Black Milk is an emerging, unique, fabulous clothing line based in Brisbane, Australia. Their clothes consist of graphic print leggings, body suits, and dresses for the most part, and each feature some of the most eclectic details you have ever seen. Designed and manufactured 100% in Australia out of the highest quality Lycra, their clothing is suitable for almost any body-type. Additionally, Black Milk customers make up a thriving online community referred to as “Sharkies.” A unique, funky mode of self-expression, the Black Milk customer doesn't follow trends or seasons--they set their own standards and play by their own rules. We were fortunate enough to chat with Cameron Parker, a marketing representative, about what exactly makes Black Milk so great.
What inspires the Black Milk line?
James (Lillis, the designer and founder of Black Milk) is inspired in totally random ways. Black Milk doesn’t really keep up with the fashion world, seasons or trends. A lot of our collections come from customer suggestions;you know, on our Facebook page or at our meet-ups.
The site has awesome photos on Facebook of meet-ups and parties that you do. Do you just throw parties for your customers?
There are meet-ups all around the world, and that’s organized by the 60+ private Facebook groups that are dedicated to geographic locations or special interests.
Is there a New York City one?
If you go onto Facebook and click on the tab “unite” you’ll see all the U.S. ones. There’s NoCal and SoCal, and east/west and a U.S. main one. There’s not a specific New York one, but there’s one for that area (the general North East).
Oh, maybe we should start one. Who’s your target consumer? Who wears Black Milk?
It’s not gender specific or age specific, we have 13 year olds up to 60 year olds wearing our clothes. But it’s essentially someone who wants to say something about themselves. They’re (the consumer) experimental, they love standing out from a crowd and wearing something that has a lot more energy and personality to it.
I know! Every time I wear Black Milk products, people stop and ask me to take pictures of my pants!
Absolutely! It’s the kind of thing that you make a statement. When you’re walking down the street, you’ll get stopped. People will be touching your pants and saying, “Oh my God, where did you get these?”
Exactly! That’s what I love about them! You do a lot of movie/popular-culture-inspired collections. Are these suggestions from consumers? How do you decide which ideas you want to take on and represent the line?
Well James loves his pop culture. He loves doing that stuff. Customers, when we did the Star Wars collection were saying “Oh do Harry Potter, do this and that.” So we really love doing stuff like that.
Do you have any insider information about collections like that which will be released in the future?
Well we’ve got Adventure Time, that’s the next one. And then we’ve got a bunch of DC comics, and other sort of little movie franchises with Warner’s for next year. Game of Thrones and a second Harry Potter collection will be coming out as well.
That sounds so great! I can think so many people who would be really excited about that! So, you have a tendency to sell out of stock really quickly after it releases. In anticipation of your collections selling out, why choose to produce a limited amount of stock?
It’s literally do to fabric availability--we’ve run out of fabric. But again, we release on average 60 designs per month. If we kept on doing that without limiting, or sort of saying “out with the old and in with the new,” we would end up with thousands and thousands of products. We don’t want to do that. We like people owning, and customers like owning something unique and special where they can say “I was a sharkie 2 years ago and I have this piece.” We are all locally produced in Australia, which means that we could produce one unit or we could produce 10,000 units. It’s not like we are manufacturing out of China, where we have to order 100,000 units. So it’s good, because we can kind of have something for everyone, but to make that manageable, we like to rotate through.
That’s great, because when someone asks you “Where did you get those?” you can say, “Well you can’t really get them but you can check out the Black Milk website.” We talked a little about the events and parties that you throw; if a girl wants to get her photo on your media pages (Facebook, Instagram etc.) what hashtags should she use?
