To Barwyn and back – designing sustainable commuter wear

19 Jun 2017

In June 2017, North Queensland-born Gemma Baxter (Master of Architecture ‘11) launched a small collection of 'tech streetwear' garments that she designed and produced from a bedroom in Brunswick, Melbourne. The label, to Barwyn and back, was designed to encourage and support an adventurous urban lifestyle, particularly cycle commuting.

After working in architectural practice for a couple of years, including in Shanghai, Ms Baxter decided to try her hand at making clothes so that her riding mates might be safer and those who didn’t ride, might start.

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

“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, Ms Baxter has produced a small run of her limited range of garments, including the more unusual racing dress and riding gown, with all items intended to be worn on the bike (and off it).

“I focused on selecting fabrics that were moisture-wicking, moisture-repellant, abrasion resistant, antimicrobial, quick-dry, have high UPF 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,” said Ms Baxter.

Ms Baxter is passionate about engaging as many local industries as possible and maintaining a high standard of sustainability, gaining accreditation from Ethical Clothing Australia, using locally-sourced materials as much as possible, manufacturing the garments locally in Melbourne and even using local bicycle delivery company Momentum Messenger to deliver local purchases.

“My awareness of crucial changes taking place worldwide was 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,” said Ms Baxter.

Naming her brand after her grandparents Barney and Elwyn’s home Barwyn in Kilkivan, near Gympie in Queensland, Ms Baxter hoped to capture the child-like playfulness that she enjoyed as a youngster at her family’s home.

Think: trips to the corner store, cricket in the driveway, building forts in trees and, of course, roaming the neighbourhood on the two-wheeler.

Photography: Kristine Kenins from 

To Barwyn and Back
Garments produced in Melbourne by Queensland-born Gemma Baxter.
To Barwyn and Back
Four of the six to Barwyn and back garments produced in Melbourne by Master of Architecture graduate, Gemma Baxter.
To Barwyn and Back
The to Barwyn and back Track Pants.
To Barwyn and Back
Gemma Baxter, UQ graduate and creator of to Barwyn and back.