the 2022 Afterpay Australian Fashion Week in early May, as part of TAFE NSW’s Innovators showcase.
“We had six weeks to make four new looks, and previously we had spent 12 months making eight looks, so it was stressful,” she said.
“But I’m so proud of everyone, the collections displayed were just amazing.”
Ms Thorn’s collection was called Nouveau (new) and “draws inspiration from 100 years ago when we had the last global epidemic”.
“I was inspired by the 1890-1929 era when art nouveau and art deco styles collided and beautiful flapper dresses were sparked from such a dark time.”
Inspired by responsible design, the majority of her collection is sustainably sourced using ethical fabrics and natural fibres such as Australian wool. It combines comfortable glamour, soft natural tones, floral prints and delicate textures while highlighting merino wool.
“I feel proud of this collection because I worked really hard for it,” she said.
“Putting in the hours of work is absolutely worth it when you see your vision walking the runway.”
Fashion Week was a far cry from Ms Thorn’s first show at the Cooma Railway Station when she was just a Year 10 student.
“My first ever show was a fundraiser and they presented the show on the platform at the station,” she said.
“It was really cheesy. It was called ‘Fashionation’, and I made six different looks.
“I remember they were so terribly made … but it was a really fun experience.”
Ms Thorn’s interest in fashion grew as she began following Fashion Weeks from around the world and took on internships and opportunities to participate in bigger fashion shows.
“I quickly went about working to achieve my goal. At an early age, I was fortunate enough to show my collections at Fashfest in Canberra from 2016 to 2018, and at Vancouver Fashion Week 2018, in partnership with the Woolmark Company.”
When Ms Thorn went to kick off her fashion career, studying at the Fashion Design Studio was her dream.
“I knew as soon as I stepped in the door that it was the environment I wanted to be in,” she said.
“The thought of Dion Lee, Nicky Zimmermann, Alex Perry and many more walking the same halls as me was inspiration enough.”
The most valuable skills Ms Thorn gained from her study were practical ones – like pattern making, sewing and garment construction.
“I feel very well equipped for the fashion industry after studying at TAFE NSW, and have forged many industry connections with local makers, artisans, craftsmen and business,” she said.
“It felt so exciting to be selected for Fashion Week, and I felt that I had confidence in myself.
“One day I would love to open my own brand.”
Having graduated in March this year, Ms Thorn now works full-time in a design assistant role with iconic Australian women’s fashion label Minkpink.
To see more of Ms Thorn’s designs, visit her Instagram.