A child of the internet generation

Black Milk Clothing has come a long way since the days its founder ate only mangoes off a tree in his garden so that he could afford fabric. Nowadays, the Aussie clothing empire sells thousands of printed leggings and dresses each day through its online store. Known as perhaps the most geek-friendly mainstream fashion brand, Black Milk has a social media reach that far eclipses that of any other designer.

We speak to Marketing and Operations Manager Cam Parker about gaming, the internet, and where Black Milk’s famous printed fabrics will be heading next.

The staff here at Black Milk love video games, and so does our community,” Cam begins. In fact, the label’s just launched its Mass Effect collection, whose designs feature not only comic-style prints based on the well-known gaming franchise, but also adapted uniforms from the in-game world that play well to an especially unique, diegetic form of dress-up.

It’s surprising that more fashion designers aren’t looking to video game worlds for inspir­ation, because there’s clearly a demand for it; of Black Milk’s numerous internet communities, there’s even one dedicated solely to gaming.

We had so much fun with the Mass Effect collection,” Cam says. “There are heaps of huge fans here in the office too, so naming the pieces, deciding on designs, all that kind of thing – it was overall a very collab­or­ative process. We even had team members from packing and IT areas of the business helping us out!”

If a quick glance at the numerous modern prints and cuts in Black Milk’s online store doesn’t make itself clear, the brand is obsessed with the new, the loud. There’s a particular immediacy to printed fabrics that the heavily online-based company is drawn to. Prints, Cam says, allows them to do “whatever we want. Because our entire operation is based right here in Brisbane, including our printing, we can produce designs quickly, and we can create whatever designs we want. If we see something cool, we can go, ‘Yep, let’s get it on a pair of leggings right now!’ and just make it happen.”

It’s also allowed for clever collab­or­a­tions with artists – the dystopian work of Japanese artist Shichigoro has featured on Black Milk’s nylon a few times, and the brand is currently working with a Sydney artist who’s known for drawing live in public. It’s not just about prints, though – Black Milk is always combing exotic places like Italy and Los Angeles for new fabrics with fascin­ating properties.

We have a lot of big ideas, so we’re always searching for technology that can keep up. We’re partic­u­larly proud of our new gym fabric; it has some amazing properties, and you don’t find this particular fabric around very much at all… Here at Black Milk, we’ll keep having crazy ideas, and we’ll keep chasing the fabrics, the patterns, and the techno­logies to make those ideas work.”

It’s long been a journey that they’ve kept fans up to date on. Founder and designer James Lillis has been blogging on style, fashion, and – of course – tights since 2008, and Cam believes that’s where the brand’s extraordinary talent for digital audience engagement took root.

The internet in general – and social media in particular – have been absolutely instru­mental to Black Milk being here today,” Cam stresses. He admits that while tight, bright, and stretchy leggings might have actually excited the fashion-conscious twenty years ago, it would not have fared nearly as well globally without the ubiquity of the internet that we have today.

Our inter­na­tional community is based in social media,” he finishes. “Black Milk Clothing is truly a child of the internet generation.”

Katie Williams is a games journ­alist, style enthu­siast, and lover of all things tech– and fashion-related. You can follow visit her website Alive Tiny World or follow her on Twitter.