On the south end of King Street there’s a fashion boutique that has a cult following for its Australian designed and made threads. Milk & Thistle is owned by designer Danielle Atkinson, who launched her clothing brand in 2006 after studying textile design when she left her full time job in the music industry to start a family.
“I’m very far from being formally trained in fashion garment construction and it’s still a steep learning curve for me,” says Atkinson, who has all of her garments made in the Inner West by a team of trusted dressmakers. “We’ve always manufactured in Australia, but keeping within our ethical production ethos is definitely a focus now and we’re very wary of what materials we use, and how much we produce, and who we produce with.”
Milk & Thistle’s designs are often easy-fit, modern cuts in everyday outfits like linen jumpsuits, tencel slip dresses and cotton knits. Fabrics are natural, the prints are distinctive, and each item is produced in a limited run – meaning you might miss out on that galaxy print T-shirt dress if you choose to wait till your next visit.
“Some prints have been clear winners,” she says. “We’re very mindful of how much we make of something. We know that there’s a responsibility in terms of how much product we’re putting on the planet, too. It’s something we have to take responsibility for.
“I prefer a looser silhouette. I’m six foot, I’m size 16; I’m not an easy person to design for. I’m also mindful that I’m one end of the spectrum, so I try to relate to the product in terms of something that I would wear, but across as many sizes and ages as I can.”
Milk & Thistle has an online store, and many of its customers are based in Melbourne, but Atkinson says she’ll continue running her shop in Newtown for as long as she can. “Retail on King Street is suffering a bit. I think that supporting bricks-and-mortar stores is really important, because they’re so important to the cultural landscape of the city.”
Atkinson recently moved the family up to Bangalow after living in the Inner West for 25 years. The store has been running for six years in Newtown, she still makes the trip to Sydney every month to meet her customers, see how the clothes are fitting and what people are drawn to buy, and to speak with people about where their clothes are from.
“I never underestimate how important it is for someone to spend their money with me. I’m extremely grateful every time that happens. The least we can do is to educate them about what they’re buying.”