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Historical influence exploding fashion norms


Historical influence exploding fashion norms

Designer Thomas Anderson and model

TAFE NSW Fashion Design Studio graduate Thomas Anderson explores historical references to homosexuality, sexuality and gender fluidity in his bold Australian Fashion Week debut.

“I sort of fell into fashion, I was absent on the day we were due to pick our high school electives and I was given textiles and home economics in my absence,” Mr Anderson said.

“I started the course begrudgingly but when I started to make some of those high school projects, cutting and making things myself I quickly understood I had found my lifelong passion.

“I left school at 16 years old to pursue fashion and got my Diploma in Fashion Business and Design before taking a gap year and doing some freelance work for local fashion labels in Sydney.”

For over 60 years, TAFE NSW Fashion Design Studio has produced some of the biggest names in the Australian Fashion Industry. This year, Thomas Anderson is one of five top performing graduates from the Bachelor of Fashion Design 2020 who will launch their collections on the catwalk at The Innovators show as part of Afterpay Australian Fashion Week. 

The graduate show, now in its 25th year, has earned a reputation for being one of the week’s “hottest shows,” and is an important launch pad for emerging Australian fashion designers both locally and internationally. 

This year’s collections hone in on the theme of No Boundaries, reflecting the limitless potential of creative expression, and reinforcing the importance of sustainability in fashion.

“Once I started doing the freelance work, I realised that I really wanted to pursue my degree and get the skills to create my own designs and have my own label.

“My mum likes to say that this particular skill skips a generation, she’s useless on a sewing machine but my grandparents and great grandparents were the real fashion trailblazers of the family.

“My great grandfather owned Maude Wilson which was stocked in the original Grace Brothers, and my great grandmother worked there as a seamstress. At the time they were  in regional NSW and would create all the 50’s style Friday night dresses, wedding and gala dresses. These became a huge source of inspiration for me.”

‘Thomas Anderson’ offers a non-binary view of the fashion landscape that subverts traditional approaches to clothing. This collection suggests the idea of, “what if camp had always been celebrated?” ‘Homoerectus’ takes a buoyant approach to the missed opportunity for an authentic Utopia.

“The collection originated from a period of self-reflection – there’s a component of queerness in my work and for this collection I took my inspiration from queer culture in history and the repression of it.

“I was particularly influenced by the work of Wilhelm von Gloeden, a German photographer who worked mostly in Italy taking stylized nude portraits of men posed with wreaths or amphoras.

“The collection is tongue in cheek, happy, light and approachable. It’s a celebration of fluidity and sensuality that celebrates the untold queer love stories throughout history.”

Forged in the fires of the 2020 pandemic, the graduate designers’ collections reflect the intensity of that time and their vision for the future of fashion post COVID-19.

“At the time I didn’t see COVID-19 impacting my collection but the whole design and development phase occurred whilst we were in lockdown.

“I was stood down at work, so I had more time to focus on my collection and I began to feel more confident in my design process. 

“What eventuated was a heightened sense of empathy for the really repressed lifestyle some people are forced to live which gave the collection a vibrant, vivacious character, looking to inject a burst of joy and happiness, and of fun.”

As the only fashion school in Australia to present graduate collections at Fashion Week, TAFE NSW is proud to introduce the new generation of creative fashion designers to industry.

Media contact: Alice Dalley, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist,, 0402 528 210.