On Instagram, we have a special hashtag, we have over 100,000 images that girls have hashtagged #BlackMilkClothikng for example. Each individual product has its own individual hashtags. You can search each product and you can see user photos, you know selfies of girls wearing the gear that’s on the product pages, which is fantastic. So many girls buy based on real girls wearing the clothes versus our sort of standard web-shots from models. And from all the meet-ups around the world there are hashtags for that, you know #NewZealandSharkies or #USSharkies. There’s also #SharkiesUnite, which is more general, where you can see all the meet-ups that happen all around the world. There’s also a #BMEuroTour where there are a couple of hundred photos of our Europe tour, as well as #SharkieCon where there was a sharking convention. There are heaps and heaps of little hashtags for us to search and see what’s happening in the community.
So you are a global community of fun-loving outgoing people.
Oh totally. Yea, it’s not even about fashion, it’s about girls connecting through the love of Black Milk. They form international friendships and they can be part of a community. Everyone likes to be part of a community, and the Black Milk one kind of resonates with people. Its like-minded girls who are a little bit more adventurous with what they wear.
You mentioned that you produce locally in Australia, but where do you get your fabric? Is it all screen-printed?Are all of your pairs symmetrical? Are they open to variation?
So basically, we have thousands of rolls of white Lycra, and the technology we use is called sublimation printing. We design a panel, and our workers lay it out to a panel of a legs and so every piece is essentially the same; obviously varying a centimeter from extra-small to large. It’s all digitally/screen printed. It doesn’t fade, it doesn’t run. It gives us high-quality, high-detail and bright colors.
You sell exclusively online, correct?
Yea, 100% on-line only.
Why is that?
We can control customer service, distribution, everything. And it’s really important that we get real-time feedback on what sells and what doesn’t. Also, since we manufacture in Australia—a first-world country—and we pay Australian wages--which are very high versus Chinese labor—there’s no margin for wholesaling. It’s extremely expensive to produce, so we literally can’t afford to wholesale. The reason we can manufacture in Australia is because we have no middle-man, we are full integrated (in the production process).
I’m sure you’ve noticed that this past season or two graphic leggings have become a huge trend, and you can get them everywhere.
There are a lot of companies who have started up now, doing printed leggings, and either similar locally produced or the cheap stuff out of China; which are terrible quality material and pixilated, dull prints and graphics. We are fortunate to be one to the first to start doing it. We definitely positioned ourselves as a high-quality product. It’s not mass-produced, and it’s made in a first-world country. We kind-of just ignore the competition out there, and we just do what we do. The people who will buy the cheaper $20 pair aren’t in it for the quality; they’re not in it for the fashion, for something unique. That is not our customer.
That leads into my next question, which was what distinguishes Black Milk from other brands. Do you feel like Black Milk started the printed legging trend?
Well, it is hard to really pin-point. There definitely weren’t too many people doing it four years ago, so maybe we did. We don’t hang out in the fashion community, we don’t do fashion parades. We don’t do seasons or trends, it’s kind of like we do don’t pin-point those things. We kind of run our own race, really. We don’t follow industry. Building an entire brand out of crazy, printed leggings…we are the only ones we know who’ve come across that’s for sure.
Yea, definitely. I just have one more question; your clothes have a naturally amazing fit. Is it the Lycra? Is it how you cut them? They smooth you out and hold you in all the right places.
That’s intentional, and that’s why our product is more expensive. It starts with fabric. We seek the highest-quality two-way stretch fabric. If you grab a pair of Black Milk and you stretch it horizontally and vertically you will see it has a real tight feel to it. That’s where you get that feeling that it’s a bit like a second skin. It’s not just the leggings, but the swimsuits and dresses. We’ve changed the patterns here and there for two years until we perfected the cut that worked great for the greater portion of our consumers. You know, it can’t be perfect for everyone, but we are really happy with the cut we got. Fabric and cut and also using the highest quality sublimation printing so you get those vibrant prints on it.
Black Milk is the perfect brand for a New Yorker. The fierce and fearless people who live in our city are always taking fashion risks; we exemplify the Black Milk philosophy. Visit blackmilkclothing.com today and find your new favorite piece!