Growing up as the only girl in a low-income family, Caitlin Carrollhad to rework a lot of hand-me-downs from her older brothers. She wouldcut up what they had and re-vamp it in her own style. She always wanted labels but couldn’t afford them, so she took to making them herself. Once, when she was ten, her mum got her some running shoes from The Warehouse. She really wanted Nikes at the time, so she found some bright yellow vinyl and spent all night cutting up a Nike tick.
Now 21 years old, the young Alexandra-raised artist taught herself the art of sewing, and launched her own label, Subtle Cake. The perfect blend between the Dunedin grunge style, and your inner pastel lolly dreams, the label’s style draws heavily on local skater style, and the fashion Caitlin observed in Melbourne last year.
“The stuff Off White does is really inspiring and they stick with really monochromatic colours, and Pop It who do really bright colours were so influential. I feel like a lot of people are coming out of Dunedin with some amazing stuff, like Elm Crew and Breakaway… and you’ve got the Print Room, who help out a lot of students with their clothing projects.”
Caitlin went to art school for a while, focusing mostly on painting for the first two years, then a bit of textiles. It was during a textiles class that she discovered screen printing, and fell in love with it. She decided that art school wasn’t where she wanted to be, so she dropped out and began her journey making clothes. “I got my sewing machine out and went from there,” she said.
The name Subtle Cake was born out of some adorable nicknames. Because her name is Caitlin, her friends started calling her Cake Tin, and her Tumblr was called hype-cake. “I was like…I can’t call it hype cake,so let’s make it subtle.”
So she worked on it and started putting the prints on clothing. “I was just like, I’m gonna do it. I set up a website and started sewing and selling.”
She’s always been into drawing but says her style is “quite lazy” in the sense that she prefers outline drawings, which as it turns out, are ideal for screen printing. While she says she wants to get into more detailed drawings further on. “At the moment I’m doing what looks good to me,” she said.
“The first design I did was the guy looking in the mirror at the devil face. I got that when I was in the car with my mum and we were listening to the radio and this song came on ‘everyone has the devil inside’ and I was like, wow inspired!”
The process of making a print is a fun, albeit tricky one. The screens come with a mesh and the wood. You spread a thin layer of photosensitive emulsion over the cloth, then you have to set up a dark room and wait for the emulsion to dry, which takes a few days. No UV can touch it, so you then have to set up artificial yellow lights. While you're exposing the screens, you get your designs that you get printed onto a clear film and set it all up with the light on the screen. One screen takes around about an hour for Caitlin to complete.
Being a part of Dunedin’s fashion industry is one of Caitlin’s favourite feelings. “It feels so good seeing people wear my stuff, and Dunedin is such a tight-knit community, there’s a lot of support going on. If you have the passion to make clothes, there’s nothing holding you back here.”