“Seeing my designs on the runway will drive me to do it again.”- Cooma’s Charly Thorn

Charly Thorn, back home in Cooma. Photo: Ian Campbell
Charly Thorn, back home in Cooma. Photo: Ian Campbell

Cooma fashion designer Charly Thorn says she is happy to be sleeping in her own bed again after plying an international catwalk but is hungry for more.

India is the next stop for this ambitious 18-year-old.

The opportunity to leave her Snowy Monaro home was forged at FashFest in Canberra this time last year, an industry scout spotted Charly’s talent and offered her a spot at Vancouver Fashion Week in Canada – if she could raise the money to get there and create a spring/summer collection.

Cooma turned out to make sure the opportunity didn’t pass her by with a fashion show fundraiser held earlier this year to supplement Charly’s savings while working at the town’s Thai restaurant and at the online fashion house Birdsnest.

Part of Charly's Vancouver collection, the teal top is Merino wool, the skirt is made of silk. Photo: Robyn Damianos Photography
Part of Charly’s Vancouver collection, the teal top is Merino wool, the skirt is made of silk. See the full collection HERE. Photo: Robyn Damianos Photography

In Vancouver, Charly’s designs were the first to stride out before an audience of media and international buyers – Charly was the opening event.

“It was such a thrill, seeing my creations walk down a runway together as a collection,” she says.

“It was exhilarating after all that work to get there.”

New York was added to the travel schedule, her youth and ability the ticket.

“I grabbed an awesome opportunity in New York, there was a day at Parsons School for Design, which is where I have always wanted to go, my dream school,” Charly says.

The collection Charly presented in Canada was a mix of her two homes – Hamilton Island off Queensland’s tropical coast and Cooma, a stone throw from Australia’s highest peak and coldest temperatures.

Since she was a baby, Charly’s year has been split between the families snow business – Village Ski Hire in Cooma during winter and another life and business on Hamilton Island in the warmer months.

It’s a lifestyle that gave birth to, until now, an unlikely connection – holiday time resort wear meets Merino wool, an idea that attracted positive coverage from fashion bible Vogue.

“It was a real contrast for people and challenged what they think of when they think wool – lots of beachwear, very floaty – a juxtaposition that puts wool on the beach or beside the pool,” Charly says.

“It works though, wool is so breathable, it’s really nice to wear, and at the end of its life when you throw it out it’s not going to hurt the environment.

“To be able to showcase Australian wool, alongside other natural fibres like linen and silk, on an international stage is awesome,” Charly says.

Part of Charly's Vancouver collection, featuring linen printed in Sydney. Photo: Robyn Damianos Photography
Part of Charly’s Vancouver collection, featuring linen printed in Sydney. See the full collection HERE.  Photo: Robyn Damianos Photography

The colour and cut of the cloth wasn’t the only point of interest in Charly’s travels, the 18-year-old’s passion for the Monaro’s fibre lead to conversations at Parsons around the marketing and production of wool.

“It was really interesting to see the comparison between the Australian wool industry and what America wants to make of their wool industry.”

“America is talking about localising wool, not just production on local farms but also the milling, dyeing, and manufacturing side of the business in local factories.

“I really hope Australia follows that trend, because at the moment once wool leaves Australian farms it goes to China to be dyed and go through a fabric mill, and then we buy it back from them for manufacturing,” Charly explains.

“It’s really tricky to track wool once it leaves the farm.

“Food has already done it, people want to know where their products come from,” Charly says.

Still coming down off her high, Charly is considering her next move.

“To be in the middle of all those creatives is what I live for,” Charly says.

“So I’ve applied for a couple of international scholarships, and to colleges and universities here, I am just waiting to hear back.”

In the meantime, work as a trainee at Birdsnest has opened a door to travel to India in December.

“Every year they visit their suppliers and I just said can I come with you? I’ll pay my way, I just want to come and watch,” Charly says.

The experience in Vancouver and New York has left her hungry for more and it’s impossible not to believe 2018 will be the start of so much more for Charly Thorn and her homespun unique inspirations.

“Seeing my designs come to life on the runway will drive me to do it again and again.”

*About Regional content happens because of the contributions of members including – Tathra Beach House Appartments, Four Winds Bermagui, Kate Liston-Mills, Kym Mogeridge, Pam Murray, Jo Saccomani, and Doug Reckord. Thank you!

Colouring for change in Cooma, lead by local teens

Has anyone seen the orange pencil? By Ian Campbell
Has anyone seen the orange pencil? By Ian Campbell

High school students from Cooma have combined with a locally based, online fashion house in a colourful approach to tackling family violence.

