Lauren Whiffen
& Lauren Di Palma
from Ken the Label

Tell us about Ken the label: who are you and why have you undertaken this new venture?

Ken is a project we began together officially at the start of 2015, although during many years of friendship there had been a lot of subconscious ‘brainstorming'. Before Ken, we would often discuss how we could never find a comfortable, basic set which was also flattering and appealing. To us, it felt like there was 'comfy' underwear, and 'sexy' underwear but we wanted to wear a pair that was both.

Last summer, after having this conversation a few too many times, we decided that we had the ability to create this 'dream set' ourselves and that after having both owned businesses individually, we had the confidence to pursue this venture together.

As we began researching, we found there was a gap in the market for locally designed and made underwear. We agreed it was important to create ethically made pieces with soft luxurious fabric that was also easy on the environment.

How do your personal values shape your business?

Honesty—we want to be transparent about the making process so customers fully understand what they are purchasing.

Respect—the relationships we have made through Ken are very important to us. There is so much to be learnt from all of the experts involved. Manufacturers explaining their processes or allowing us to come in after hours to pick their brain; stockists believing in our product and giving feedback and encouragement; customers purchasing and recommending to friends; or other designers and makers sharing their experiences and contacts.

How would you describe your relationship with fashion/clothing?

Lauren Di Palma: It’s an evolving one. I like to keep my relationship with fashion playful and to not take it all too seriously—although it is important to check in with my values. Choosing to buy locally designed and made clothes is the biggest factor for me when I make a purchase. I love stumbling across new labels that approach things differently, and appreciate when I can meet and talk to the people behind the brands I adore so much.

Lauren Whiffen: I have always enjoyed conjuring up outfits and it is often my version of counting sheep when I can't sleep. Fashion has been a constant interest since I was a child, but it has wavered over the years from being a very active interest to merely grabbing a magazine and 'catching up'. Putting an outfit together and observing individual style has always interested and excited me more than trends.

The Slow Fashion movement means…

LW: Not consuming just because you can. Thinking about what you are purchasing and how it came to be sitting in front of you. Considering how much wear you will get out of a piece, whether it is a bold piece or more of a staple. This is sometimes difficult to achieve but I'm getting better at slowing down before purchasing an item. Beautifully curated and considered stores—like Kinobi—make it easier to slow down, discover and shop thoughtfully.

LD: It means considering each and every process before making a decision, which can take time. It also means understanding and acknowledging how the fashion industry functions and either working with that, or choosing a different way to interact with it. We like the idea of slow fashion, and that is the reason why we decided to release ‘volumes’ rather follow traditional seasons, as our pieces are trans-seasonal. We will release new styles, we just don't want to rush ourselves or the customer. We are happy to see what the response is to this first volume and go from there.

Ken the Label

“We want to be transparent about the making process so customers fully understand what they are purchasing.”

What is your personal uniform?

LD: Comfort and function go hand in hand for me. I usually opt for a shirt, a tailored pair of pants, perhaps a nice pair of jeans and some jewellery. Linen has made a comeback for me too. I'm really enjoying the thickness of the fabric and the way it drapes. I'm pretty big on earrings so I tend to polish off an outfit with a pair, along with a sneaky spray of my partner’s Wonderwood by Comme Des Garcons.

LW: My uniform is also quite utilitarian. It’s generally a loose tee, paired with jeans or some tailored black pants. A spray of Le Labo Rose perfume oil and my favourite ring on my middle finger. At the moment I'm layering up a bit more and changing up my accessories, which makes outfits I've worn before feel new. I've worn more earrings this year than ever before, but I think a bit has to do with having exclusive access to Lauren's beautifully crafted jewellery (AL-MA).

Is there a garment that has had a special place in your life or is linked to a treasured moment?

LD: I did purchase a dusty pink silk Dress Up shirt years ago and I've only worn it a couple of times, but I absolutely love it and will probably never part with it. The significance of the piece is that it's the first locally designed and made piece I purchased. I treasure the first ring I ever made, a simple silver handmade lumpy piece that I wear almost every day. I also have a set of underwear that I bought while I was in New York a few years ago that solidified my love for lingerie.

