Vintage and handmade fashion
Vintage is the best way to go that is why the majority of what I sell is vintage, that is absolutely the best way to shop in a sustainable way.
With a Bachelor of Fashion Design and a Diploma of Fashion Styling, Bonnie Tipper began her very own fashion label in 2015 right here in Newcastle.
“When I went into study I always had a background idea that this is roughly the business I wanted to have, like vintage and handmade stuff. But what I studied was more towards teaching you how to do a designer label, which has still been really useful but I have chosen a very different path to that.”
With strong beliefs on sustainability, individualism and feminism these underlying values are evident throughout the entire Chinchen St Label.
Growing up in Lorne (between Taree and Port Macquarie…not the one near Maitland), Bonnie moved to Sydney to study at Raffles College before moving to Newcastle.
“Both my sisters were already living here, but even before that it’s just that weird thing like you go to all these different places but Newcastle always felt homely to me, it’s very my vibe and the style here I really appreciate it.”
Do you think Newcastle has its own style?
“Totally, I think it has potential to be a new style city. You know how Byron has become a bohemian style? I think Newcastle could be like the grunge one. I also think Newcastle could very much be a vintage town. Vintage does really well here.”
Where did the name, Chinchen St, come from?
"I was living in Chinchen Street [Islington] and I was trying to come up with better names and I’m just not that good at that kind of thing [laughs], so that was the best name I could come up with."
Describe the style of clothes you sell for Chinchen St?
“It’s eclectic. There is no specific era that I work in. I like everything from 20s up, but most of what I carry is 70s, 80s and 90s. The actual clothes that I make are a lot of square cuts, really comfortable, loose bohemian stuff because I really like comfort and using all of the fabric. I am trying to be very sustainable, so any design that can use up the most fabric is good. The way I always think of my styling is it is a 1950s woman, so like glamour, but then it is like a 1970s man, like attitude, denim, leather. Chinchen St is also, as time has gone by, like a mirror of the youth culture around me. I kind of look at what I can see, the people I think that are ahead in their style, or what I think they might like to wear and I reflect that back like a mirror.
"At the moment I am really into bandanas and scarfs as tops and different elements to your outfit.
"The other thing I am really into this summer is vintage lingerie, I’m doing a lot of that like body suits and slips and that kind of thing."
Where do you source your vintage items?
"I hand pick everything, I get a lot of it on road trips. And I also buy a lot directly from people who have been involved in fashion. I had one really good lot that I bought off a 90s model. Then I buy bulk lots off eBay from collectors or on Gumtree."
Do you have other people working for you?
"No, it’s just me…but I love working with other people. So I’ve worked with bands, a lot of models, artists. I did a collaboration with Mel O’Dell where she actually painted on some of my clothes, that was a really good one, that was a recent one. It was all themed around mental health and hugging people around you, the importance of hugs to make people feel happy.
"A lot of the shoots I do with the models are my friends or people I’ve met on social media. A lot of them are not models, they are just people, they’re people from Newcastle, they’re interesting and they have a personality. So when they are coming over if I don’t know them I will just stalk them a little bit on social media, try to suss out their vibe. Then try and do a shoot with them that actually has an aspect of their personality in it. I often get them to do their own makeup and bring their own shoes or bring their own jeans or something, use a little bit of you and little bit of me together."
Your label is currently online, have you thought about opening a store?
"That’s my long term plan…because at the moment I am stocked at Stoned Saint Moon but the stock that I keep in there is different to what I keep on the website. Also at the moment I am working on a hand made collection, which is coming out in January. Those kinds of things I would love to have them stocked somewhere that people can go and try them on. But to split my stock is hard because I only do limited runs."
Can we find Chinchen St at any of the local markets?
"I’d like to do more festivals next year, I love them, it’s everything I’m about with fashion, and they are so expressive and fun."
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced since starting Chinchen St?
"Trying to walk the line of what you think is cool, what your aesthetic is, and then what people are going to respond to and what they are going to like. Being authentic is the hardest thing to find, trying to find that space of where you are really being yourself but also giving people something that is of value.
"Also balance, figuring out of what is the most important thing to do on any given day [laughs]."
Is it possible to shop sustainable?
"All the time is so hard…especially when you don’t have a lot of money. That is the thing with Chinchen St; we are trying to keep it affordable for people under 25. My advice would be wear vintage or sustainable stuff where you can and if you're not going to buy sustainable things then don’t beat yourself up about it but think about if you're going to wear it. The worst thing you can do is buy something that has been made in bad conditions and hurts the environment and never wear it. So look at it and think about if you're going to wear it 10 times and if the answer is straight away no then just don’t get it. Because first of all it probably doesn’t express you as a person, and secondly that is terrible for the environment so just don’t."