Recently launched but already building traction, The Uncast is an online platform that aims to promote cultural and ethnic diversity in fashion within Australia. Their first issue explores the relationship between clothing and identity and has contributions from creatives across Sydney and Melbourne. With an emphasis on collaboration, they are also set to release a clothing label, the first of which is being designed by local graphic designer and musician Joanna Frank. We had a chat with the founders as they head into issue #2.
Backyard Opera: So what brought you guys together, how did you meet?
Neil: Through advertising.
Brendan: I think Neil and I got along in terms of our interest in culture. He was in Berlin for a while, and I resonate a lot with Berlin. It’s probably the most creative city at the moment. We both cared about content, stories and culture so that initiated our connection.
N: Where we physically met was at an ad agency though.
B: What brought us together was that we had a similar vision.
BYO: What is that vision?
B: Visions of content. From the discussions we’ve had, I think there are stories to be told in Australia. For example, there’s a fashion brand that’s called Ex Infinitas and they won a Woolmark Prize internationally. The designer has studied fashion overseas and has come back and is doing this new Bondi trash course. It’s not your typical beach Bondi, they’re wearing gowns and standing with a surfboard. It takes Australian culture and spins it on its head. It takes stereotypical things like beach and outdoor culture, but then there’s this underbelly of creativeness that exists and it’s like, how do you tell a story that represents that?
N: There are creatives out there but they’re all isolated within their individual communities. You have this group of friends that is shooting over here and they get each other and work together, and then you have another group of friends and they do the same, and they all come together online to like each other’s stuff, but what I found was that these groups never connect with each other.
B: We just offer the platform and showcase the talents of these people and then how they decide to collaborate is up to them.
BYO: So you just bring them together and let them work on whatever?
N: Well it has to tie back to exploring cultural and ethnic diversity but yeah that’s how we’ve organically grown to this point. We didn’t really plan any of this per se. It wasn’t like, ‘we are going to do this shoot’, it was more like, ‘let’s just connect with this person and see what they want to do and we can help pull it together for them’, and then it grows from there. And the pie in Sydney is so small it just makes sense for everyone to grow the pie together instead of trying to take as much of the limited amount of work that exists.
BYO: You talk about diversity and wanting to represent that but what does that mean?
N: I wasn’t born here. I’ve got immigrant background, he’s from South Africa, but you look at all the media in Australia and still - I mean I don’t want to make it a race thing, it’s not about that - but they say there’s equality and that Australia is forward thinking but you look at all the images we have and they cater to a specific audience. There are so many people in this country that don’t relate to that. That’s where I’m coming from when we talk about diversity. Diversity in its simplest form is - can we get different kinds of faces, can we get different kinds of imagery created?
B: It’s about inclusiveness and authenticity. We want to represent people for who they are and for what’s out there.
N: It’s very symbolic, like using a person with an ethnic background because they represent something and not just because of their race. Using an Asian person because of their own merits rather than because they’re Asian. Take a look at the Indonesian rapper Rich Chigga, he’s an artist that’s aware of the box people put him in when they first see him, and then he subverts that with his music and persona. That’s where that authenticity comes from.
BYO: Do you think the reason for the lack of representation in Australia is because of resistance? How do you plan on breaking that? What if someone else has tried this in the past and they weren’t successful because of resistance from mainstream media?
N: Well that’s the thing, we’re trying to cater for a different set of people.
BYO: So your ultimate goal is not mainstream media? But don’t you think it’s important to get different people into mainstream media?
N: Ideally for us if mainstream media wants to work with us it means they see our value and we’re succeeding. But it’s not something we’re forcing.
B: We can’t challenge them, we can only bring people together and showcase their work, and if mainstream media recognises it ...
N: That’s a bonus and then we know that we’re all on the same page. But if people our age get together and create these images, that’s still a big positive from my point of view.
BYO: So you’re from Sydney and you’re from outside of Sydney, do you think Sydney has culture?
B: There’s definitely culture but it still feels like it’s in its early days. It feels like it hasn’t all integrated. You have to go to different places to experience different elements of culture but none of it feels like it’s representative of Australian culture. It still feels like Australian culture is beach and sunshine, but there’s so much more hidden away and once you can bring those aspects together a new kind of culture can emerge.
N: I feel like a lot of people are kind of ashamed of Australian culture, maybe because it’s undefined and that’s why there’s not really [an answer] to what Australian culture is. You always think of TV shows where people run on the beach and when you go overseas and ask people what they think it is, they reference Steve Irwin and crocodiles. But then you come here and that’s not Australian culture, and when you try say what it is, you can’t put your finger on it. Australia has been built on diversity and immigration but we’ve struggled in creating something from that. And it’s not like people aren’t aware of this. It’s just, what do you do with it?
BYO: Australia is considered the “lucky country”...
B: Yep, it’s the perfect entitled country.
BYO: It’s wonderful and easy, it’s not raw or dirty - I’m assuming that’s what you guys want to achieve?
N: There’s a level of it.
B: Creativity always comes out of struggle. Australian culture is served on a platter and it’s easily absorbed but beneath there are people that have other stories to share that aren’t so easy to digest.
N: If I think back, our generation hasn’t really had to fight for anything.
BYO: We’re trying to fight for the lockout laws ...
N: That’s only in the last couple of years. It seems like an interesting time where culture may build because we have something to fight for.
B: Exactly, because people are still creating outside of it. Even though there are confines on culture and music, there are still young creatives who are pushing back.
N: You asked earlier what our goal was, I want to be able to export more Australian culture than we import. We import culture from the US and the UK, and it doesn’t make sense because I think there is enough talent, enough labour, and enough stories to be told here in Australia. There are people trying to tell them, but again, it’s contained in these little communities.
BYO: So where did the name come from?
B: We were trying to look for a name that says what it is that we do. the uncast recalls the things that are unseen, unheard, that’s what we’re trying to shape.
BYO: So what’s next?
N: Our first issue is coming out, and building partnerships. I think that’s what it comes down to.
BYO: Dream partnership or dream collaboration?
N: Anyone with the same mindset. We’re just going with the natural momentum and taking things as they come.
B: Wow, it’s really hot.
N: Yeah, I’m melting.
BYO: Yeah, it’s fucking hot. Thank you for your patience and sweat. Let’s get out of here.