Designer Carla Perna Redefines Luxury in Australian Fashion




“A timeless piece is a thoughtful, thoughtful design that will serve as a ‘forever garment’ in your wardrobe.”

In the internet age, contemporary fashion is in a constant battle between the timeless and the trendy. While some designers have realigned their business models to meet a trend-driven clientele, others slowed down all going down, choosing to make the classics their point of difference. For Melbourne designer Carla Perna, the choice was obvious.

“I create pieces that you can seamlessly and endlessly pair with the rest of your wardrobe,” Carla says of her eponymous fashion label, Perna. Having learned pattern making from her mother and having been “immersed in the fashion industry from a young age”, Carla had a long-standing dream of being a designer. With no formal training and limited money, his dream came to life in the depths of Melbourne’s foreclosure in 2020.

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While Perna may be relatively new to the fashion business, Carla certainly isn’t. In a designer sea of ​​colorful and avant-garde maximalism, Perna’s delicate silk pieces float upward with refined elegance. I chatted with Carla to learn more about her timeless approach to design.

Tell us about you. What is your background in fashion?

I have been immersed in the fashion industry from a young age. My mom is a pattern maker by trade and she taught me the craft of clothing making and the ins and outs of the industry, which ultimately led to my obsession with fashion.

I got my first job in retail and worked my way up to a managerial position at the age of 19. I then worked as a stylist, helping women organize their wardrobes and develop their personal brands. Controversially, I have never actually studied fashion formally.

I want to show young designers that – contrary to popular opinion – you don’t have to have a diploma to start a label. There are a lot of misconceptions that you need a degree or certificate to be successful in the contemporary creative industry. I hope that I will serve as an inspiration to those who want to start designing but hesitate due to the constraints of this outdated social construction.

You launched Perna in early 2020 when the world was a pretty uncertain place. How did you launch the label? Tell us about the process.

Starting my own label has been a dream for me for a long time and the pandemic has allowed me to pursue this dream with all my heart. The uncertainty of the job was certainly stressful, but my time at home provided me with the tools to get my designs off the ground.

With very little money, I did most of the work on my own – website design, packaging, branding, sketching, and fabric sourcing. I learned on my own how to use Photoshop and CSS code on Shopify to create my custom website.

From the start I knew I only wanted to work with Australian designers. I made sure everything was locally sourced, right down to the Perna packaging and labels. The “local” element is now an integral part of the brand’s identity.

Your collection is very romantic, feminine and sensual. Who or what are your design inspirations?

My collection is inspired by classical art; this strongly influences my choice of fabrics and the movement of my clothes. I am also inspired by architecture for the silhouette and structure of my pieces. For me the most important element is to design with the female form in the front of my mind.

You are a great advocate for using the principles of slow fashion in your work. Tell me a bit about how you create your pieces.

Being so immersed in the fashion industry, I am constantly thinking about new designs. I always start my creative process with sketches on paper. My sketches start roughly and vaguely – this is the idea phase. I will then complete the technical drawings based on my final sketches and bring them to my amazing model maker in Fitzroy. This is the most important part of the process; perfecting the fit requires multiple modifications of a pattern and canvas.

From there, samples are made. We use these samples to analyze the tissue drop and then make changes accordingly. This part of the process is long and expensive, but an essential step in getting that nice fit. After that, I source my fabrics from local textile factories.

Finding the right fabric can take a surprisingly long time; I cannot stress enough the importance of doing this step well. I won’t settle for anything less than fabric perfection – I think that’s what makes Perna unique. Once the patterns and textiles are finalized, I take them all to my ethically accredited manufacturer in Kealba, Victoria.

I like that your collections are not dictated by the seasons or trends. What do you think makes a piece seem “timeless”?

A timeless piece is a thoughtful, thoughtful design that will serve as a “forever garment” in your wardrobe. I create pieces that you can combine with the rest of your wardrobe in a seamless and endless way.

Who do you think is the most exciting in Australian fashion right now?

Esse Studios is very inspiring to me. I like everything [the founder] Charlotte is synonymous with sustainability and slow fashion. His designs pave the way for a new era of conscious Australian design.

How do you want Perna customers to feel when they put on any of your clothes?

They should feel a different level of luxury. Every detail of my pieces has been thought out and executed with care. I want my clients to feel bold, striking and feminine – Perna is here to make an impact. I hope wearers also feel good knowing that their garment has been ethically made by Australian manufacturers.

What about the Australian fashion industry that needs to change?

I think sustainability needs to be much more closely monitored and enforced. We need a more transparent and honest production standard. Consumers deserve to know the ethics of the company in which they are involved.

Buy the entire Perna range here.


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