To Barwyn and back

Designing sustainable commuter wear

UQ Master of Architecture graduate Gemma Baxter has used her degree to build a culture of sustainability – but not as you’d expect.

Gemma Baxter, photographed by Kristine Kenins

Gemma has launched a small collection of ‘tech street wear’, to Barwyn and back. Designed and produced from a bedroom in Brunswick, Melbourne, each piece was created to encourage and support an adventurous urban lifestyle, particularly cycle commuting.

After working in architecture for a couple of years – including a stint in Shanghai – Gemma decided to try her hand at making clothes so her riding mates would be safer, and to inspire those who didn’t ride to start.

“During my master’s degree, I was one of only a handful of kids who rode a bike in my class,” Gemma said.

“I knew that riding had its limitations ­– you could only wear a handful of things to feel comfortable on a bike, you had to find somewhere to lock up your bike and you had to carry everything you needed for the day on your back.

“I began to wonder what might encourage others to pick up a bike when so little support was provided.”

Utilising textiles that exhibit characteristics a commuter might benefit from, Gemma has produced a small range of unique garments – including the more unusual racing dress and riding gown – with all items intended to be worn both on and off the bike.

“I focused on selecting fabrics that were moisture-wicking, moisture-repellent, abrasion resistant, antimicrobial, quick-drying, have high Ultraviolet Protection Factor ratings and even (in the case of the Weekend Shorts and Racing Dress) composed of recycled post-consumer drink bottles.

“Finding materials that do all this and are also sustainable is obviously the best possible scenario for me,” Gemma said.

Gemma is passionate about engaging as many local industries as possible and maintaining a high standard of sustainability, having gained accreditation from Ethical Clothing Australia. In all her designs she uses locally-sourced materials as much as possible, manufactures the garments locally in Melbourne and even uses the local bicycle delivery company Momentum Messenger to deliver local purchases.

“My awareness of crucial changes taking place worldwide increased during my architecture degree.

“I became conscious of rising sea levels and city densification. I learned that demographics have been changing dramatically with a generally longer life expectancy, a decrease in marriage numbers, and an increase in both physiological and psychological illnesses.

“I look to the humble bike as a prescription for connection and health,” Gemma said.

Naming her brand after her grandparents Barney and Elwyn’s home Barwyn in Kilkivan, Queensland, Gemma hoped to capture the childlike playfulness that she enjoyed as a youngster at her family’s home.

Her collection is sure to make you reminisce of trips to the corner store, cricket in the driveway, building forts in trees and, of course, roaming the neighbourhood on the two-wheeler.

Website: to {Barwyn} and back®
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Photography by Kristine Kenins.
Website: kristinekenins.com
Instagram: @kiki_kenins