Earlier this summer, I was perusing Tumblr to get inspiration for our Tumblr Tuesdays: best of masculine gender-queer fashion roundup, when I came across this image on Tomboy Femme:
I was so impressed with the model’s effortless modern-meets-vintage dapper style. Who was this model? Where can our readers cop this style? I had to know! I spent hours hunting down the origins of the photo, and then magic…I found the website to CharlieBoy, the Australian based gender-neutral clothier responsible for outfitting the model and designing that incredible shirt. So, I corresponded with the founder of CharlieBoy, Carol Stephenson, to get the inside scoop on the new brand, the inspiration behind the clothes, and what we can expect next from the line.
dapperQ: Can you tell us a bit about yourself ?
CharlieBoy: Where to start… I am a born traveler, as my family moved countries three times before I was 10. Straight after high school, I went to the University of Technology Sydney and studied fashion and textiles, but needed to see more of the world before committing to the fashion industry.
I ended up settling in Vancouver, Canada and went back to school to study costuming for stage and screen. I loved working as a costumer in theatre and dance/ballet, as it was so hands-on. It is a fairly unstable profession entailing traveling all over the country for contract work. I didn’t mind this for the first couple of years, but then wanted something more ‘stable,’ so I decided to try the fashion industry.
Lululemon Athletica was an obvious choice for me living in Vancouver and seeing as I love yoga and running. I worked for the company for 4 years with the last 2 years being at the head office, first on the production team and then the design team. What a ride it was, but I was never really suited for the corporate life. I like hard work, but it wasn’t hands-on enough for me. I like being part of every stage of the design process from initial sketch to drafting the pattern, sewing the sample and sourcing the fabrics.
After 8 years in Vancouver and some illness in the family, I decided to move back to Sydney to be close to them and fulfill my dream of creating my own line.Here I am 6 months later living the beginning of my dream and couldn’t be happier.
Raglan 3/4 sleeve shirt
dapperQ: How did you come up with the name CharlieBoy?
CharlieBoy: When I was thinking of names for my line, I wanted to find a name that really summed up what my vision was all about. CharlieBoy is about freedom for women to express themselves through the way they dress and leave behind the rule-bound world of gender codes. The name Charlie means “free man” and is gender neutral. Tomboy’s have been around for centuries and it is a movement only getting stronger. A CharlieBoy is a new type of tomboy who experiments with their personal style without boundaries.
dapperQ: How would you describe the CharlieBoy aesthetic?
CharlieBoy: Definitely derived from traditional menswear. CB pieces look sharp but are playful at the same time. I draw a lot of inspiration from the 1920s as far as detailing goes but like to follow what is happening in menswear today to keep it fresh.
dapperQ: Can you tell me a bit about the history and evolution of CharlieBoy?
Charlie Boy: CB is only 6 months old although my vision for the line has developed over the past couple of years. When working at Lululemon, I was often given feedback that my designs were too masculine. They were not for the “Lulu girl” and I had to change details to fit that aesthetic. I learnt a lot there but longed to have the freedom to design what I wanted. I knew there was a market for what I wanted to design. I was an active member of the LGBTQ community in Vancouver and was surrounded by women who only bought menswear as they found it hard to find womenswear that they liked or felt comfortable in.
After I moved back to Sydney and my parents helped me set up my studio here I just began to make all those pieces I had in my head. It was like an explosion of creativity. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to do that – every designer’s dream! As I continued to create, CharlieBoy just evolved and it will continue to.
dapperQ: Who or what inspires your designs?
Like I said above, fashion in the 1920s is a huge inspiration for my designs and I try to reflect the sleek yet fun attitude of the period. My friends and their needs inspire a lot of the functional aspects of my pieces, such as the envelope glasses pockets and the roll up cuff link detail.
I also like to follow what is happening in menswear on the runway. My fav designers right now being Stephanie Hahn (22/4 Hommes Femmes), Haider Ackermann and Rick Owens.
dapperQ: Many of our readers have problems finding masculine clothes that fit them properly. How is CharlieBoy addressing this issue?
I learnt a lot about fit and the woman’s body through the years I worked in costuming and athletic fashion. With every piece I design for CB, I think about where my customer is going to be wearing the piece and what they are going to be doing in it. It isn’t just a matter of fit, it is a matter of function. Take one of our CB shirts, for example: I have definitely addressed the common issues that women find with menswear – shoulders too wide, too long, sleeves to long and wide, no shape, neckline too broad…etc. I have also looked at functionality, as I want to give my customer more than just a hot shirt. I will continue to do this throughout my collections, as it adds value to my pieces and makes them more challenging/exciting to design.
dapperQ: Why have you chosen to keep the production of CharlieBoy in Australia?
CharlieBoy: I am very passionate about keeping CB production ethical and in Australia for a few reasons, actually. Firstly, I want to support the industry here, which has really been struggling, as many big brand names, including our government sourced, uniforms are being produced off shore. Okay, that just seems wrong that our government is using tax payers’ money to produce in Asia when they could be keeping the money in Australia and giving jobs to people who need them here. If we don’t start supporting Australian made clothing then there wont be a garment manufacturing industry here in as little as a decade.
I also want to make sure my customers are receiving only the best quality and often when manufacturing is moved overseas control is lost and quality suffers. I visit the factory where our CB pieces are produced at least once a week and know that the employees are being treated and paid properly. It is very hard to ensure that rates of pay and working conditions are fair as soon as production leaves the country – the recent tragedy in Bangladesh is an example of that.
dapperQ: How does CharlieBoy. look represent your own personal style?
CharlieBoy: My own personal style is hard to define, but I am a CB girl through and through. I definitely like to dress a little more masculine than the average girl, but I do like to femme it up also. All of my designs for CB are pieces I want to wear, but they are all very much on the masculine side of the scale. I don’t want to limit CB to any particular ‘group’ of women. The whole idea is that you can mix pieces from the CB line with other pieces to create your own look.
dapperQ: Is there anything unique going on with dapperQ style in Australia that sets it apart from other regional/global dapperQ styles?
CharlieBoy: I live in Sydney. If I compare what I see here to the dapperQ style I saw in Vancouver and NYC I would have to say here, down under, we may be a little behind. We are with most things… (legalising gay marriage). Having said that, we do pick up on trends quickly and make them uniquely our own so I’ll keep you posted.
dapperQ: What can we expect next from CharlieBoy?
CharlieBoy: Well our first collection is primarily 6 different styles of shirts made up in different fabrics combos which we will offer in limited editions. Every shirt has unique details with finishing touches by the designer (me).
I plan to always offer the shirts throughout the seasons, but expand the line slowly season by season. Next season we are introducing vests, blazers and jackets. Then in a year’s time we will move into shorts and pants. We also have an accessories collection which includes ties, bow ties, braces, cufflinks and tie pins. We will also expand this collection through the seasons and I am planning on adding underwear to the line within the next couple of years.
I have big plans for CB and would love to do a sportswear collection in the future as well.