The idea of a workplace ‘Colourathon’ is being trialed at Birdsnest in Cooma, with female students from Monaro High School preparing to launch the idea nationally in November.

New ‘Colourathon for Corporates’ kits come packed with everything a business will need to host their own event, broadening the community response to family violence.

Artistic change maker, Big hART is leading the collaboration under the banner of ‘Project O‘.

“Project O is a national program we run with young women aged 12 to 15, assisting them to build new skills and capacity and to learn how to be change makers,” says Genevieve Dugard, Project O National Director.

Project O started in the ‘family violence hotspot’ of North West Tasmania and has since been rolled out to Cooma, Roebourne WA, and Canberra.

“A colourathon is a colouring-in arts marathon,” Genevieve explains.

“An arts endurance event, where every hour of colouring-in is sponsored and raises money for trauma therapy services for young children fleeing violence and needing crises care.”

Jane Cay, 'big bird' at Birdsnest and Genevieve Dugard, Project O National Director. By Ian Campbell
Jane Cay, ‘big bird’ at Birdsnest and Genevieve Dugard, Project O National Director. By Ian Campbell

A colourathon at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra on November 30 will help launch the corporates kits being developed at Birdsnest by the twenty young women from Monaro High School.

The Project O crew are hoping businesses will buy a kit as a team building or social responsibility exercise while raising money for the Australian Childhood Foundation.

“They roll out a play based therapy program in women’s shelters,” Genevieve says.

“The average age of a child fleeing violence is two and a half years old, through the fundraising we provide training in play based therapy which helps children who can’t talk or express their feelings like adults.”

The add on to Big hART’s Project O initiative for the Monaro girls is the opportunity to be mentored by the innovators and entrepreneurs that make up Birdsnest – winner of the ‘Best Online Customer Service Award’ at the Online Retail Industry Awards in 2015 and 2016 and BRW Australia’s 8th ‘Best Place to Work’ for companies with 100 employees or less in 2015.

Former IBM e-business consultant, Jane Cay is ‘head bird’.

“It’s such a great opportunity for them to realise that they can create change even when they are young and at school,” Jane says.

Students have been embedded in Jane’s company for a ten week period, mentored by staff in event management, product development, publicity, design, logistics, and a range of other business skills.

“It’s a massive company and it’s amazing that we are able to have workshops here,” says Brooke, one of the Project O students.

‘We are so lucky that we have this experience, to meet all of the staff and learn new things from them,” Brooke’s friend Georgia adds.

Both students say they have also been surprised to learn about the issue of family violence.

“It does happen in Cooma, I didn’t think it would happen in Cooma, it’s been a shock to me,” Georgia says.

“I hope this [The Colourathon] will show people that it is happening and it needs to stop,” Brooke says.

“Hopefully we raise money to help them [children] get through it and find more support through play based therapy,” Georgia adds.

Aside from the benefit to the community through programs like Project O and the Colourathon, Jane Cay believes it makes good business sense for corporates to get involved.

“People need to come to work feeling nurtured, and they need to look after themselves in order to be of service to anyone – whether that’s in the workplace or to their families,” Jane says.

“If the family environment is not a safe and nurturing place it’s very difficult to then come into a work place without that very basic foundation that humans need to operate.”

 

Thanks to About Regional members, Jeanette Westmore, Claire Blewett, Fay Deveril, and Fiona Cullen for supporting local story telling.

 

 

Podcast 16 – Cooma’s Charly Thorn, the talk of the town.

Cooma's Charly Thorn (on the right) with one of her models and creations at Canberra FashFest 2016. Souce: Canberra Times, taken by Martin Ollman.
Cooma’s Charly Thorn (on the right) with one of her models and creations at Canberra FashFest 2016. Souce: Canberra Times, taken by Martin Ollman.

Welcome to About Regional – a new place for the stories of South East NSW.

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Charly Thorn is the talk of the town, not only in her home town of Cooma but also on the other side of the world in Vancouver and Los Angeles.

Charly is a young fashion designer, not long out of high school, learning her trade and so much more at Birdsnest Cooma.

FashFest 2016 in Canberra was her big break and has led to a spot on the catwalk for Charly’s garments at Vancouver Fashion Week in less than 9 weeks.

Cooma has been helping Charly raise the money she needs to get there.

Since Charly and I spoke on a cold Cooma day, she has also been invited to show at LA Fashion Week in October.

As you are about to hear, Charly has all the ingredients for success…

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You can stay in touch with Charly via her Facebook page.

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Thanks for your interest, see you out and about in South East NSW.

Cheers

Ian