LW: I do have some pieces I always feel good in, so if I'm struggling for an outfit or find myself dressing in a hurry, I reach for those items. Generally they are comfortable styles which allow me to eat, dance and enjoy and they are usually black. On a recent trip to Italy I bought a pair of New Kid shoes from Bjork in Florence, which remind me of treading the city’s wide streets and attempting to pass as an Italian.

I tend to treasure my stacks of magazines more than a particular article of clothing. Some of my favourite titles include Self Service, A Magazine Curated By, Grey and Summer Winter. I am a graphic designer and really appreciate a beautifully printed piece. My first business was a publication called FALLEN magazine and I treasure the issues published. I can pick up an issue and be reminded of a person featured that particularly inspired me, or look at a fashion editorial and feel nostalgic about the team we worked with and the vibe on the shoot.

How have your attitudes toward fashion changed as you've aged?

LD: I now consider fabrics, and how and where the garment has been made. I have also started to think of each purchase as a small investment. Having said that, I do still love going to my local op shop for the unexpected treasure. Being on top of the fashion ‘trends’ doesn’t tend to motivate me. I also have a very small closet so I tend to buy less these days and work with what I have.

LW: I am less impulsive and try to make considered purchases. Not only do I regard ethical and environmental ramifications, but I also think about the cut, how it suits my body and how many times I may wear the style. Fashion allows you to explore, change, challenge and express yourself and I’ve always loved that aspect.

Ken the Label

"Slow fashion means considering each and every process before making a decision, which can take time. It also means understanding and acknowledging how the fashion industry functions and either working with that, or choosing a different way to interact with it."

Who / what do you look to for style cues and why?

LD: It depends on the environment that I’m in. The people around me, objects, art, nature—they can all trigger something within me that indicates or influences my ‘style’. And of course, there’s always Instagram and Pinterest. Lauren is someone who gives me style cues, she always looks fantastic and fresh; she really knows how to put an outfit together.

LW: Lauren and I have always enjoyed talking, sharing and influencing each other when it comes to style. So yes, I’d definitely say Lauren here for me as well. As part of my day job, I'm always looking at clothing and stylish people—whether it's on screen or face-to-face—so this gives me many different style cues. Lately I have been visiting Maryam Nassir Zadeh's online store; the styling of product and photography really resonates with me. It may be the fact that it’s presented in a way that feels candid, like you've stumbled across this girl on the street, but I also like the use of tonal textures with a dash of contrasting colour.

Who has impacted your life the most and how so?

LD: My partner and friends; I share something unique and special with each of these people. They have all taught me something about myself and hopefully this is has been reciprocated. Working with children has also impacted my life immensely; it’s almost as though I’ve been able to have a second childhood. A lecturer I had in first semester last year has been a significant influence—his drive and passion was addictive and prompted me to engage more with my studies.

LW: In terms of my interest in design, my aunties have been an important influence on me. As a child I remember them making very 90s (and of course impressive) jewellery, hosting art classes and generally being artistic as individuals and as a team of five sisters. I think it's safe to credit them for my initial interest in arts and craft. My sisters are confident and intelligent women who I have only ever admired and respected. They are constantly challenging and setting goals for themselves, which they then achieve with dignity and hard work. One of my sisters was very much into fashion in her early twenties and I would often watch her cutting up tops and sewing on details with her girlfriends before going out. I was an impressionable teen and admired by big sister, so her enthusiasm and exploration of clothing rubbed off.

What tends to keep you up at night?

LD: Seinfeld and Peep Show. After a long day working on my projects, uni and working, I turn to laughter to end the day in a relaxed comfort zone.

LW: Possum vs cat fights on my roof! But recently, my partner and I have been working into the evening so chill time with him keeps me up late at night. Sometimes checklists keep me up too! But generally it's laughing, listening to music, trying to zone out and wind down with my favourite person.

When you think of the future of lingerie and loungewear, what do you see and what excites you most?

For Ken, we're excited about potential collaborations, working with likeminded people and exploring different types of fabrics—understanding why and how they can be used. We have found that some people in the industry prefer to work to a certain type of framework that doesn't necessarily align with our core values. It's important to us that we find a balance between respecting businesses and individuals, but also challenging some processes. We hope manufacturing practices keep evolving so the future of production has firm ethical standards in place.

Photography Claire Summers
Production Sigrid McCarthy
Girls wearing Limb the Label & Ken