What do you do when bored? Watch a movie? Clean the house?
Maybe you buy a sewing machine? Wait – buy a sewing machine?!
That’s exactly what Black Milk founder James Lillis did and the rest, as they say, is history.
For those of you who know little about Black Milk, it’s one of the coolest clothing brands going around – plus it’s designed and made in Australia.
Lillis admits he knew nothing about sewing when he began in 2009, so he spent Saturdays at sewing classes and any spare change went to scrap pieces of fabric.
Once he made his first pair of leggings, his fashion designer leanings were no longer just a fad.
Things didn’t take off immediately; none of his products sold in the one store he could get into, so he took to Saturday markets, selling enough to rent a space every week, grab a coffee and buy some more fabric.
His biggest inspiration was support from the web community, so he tackled online head-on. He hasn’t looked back since.
Today, Black Milk is much more than a guy from Brisbane trying to sell his own creations single-handedly. The company employs 150 people in three locations across Queensland.
Lillis fell in love with stretch fabrics in the early stages and the affection endures – most of the clothing is made from stretch fabrics, even the dreaded lycra. They also come in amazing designs that range from mermaid to giraffe to skeleton bones.
Website writer Alex Caton said the classic wet-look leggings “are still the most popular”.
Caton believes that Black Milk is enjoying “incredible growth” thanks to a loyal following on social media – more than 500,000 fans on Facebook and 36,000 followers on Twitter. The interaction between Black Milk and its fans is more like banter between friends.
“We never considered doing it any other way,” Alex said. “Getting in and having fun and developing relationships with our community just seemed like the natural thing to do.”
Anyone who loves pop culture is in luck: Black Milk’s collections include its takes on Harry Potter (easily the favourite), The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Sesame Street and Adventure Time.
The garments are targeted almost exclusively at girls, with only a few unisex items – although Alex said “plenty of guys rock our gear”.
Will we be seeing Black Milk in the major department stores? Definitely not. Black Milk prefers to remain online so customers know their experience is through the company and not a third party.
Black Milk doesn’t only engage well with its customers; staff satisfaction is high. Best job in the word? Alex’s answer: “Absolutely, yes!” – Courtney Lancaster
Top photo from Black Milk website.