As the season of the “ugly sweater” approaches, the marijuana-themes and Tumblr-esque designs abound, but one label—WAH-WAH Australia—has taken a different (albeit still delightfully gaudy) approach. Helmed by Kaylene Milner, WAH-WAH creates unconventional and very playful sweaters made in collaboration with local bands. Think of it as a concert merch, but in knitted form. Featuring designs that are anything but subtle—one is a trippy tribute to Donna Chang—the brand’s debut collection worked with the likes of Australian punk band The Hard-Ons to psychedelic seven-piece King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. We spoke with founder, designer and almost-one-woman-production-line Milner about the satisfyingly oddball and obscure designs, her process and combining all her passions into one business.
“WAH-WAH is run solely by myself, but designed in collaboration with bands and artists that I admire,” Milner tells CH. “The seed of an idea to start designing band-inspired knitwear was planted in my brain well over a decade ago—when I was in high school, in fact. I was reading Michael Azerrad’s ‘Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground,’ and I saw an image of J Mascis wearing a Deep Wound sweater that his mother had made for him. Even as a teenager, I remember thinking it was the coolest thing ever.” Earlier this year, she realized that she now had the experience and skills to design her own knitwear. So, after working on a namesake fashion label and ultimately becoming unsatisfied because she didn’t want to create seasonal, commercial collections, Milner launched WAH-WAH.
For the first collection of just five sweaters (each made from 80% wool), Milner collaborated with artists and bands that she personally admires. “Ray Ahn from The Hard-Ons was the first person I approached with the idea. I was really nervous about asking him, but luckily he loved the concept. I’ve always admired his album and poster art, and it just made sense to start with local bands that I enjoy, and who have a strong visual aesthetic. WAH-WAH is a very personal project for me. It’s the result of finally figuring out a way to combine my love of music, design and knitwear, and being able to operate in a way where I don’t have to fit the mold,” she says.
At the moment, Milner works with a manufacturer in Sydney, whom she trusts to do her intricate designs justice. “I work closely with my manufacturer to program the designs to be machine-knitted,” she tells us. “I might do some special one-off hand knits in the future. Collector’s items perhaps?”
WAH-WAH Australia is available online, with sweaters priced at $240 AUD.
Images courtesy of WAH-WAH