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Tina Kalivas – mastering the practical aesthetic of manipulating form to create exquisite clothing. 

Her career in fashion may have been fated; she claims it was. The young fashion student who travelled to one of Europe’s celebrated capitals of fashion, London, had no idea that she would start working for the eminent designer with a penchant for the weird and wonderful - Alexander McQueen; then find herself back in Australia eight years later, designing her signature label ‘Tina Kalivas’, rousing the attention of the fashion media, buyers and clients worldwide, for her tailoring precision and innovative shapes. “London – all the costume designing, freelancing on films, styling, and McQueen – I had a bloody good time.” she contentedly claims, but with bated breath she reveals how life is currently pacing at a million miles an hour with appointments, commitments, photo shoots, production and so forth – all that and the label is not even a year old! 

Tina Kalivas left Adelaide for London at 19, where she initially began working for the costume house Angels & Burmans. She then landed the coveted role assisting Alexander McQueen as seamstress and creative pattern cutter of showpieces and private orders. With McQueen, Kalivas gained the indispensable knowledge in European couture techniques such as draping and cutting directly off the stand. “He has this amazing way of bringing the theatrical world together with high fashion” she continues, “You can’t help but be inspired when you’re around someone like that.” In between McQueen’s shows, Kalivas fulfilled special commissions for the fashion dignitaries such Isabella Blow and Clements Ribeiro and worked on big budget films such as Scorcese’s ‘Gangs of New York’ and the Bond film ‘Die Another Day’.  

In May 2002 Kalivas moved back to Australia to launch her own signature label ‘Tina Kalivas’. Exercising her knowledge and experience in European Fashion with a host of diverse references, specifically urban attire, the designer applies traditional ideals in garment construction to contemporary silhouettes; “I love the research that goes into putting a collection together. Every season there is a new topic to get stuck into and learn about. Translating this into clothes is always challenging and pleasurable.” Kalivas’ unique style is emphasised by the fact that all clothes are designed and cut from the stand, she discloses “I love working on the stand. I even cut my t-shirts on the stand. For me – designing is draping and pattern cutting. I like playing with geometric shapes and somehow locking them together on the body. This often tends to create a sci-fi feel.” 

For Summer 2003/04 Kalivas launched ‘Bioluminescence’, her third solo collection at Mercedes Australian Fashion Week. Her preoccupation with sci-fi was implemented. Bioluminescence is the ability of a living organism to extract its own light. These extraordinary creatures exist in the very depths of the ocean. Within the range there is prominent usage of yokes, panels, and piped curved seams that resemble the strange and beautiful biological formations. The bioluminescence concept is apparent in the evening satin story and the crepe story where the garments are black, detailed with bold bright coloured raised trimmings, outlining shapes and panels that glow against the black. Kalivas describes the application as “spurts of bright acid colours on channel-stitched curvaceous panels.” Within the range there is also a daywear story that carries the exact negative of this effect where white is the base for the garment and bold coloured trims, yokes and waistbands create the luminous effect; also to note is the denim and jersey story, which celebrates everyday wear-ability and experiment without being conformist or extreme. Kalivas displays her couture expertise in the silk section of her collection; additionally there are signature leather pieces with quilted panels and intricate seaming again resembling curvaceous biological formations.  

Kalivas possess an exceptional ability to juxtapose vivid concepts with impeccable tailoring. “I have evolved a great deal over the years,” Kalivas explains, “but now I feel as though I have my own message. I promised myself I wouldn’t create a line until I found my own voice." Of her plans for the immediate future, the designer reassures, “Right now I’m in Sydney, and enjoying designing in a warm sunny climate with lots of space to breathe. Don’t know what’s next - I’ll just keep doing my thing and see where it takes me.”




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