Mavromati Is The Melbourne Label Redefining The Boundaries Of Knitwear

Image via @m.avromati/Instagram
Every so often, a small label comes along that reaffirms your faith in the future of small local design. The kind where each piece gets you stopped on the streets by strangers asking where you bought it from, and becomes the most precious item in your wardrobe. Mavromati, the Melbourne brand creating innovative knitted goods, fits this bill.
Designed and created by Olive Mavromati Bourke, each piece at Mavromati is one-off and one of a kind, with no pieces ever looking the same as their predecessors. It's the result of small-scale production that combines exploring textile practices, knitwear and identity in what its mastermind describes as "queer, aquatic and sometimes volcanic" craftsmanship. Mavromati Bourke tells Refinery29 Australia that their passion for knitwear was first realised after taking an elective at RMIT University, enjoying the therapeutic benefits of its design and construction process. Like the creators of a lot of new labels, they used lockdown to delve more into creating, taking the time to look into how different marginalised communities have used handicrafts to express their experience.
"I work with knit because I feel a genuine connection to it," Mavromati Bourke says. "I really enjoy making something from start to finish — I feel like it just gives you more of a connection to the garment — and selfishly, I also do find it quite relaxing. Even when I drop all the stitches and things go wrong, I feel like it just brings me a lot of joy, and that's really important."
After exploring knit as part of their grad collection, they became curious as to how clothing can express, affirm and transcend gender. "I feel like a lot of knitwear is quite body-oriented. Unless it's a jumper; generally it's quite form-fitting," they say. "So I just wanted to make clothes that were more wearable for a wider range of people — just something that was fun." The result is show-stopping singlets, scarves and scrunchies that redefine the boundaries of knitwear — from which Mavromati was born last year.
The 25-year-old explains that their brainchild — which they lovingly abbreviate to "Mavro" — is an ode to their family's background, with the former half of their last name translating to "black" and the latter referring to "eye" in Cypriot. But on a day-to-day basis, they look to the natural world around them to underpin their pieces. "I was, and still am, really into the Mariana Trench," they explain. "I feel like there's a really beautiful connection with gender, queerness and the ocean — the fluidity, the softness, the animals, the shapes, the vibe of water. I feel like that's the energy that I wanted to put into the first collection," they say.
But as an Aries, they're also drawn to lava and magma. The polar opposite elements bring a dynamism to each piece, right down to how it feels against the skin. If Mavromati Bourke is leaning towards volcanic inspiration, they might use mohair and linen for a rougher surface, but could also experiment with silk and bamboo for a slick, sensory replica of water. "I feel like I don't really design. When I'm knitting, I have a loose idea of what I want, or I have a reference photo, and then I just kind of do what I'm feeling at the time intuitively," they explain.
Their first collection was a series of seaweed tops that manipulated a commercial knitting machine to create curves and ladder patterns. Inspiration pictures of coral, sea slugs and other oceanic critters sit among the product imagery of wavy tops that feature two-tone, blended and single-colour pieces that play around with variegation and gradients. Whether layered over a button-down shirt, paired with a singlet or bandeau, or even worn as is for more risqué flair, there are endless ways to style the seaweed top, particularly the reversible options.

"I've just really wanted people to genuinely enjoy wearing my pieces, so it just makes me happy to see people wearing them."

Olive mavromati Bourke
However, Mavromati Bourke says that their favourite way to see their pieces is when they are worn with love and confidence. "I just feel like it makes me really happy to see someone just be really comfortable and confident," they say. They share that still have to pinch themselves when they see their mates or a Melbourne fashionista repping the label, and pride themselves on a year-round discount for queer, trans, intersex, Indigenous and POC customers. "I've just really wanted people to genuinely enjoy wearing my pieces, so it just makes me happy to see people wearing them," they say.
Their second collection, released in February, came about after watching Gilmore Girls to pass the time while knitting, and seeing fictional mother Lorelai rocking the skinny scarf. Feeling inspired, they decided to make their own stripey numbers using darned hems for textural play. Mavromati also now sells chunky scrunchies made of silk, merino and mohair, dedicated to their partner who loves using the hair accessory. "Sometimes I just do things because I think they're fun and people I hang around with would enjoy," they say. "So why not put it out there in the world and let people enjoy it if they want to enjoy it?"
This year, Mavromati Bourke is working towards introducing more designs into their collection, and starting up a pop-up venue so people can try their pieces on in person. After that, they're planning to spend time in Cypress to learn traditional textile practices and connecting with their culture, incorporating these methods into the brand as Mavromati continues to expand. "I think besides that, what's next is just having more fun with it ... being a bit more playful," they say. "It's a little scary, it's a little unknown, but that's really exciting."
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