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Karlaidlaw AW23 campaign
Photography Katrina Laurea

From mum’s garage to the world: KARLAIDLAW is the label you need to know

Starting out creating one-off corsets, designer Karla Laidlaw’s witchy, adaptable creations are gaining global fans. Here, she debuts her AW23 collection with a new campaign

Karla Laidlaw’s story starts as many rising designers’ do. Fresh out of uni, the Australian creative turned her hand to creating custom, one-off pieces for clients who found her by word of mouth or her fledgling Instagram page. Swampy corsets with distressed finishes came first, before lockdown arrived and she began turning out what’s now a signature: her comfy, cosy Spider tracksuits, which come rendered in inky purple and deep navy velvet.

Having built up a global community of fans across the course of the last couple of years, Laidlaw’s offering has now grown to encompass everything from bulky bomber jackets, spliced and diced flared denim jeans, witchy hanky-hem skirts and dresses, and a range of squashy, soft leather bags finished with hardcore metal buckles, and she’s finally emerged from her mum’s garage and opened her own eponymous store in Melbourne (or Naarm, to give it its original Aboriginal name, which Laidlaw is keen to respect). 

Now, the designer is getting set to drop her AW23 KARLAIDLAW collection, with Dazed exclusively debuting the line – alongside a bunch of BTS shots from its accompanying shoot. On the line-up for the new season are chunky buckled bikinis, ruched and skewed minis, and louche combat pants, as well as more iterations of her scrappy, patched-together leather bags. Rounding things off is the Laidlaw bride, who’s draped in elaborate white lace and a matching veil. Click through the gallery above for a closer look at what’s to come, and read on below as we get to know her better below.

Hey Karla! So first of all, what do you love about fashion and why did you want to work in it? 

Karla Laidlaw: [I love] that you can express your feelings and personality without having to say a word [through what you wear]. 

Did you study fashion? 

Karla Laidlaw: I did study, but I don’t think a course in fashion design at university is a must if you want to pursue this career. Real world experience in the industry has taught me so much more than I ever learnt studying, and school isn’t for everyone. Getting your foot in the door and interning, and then asking a million questions and learning in real time was the best lesson for me. 

How and why did you start your brand? 

Karla Laidlaw: After uni, I was confident that I would start my own brand. I started KARLAIDLAW after work hours and worked on one-off corsets for customers. I love to make one-off pieces – you don’t have to put all your ideas that are rushing through your head into one garment. You can display different versions of your brand each time you make a new piece without the feeling of repeating. 

After this, I started making some tracksuit pants [Spider tracksuits] and once COVID came around and everyone was wearing loungewear, I had enough financial freedom to start evolving the brand into what I want it to be. 

“What would my ghost outfit be? The Spider tracksuit. I live in these alive, so my ghost will be doing the same” – Karla Laidlaw

How would you sum up your brand in three words? What’s its USP?

Karla Laidlaw: The brand’s focus is on two things: comfort and function. Most items have several ways of being worn, and are made with the idea of comfort at the forefront. Dressing up without feeling overdressed. Three words to sum it up: elevated street wear.

Tell us about the new winter collection – what was the inspiration, are there any key pieces you want to pull out? 

Karla Laidlaw: As it goes, it started out as one thing and ended up being another. There’s always a theme in the back of my mind – while the brand is still young it's important for the brand identity to come across well before adding in other themes. The Circus track set and bomber jackets are special pieces to me. We have also expanded to accessories recently and I have loved making them – they’ve been a great addition to the identity of the brand.

Who would you love to see wearing KARLAIDLAW?

Karla Laidlaw: FKA twigs

What’s the most recent note in your notes app? 

Karla Laidlaw: It’s my passwords. I have to write down my passwords. I make one, thinking I will remember. Three attempts later, I've blocked myself from myself.

Where do you find inspiration? 

Karla Laidlaw: I find styling or inspiration so often when I am on instagram, and I catch myself on someone’s brother’s, sister’s, auntie’s, cousin’s story all the time. I’ll often see a colour contrast I like or a pant that falls in a certain way. My whole phone is screenshots from the internet. No one is safe ; )

What’s the best and worst advice you’ve ever been given? 

Karla Laidlaw: I don't remember the worst, but the best advice I've been given is that making mistakes is part of being human. It’s simple but when starting a business there are so many mistakes you make, and you just have to accept everyone makes mistakes. It’s not just you. Especially when it's a small business and you are taking on all the job titles, most of which you are figuring out as you go. So when you make a mistake, take a moment to accept it, move on and don’t let your self doubt get the better of you. Just keep going. We are learning.

What would your ghost outfit be?

Karla Laidlaw: The Spider tracksuit. I live in these alive, so my ghost will be doing the same.

What’s your star sign and are you a typical one? 

Karla Laidlaw: I’m a Gemini, and yes!