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Style Legend: Tamila Purvis

If Sydney has fashion legends, Tamila Purvis will most certainly go down in the history books. Exhibiting a personal style that is directly in line with the consistent quality of work she produces, Tamila is the kind of style icon that Australia can rarely claim its own. The once fashion director of Russh and highly sought after stylist is seldom seen swooning over her status in fashion’s front row – rather, Tamila is one of the talented few whose presence is much more coveted behind the scenes, styling shows and accessorising the lines for designers such as Zimmerman and Ginger & Smart. Although her career within the realm of creative direction would have been enough to cement her status as one of the local industry’s most gifted minds, she has also successfully made the transition into design along with best friend and art director Melanie Kamsler under the banner of MANIAMANIA. It is a line of jewellery that is extravagant, distinctive and immediately influential – only in its first year, the label has already gained worldwide recognition among names that are known far beyond the Australian borders. The collection – along with the rest of Tamila’s work – cuts out fashion’s noise and takes it back to what it is supposed to be: exceptionality.

Growing up influenced by the “last quiet moments before the internet”, Tamila fixated on the 90s magazine pages plastered with Kate, Helena, Christy and Nadja and the culture that surrounded them. “I wanted to be a photographer, but then realised I liked creating what was actually in the pictures,” she explains of her foray into styling. In terms of her jewellery design, Tamila says her inspiration goes back to 1970s YSL costume jewelry, tribal pieces and “all the stuff I used to wear as a teenager – chokers, sleepers and studs, toe rings and lots of crystals”.

Tamila’s career began when she started assisting at Russh, where she met her future design partner and would later become fashion director. Although she grabbed one of the industry’s most desired roles, she insists it was a natural progression:

“You have to have little goals along the way in order to move forward, but have to be open to where the universe takes you.”

As many starting out in the fashion industry would be able to relate to, Tamila cites “living on such a small wage surrounded by so many desires” as one of the major challenges in the beginning. She eventually moved on to freelance, working on campaigns for large companies such as Wrangler, Lee, Sportsgirl and Bonds, with Grazia thrown in there from time to time. Styling on such a range of work has, of course, led to some memorable moments on the job.

“I broke a bone in my foot and was on crutches for five weeks, during which I had to work on a campaign for Sportsgirl on location at a daffodil farm,” she recalls.
“It was freezing cold, had been raining for weeks and was so steep and slippery even the 4WD was sliding sideways, and there I was on my crutches trying not to break my neck. It was a little insane.”

As her role had also involved unsuccessful hours of hunting for the perfect accessories, she eventually decided to make them. She already had the perfect collaborator in Melanie, with whom she had long shared an obsession with similar visuals, music and movements.

“We both love everything to do with the 1960s and 70s, from the style to the experimentation and free thought around at the time,” says Tamila. “We are interested in the people who inspire the artistic process – I guess you would call them muses – be it Marianne Faithful or Cleopatra. We’ll meld little bits and pieces together to make our pieces, and combine ideas from anything from the lyrics of songs or old photos with rocks and crystals we’ve found.” Within MANIAMANIA, Tamila and Melanie also found a space to collaborate on films, lookbooks and other creative endeavours, spreading their alliance with design onto art direction and beyond.

Although the range launched last year, Tamila was noticeably at work during the most recent fashion week, establishing that she is content to moonlight across both her passion for design and her long-established love affair with styling – even if it means the working hours seem to bleed into the rest of her life.

“It’s been a challenge becoming a designer and having a commodity with time lines and production issues and everything else that comes along with a business,” she explains.
“There’s definitely been a lot of late nights and weekends, even more than usual, but I’m lucky to work with my bestie… and I love styling, so its pretty perfect, actually.”

Tamila Purvis

words: Seema Duggal


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