It is the holy trinity of Melbourne’s inner city: coffee, laneways and street art. So when PANT Active took the work of Melbourne’s street artists and put it on that other Melbourne staple: activewear, it wasn’t hard to see that they were on to something.
I first met Deborah Loh, one half of Melbourne designer duo PANT active, when we were both studying a Masters of Marketing.
Our paths didn’t cross often but when they did I was always struck by her caustic wit and sense of fun. While I returned to the corporate world after completing my Masters, Deborah was busy doing something much more unique and exciting: creating PANT Active.
Deborah and brother, Brenton, had known for some time that they wanted to design activewear. But the idea to put street art on activewear was born in a Fitzroy pub one sunny afternoon in 2015. The duo are focussed on providing locally designed, sourced and manufactured products. ‘We think people care about where their garments come from these days. They want to know that they aren’t … causing excessive environmental harm’ Deborah says.
And in a sea of disposable garments, the Loh siblings have a precise eye for quality. Their leggings and crop tops are non transparent and warp knitted for full coverage as well as being UV blocking and sweat wicking.
Earlier this year they launched their Spring Summer Collection with a curated show at Off The Kerb Gallery in Collingwood, featuring original works from some of Melbourne’s best street artists. You can read about that launch here. Afterwards, I caught up with Deborah and Brenton to chat about design.
Tell me a bit about how you choose artists for collaborations? Are there qualities that you look for in their work?
I suppose our own personal taste in art is central in deciding which artists we want to work with. There are so many artists whose work we admire but they don’t necessarily translate well to textiles or the look that we’re building with Pant Active. It’s kind of like curating a gallery exhibition, we try to create some cohesion in our range while still showcasing a broad range of artistic style. We’re excited to work with artists whose style is unique and full of energy and recognisable character.
Are there seasonal or trend considerations?
We don’t really follow any seasonal trends but we do curate a colour palette for each release which gives the artists some parameters to work within and makes our range sort of cohesive.
PANT Active is all about taking work that is conceptualised with a huge, non-permeable canvas in mind, the built environment, and translating it to fabric. Have there been any design or manufacturing sticking points you’ve had to overcome to achieve this feat or any problems you weren’t anticipating?
Figuring out how to capture the work of street artists and then print it on fabric was one of the biggest challenges we’ve had to solve! Each artist works in a different medium; some work in illustration, digitally or physically, others use spray cans, gouache and brush. All manner of mixed media. Capturing their work in a format that could be printed without any apparent join lines on very long rolls of fabric is something we had to figure out anda process we holdvery tightly (we’ll never reveal the Wu Tang secret).
PANT Active is part of a movement towards non disposable clothing. As well as being really well made, your active wear is very much about forming a connection with an artwork that exists outside of seasonal trends. Is this a philosophy that is important to you and how does it play out in other aspects of your business or your personal life?
Yeah, in-built obsolescence seems to be the standard these days and we are not into it.
You’re definitely right in that there seems to be a movement towards non-disposable, ‘bespoke’ products and Pant Active is our little contribution towards creating higher quality products that people can cherish and use for longer than just a few months. We feel strongly about the quality and ethical origin of our activewear. Living consciously and appreciating the beauty in quality craftsmanship- these are the values we instil in our label. Combined with the inherent value in owning and wearing an original artwork by a rad street artist – this is what makes Pant Active such a fun and satisfying business.
PANT Active is a made-in-Melbourne original. You can purchase your own piece of wearable art by following the link. Find out more about their curated gallery show and SS17 Launch.