A Utopia of Australiana

Image credit: Utopia Goods

This article was first published on Broadsheet Sydney on December 5th, 2012. Image courtesy of Utopia Goods.

“Friends from New York and London were always asking where they could buy a cool kangaroo or koala gift that wasn’t a trashy souvenir or a kangaroo pelt,” explains Sophie Tatlow of Utopia Goods, a new homewares and accessories company defined by its bright, illustrative take on classic Australiana. “We wanted to create something that was perennially Australian, that was sophisticated, cool, and something that we could be really proud of.”

It’s a hive of activity at the Utopia Goods studio when we pop in to interview Tatlow. Her business partner Bruce Slorach is overseeing a product photo shoot, while she is tackling the new website and online store and organising the first of the Utopia Goods pop-up stores at Ariel Books in Paddington (with a further two set to open at Ariel in The Rocks and The Standard Store in Surry Hills).

Settling in for a chat, Tatlow apologises for the chaos, explaining it’s a busy time, but, smilingly, adds: “It’s so amazing to be doing something we’re both really passionate about.”

Dotted about the studio is the first Utopia Goods range, a vibrant offering of quilts, cushions, aprons, placemats, napkins, bags, wallets, scarves and fabrics. Each feature one of 12 hand-drawn illustrative prints by Slorach, which have been screen-printed onto fabrics including cotton silk, oxford canvas, linen and cotton drill.

As Tatlow takes me through the collection, it’s clear that Utopia Goods is a labour of love for the couple – an idea they pondered for a few years, which has come to fruition over the last 18 months. The pair also own and operate Deuce Design, a design consultancy company they established together 12 years ago.

For Tatlow, who began her career as a jewellery and object designer, before moving into writing and researching, and Slorach – a fashion and fabric designer who has created work for the likes of Kylie Minogue, Cyndi Lauper, Beastie Boys, Anna Piaggi and Patricia Fields and was former art director at Mambo – Utopia Goods is a way of creating something that is wholly their own.

“We didn’t want Utopia Goods to be trend-driven, disposable or kitsch; we wanted to create something that had a sense of heritage and a local focus, which retained a classic sense of style,” says Tatlow. “Just the right amount of crazy, but not ironic.”

She adds that they made a conscious decision that Utopia Goods would be about artisan products – beautifully made with high-quality fabrics in limited runs.

It’s a sentiment that is captured well in their debut range. A fun, contemporary interpretation of classic Australiana in the vein of Ken Done and Jenny Kee, it references elements of Australian history, place and iconography. Appropriately called Cultural Binge, it features waratahs, bluebottles, flowering gums, cicadas, ferns and koalas in a vibrant colour palette of indigo, mulberry, grey and red.

“Utopia Goods has been really well received so far,” says Tatlow. “There’s already been a lot of interest about future collaborations. I’m really excited about what’s ahead.”