Interview: Cameron Parker on BlackMilk Clothing – published by Togatus June 2012
Cameron Parker is the marketing and operations brains behind the clothing label Black Milk. The fashion house has gone from a one man show of designer James Lillis to a passionate team of 100, with three studios in Brisbane and one in Melbourne. From it’s infamous galaxy leggings to its collaborations with Jeffrey Campbell Shoes Black Milk has developed a dedicated community of legging wearing Sharkies all over the world. I had the opportunity to grill Cameron amidst his roller coaster ride of launches, potential New York studios and new designs, here is what he had to say.
On Black Milk:
The name Black Milk came about randomly, it’s actually the title of a Massive Attack song that James (Lillis, designer and creator) really liked. It all started with James thinking about women’s legs! That there must be more to leggings that black cotton, so he wrote about it on his blog ‘Too Many Tights’, he thought about patterns and prints and it turns out that girls felt the same! They wanted more from their leggings and here a community of tight loving ladies grew. One day James went out, bought a second hand sewing machine and after much trial and error he finally made a perfect pair of leggings, it just so happened that someone asked to buy those leggings. James is the designer, he spends alot of time on photoshop creating designs and prints.
On Being 100% Online and imitations:
We’re so happy we decided to be a hundred percent online! We’ve been able to keep manufacturing in Australia, it’s been better for profits and it’s allowed us to build a strong relationship with our customer base. We get feedback on our products in real time, literally immediate responses. There is really no other label where the designer listens to the customers and responds to their ideas and suggestions. They’re really a part of that design process. When see a business imitating the prints James gets frustrated! But we can’t stop it and we aren’t the type to get aggressive. We know that whole others may reproduce our prints or leggings, no other business can keep bringing out content the way we do, like 30 pieces in every couple of weeks.
A year ago, whenever we did a launch the website would crash. We had girls log in from all over the world, in Europe they’d get up early, Americans stayed up late and everyone attacked the site at the same time, we’d sell out in minutes and then the site would crash from so much action. We would have to put up notices on Facebook about the crash, and that we didn’t know how long it would take to recover, we described it as a fierce attack, like a predatory animal had nommed us! The animal that came to mind to describe our customers was Sharks, thus the term Sharkies. The girls have really created a huge community, they are essentially our sales team! They wear the leggings, talk about the leggings, get together and form bonds.
On Going International and the Black Milk Community:
Without Facebook we wouldn’t be here today! We have been so successfully due to the social media communities we have formed, on Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter and the blog. James is thinking about opening up a studio in New York and collaborating with Star Wars, but we will never make the transition to manufacturing third world. Australia is our home, the team here is passionate, they wear the leggings and love what they do, they get a buzz from the community they’re a part of. However, we do find it hard to find sewers because there hasn’t really been anything like us before.
On Collaborating with Jeffrey Campbell:
Jeffrey Campbell has been around since the beginning! It started when we had a model wear JC’s on a shoot, the customers loved the shoes and emailed us to find out where they were from. We saw the range on Solestruck and our customer base are essentially the same, if you wear Black Milk you wear Jeffrey Campbell. So we thought, we gotta talk to these guys! We emailed them and were basically like, let’s be best friends! It’s gone from there and it’s been a really easy collaboration, however the shoes are currently only available for pre-sale and will be available in the near future.
Image from Blackmilkclothing.com.au