CLOSE

POLYESTER GALAXY

PolyesterGalazy2

Michael Trown’s sense of personal style blossomed at the perfect global moment. Driven by bold fabric, kitsch prints, and streetwear practicality, his Toasty Vintage project came to fruition just as 2011 swung around and ‘90s nostalgia crept back into clubs and couture. Founding his Polyester Galaxy design label in 2013, Michael’s found his space in the Perth underground fashion scene, setting his sights on pop up shops a second season of PG clothes. He talks to ZOE KILBOURN about op shops and feminine shapes.

Today, Michael’s wearing an XXL Barbie shirt. It’s a true ‘90s original, and, on reflection, he’s not sure who it was originally marketed for. “I have two Barbie shirts now,” he says. “One is pink and sparkly and says, “Nice Tackle, Boys.” (Barbie’s holding a soccer ball, he explains).

“This one jumper I found had these weird denim elbow patches and an enormous denim swirl with tassels, diamantes and glitter pen. The moment I saw it, I knew I had to own it. It was just navy – I guess because they had to keep it turned down. I wore it to uni and I’d be tasselling all over the place.”

Michael’s fashion sense is grounded in those early op shop purchases, bootleg pieces from a ’90s that clearly somebody – but who? – was living through. The best pieces made up his Toasty Vintage market stall, founded not too long after high school (and a very late scene phase. “I’m not ashamed. It was beautiful.”) That early affection for earnestness, quirk, and promotional gear Po-Mo is still very present in his own style and his work with Polyester Galaxy.

“One day, I just decided I was going to do the vintage thing,” he says. “I didn’t have a car – I still don’t have a car – and I paid a friend to drive me to op shops and stuff. It was calculated, although about 25% of it was just my own crap that I threw in there ’cause I have way too many clothes. It was really fun. I loved selling vintage stuff at markets.

“At the time, I was just looking for stuff that was really fun and quirky. Not your regular boring crap – something that was really interesting. Stand out pieces. I wanted a giant collection of that. That’s probably something I still want to do. I have a vintage section, and I have a whole crazy amount of one-off ‘90s gems.”

Toasty Vintage fell by the sidelines as uni pressures mounted, but while nearing the end of his psychology degree, Michael found himself dedicating more time to clothesmaking.

“Because I’m so short, and I don’t fit regular people clothes, I started altering my own clothes when I found stuff that I wanted,” he says. “Through making stuff fit, I started slowly making clothes – first just alterations, but then making stuff for other people, friends.”

Polyester Galaxy – name inspired by Madison Avenue’s The Polyester Embassy – has been live for close to two years. Based online, Michael moved to Melbourne this year to work on a small business course, broaden horizons, and begin work towards a pop up shop.

“It’s kinda like a mix between trippy ‘90s stuff and cutesy nostalgic stuff and kinda like a bit of Harajuku fashion thrown in there, you could say.

“I’m looking towards not so much women’s clothing, but feminine shapes,” he says. “I know a lot of people who aren’t necessarily women who still enjoy wearing my clothes, and I’m kind of going for that. I find you can do a lot more with that kind of stuff – with ‘men’s clothes’, you’re always being a square. A square shirt or a boxy jacket. It’s cool, I still love that stuff – that’s mostly what I wear myself – but it’s not as easy to play around with it. I’m trying to have something for everyone. I don’t believe in clothes being too gender specific.”

Supporting his uni years via Spotlight – he’s just turned 22 – Michael developed a hardcore addiction to weird textiles. “Mostly, to be honest, I’m focused on fabric,” Michael says. “I don’t necessarily go for crazy shapes. I like having simpler shapes – so everyone knows how they’re gonna fit – with interesting fabrics, crazy patterns.”

After a solid start to design and clothesmaking in Perth, Michael’s made the inevitable move to Melbourne. He’s been burned by Perth before (but he’s coming back, armed with a pop-up).

“There are quite a few fashion opportunities out there, but they aren’t necessarily good opportunities. I went to a few vintage markets that were complete flops. There are a couple of brand-sharing opportunities out there that are a little bit of a scam. If you’re ever gonna invest your time in something, you can put your heart and soul in something, you’ve really got to make sure it pays off. You can’t throw yourself equally into everything.”

You can find Michael’s work at PolyesterGalaxy.tumblr.com.