Sister-and-brother team Georgie and Alex Cleary founded Alpha60 in Melbourne in 2005. The label's unofficial tagline is "sophisticated quirk" — the pair likes each piece to have some point of difference, something that sets it apart from the fashion norm. Photo by Annevi Petersson

Alpha60, Clothing Designers

PHOTOGRAPHS BY PAUL BARBERA, UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED

When you’re a graphic designer and an aircraft engineer with zero fashion training, and yet you find yourself becoming the go-to clothing line of Melbourne — worn by the likes of Patti Smith, LCD Soundsystem, and Jamie Oliver — you learn to get really good at improvising. And trusting your instincts. So it goes for Alex and Georgie Cleary, the brother-and-sister duo behind Alpha60, who base its designs not on fashion trends but on whatever random pop-culture reference they happen to be into at any given moment.

When they launched the line four years ago, it was Alphaville — not the German synth band, but the 1965 Jean-Luc Godard film, which stars an evil computer called Alpha60. “It was an accidental hobby, and we just picked the name because it was a favorite at the time,” says Alex, who had just been let go from a bankrupt aircraft company. Meanwhile, Georgie had been messing around with screen-printing one of her graphics onto the pockets of button-down shirts and giving them away to friends. “Five turned into ten, ten turned into twenty, we started selling them to local shops…” he says. “That’s how it all happened. Step-by-step rather than by some grand plan.”

To Georgie and Alex — only children who grew up on a rose farm with art-loving, ephemera-collecting parents — every album they hear, film they see, artist they discover, or strange object they acquire can be a potential starting point for a collection. And they’re the kind of siblings who agree on almost everything, so when Georgie was obsessed with the op-artist Bridget Riley, Alex ran with it, and when Alex wanted to riff on the tracksuits worn in the ’90s movie La Haine, Georgie was on the same wavelength. It’s all part of their ongoing quest to make an asset out of not fitting in with the fashion establishment, never mind that with five stores in Australia and their sights set on London and New York, they’re already becoming a part of it. Like Godard famously said: “All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl.” And a few hundred really good ideas.