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Dr Tarn McLean has an impressive resume; philosopher-cum-artist-cum-ethics advocate. Tarn is the definition of a multi-talented creative, and her passion for luxury fashion and her moral compass have led her into her most recent role as the Creative Director of Ocre Designs.

Determined to establish an ethical brand synonymous with luxury, Tarn's values are embodied in each Ocre Designs bag, and her commitment to quality is obvious. Ocre Designs bags are Australian designed, Australian made, ethically handcrafted in limited runs, and they encapsulate the essence of natural landscapes.

Channelling her inner-artist, Tarn's bags are an outlet for her creative mind, and each bag is lined with her original artwork, inspired by Australian botanicals. Contrary to the popular opinion of 'typical luxury' brands, Tarn is passionate about reviving the values of bespoke products. High-end, luxury fashion brands have been in the fashion spotlight recently, but for all the wrong reasons. 

Burberry's most recent 'scandalous stock burn' saw some $60 million dollars of stock incinerated, to avoid having to sell at cheaper prices, and the environmental impacts were disastrous. Following the public shaming of Burberry, the BBC then delved into the luxury fashion market and contacted 35 high-end designers and high-street retailers to inquire about their manufacturing and end of season practices. Only six replied with breakdowns or further information, and the rest didn't respond.

It's proof that wasteful, unethical and unsustainable practices are rife behind the not-so-pearly-gates of luxury fashion brands, but it's a reputation Dr Tarn is determined to change with Ocre Designs. By sourcing local and sustainable materials, and manufacturing ethically, Tarn has proved luxury can be guilt-free too. 

Tarn stepped away from the design studio to share more about her story and her vision for Ocre Designs...

You hold a Doctorate in Philosophy and Visual Art. How has this influenced your artistic style?
My practice is embedded in non-objective painting, which is derived from the early 20th-century movement, Russian constructivism. It has a focus on human behaviour where our understanding and knowledge of the world around us is transferred into experiencing the world. And my personal story is that the botanicals are derived from my great-great-grandfather Adam Forster’s botanical paintings, that are now held in the National Library. I am putting a contemporary slant on his works and bringing them out of the archives and into the world, so to speak. It is important to me that both my interests hold a story. Whether it's a painting or a handbag, they all have heritage and history.

What life experiences contributed to the development of Ocre Designs?
I started Ocre because there was a hole in the market regarding Australian luxury handbags. I used to buy Italian and European luxury bags, but I wondered why there wasn’t an Australian luxury bag. So now that all of my official art studies are completed, this is my full-time 'job'; to give the world their own Australian luxury bag, with a story of heritage, made onshore by the best team of craftspeople. Not only is every element of Ocra made within sustainable manufacturing processes, but it is focused on this as a way to represent Australian luxury. For a brand to be officially a luxury brand, it must have two things; firstly be made onshore to its homeland, and also have a story.

How do you channel your art into your luxury accessories?
The designs for the fabrics come from my paintings. They have a story, such as native Australian flowers, or the Botanical Zodiac, and they are a true testament to our dedication of turning art into beautiful designs to wear and live with. I turn my paintings into textile designs and print in Sydney onto 100% natural linen and Australian cotton, which is grown and milled in Queensland too.

What does the manufacturing process of an Ocre Designs luxury bag involve?
All Ocre manufacturing processes are supportive of sustainable fashion, as each bag is hand-made in Sydney in limited editions and the fabric is printed 'to order' only. We have no waste and workers across all parts of the supply chain are paid fairly. Each bag has detachable tassels and some are adorned with Opal rock or Australian Pearl Shell, which we source from western Queensland. The design of each handbag is signature to the Ocre label; three sizes are anchored as my long-term designs as a way to save on continually manufacturing new steel patterns, which are expensive and also wasteful. They change in colour and accessories as the seasons pass, but the designs are classic and timeless and can be worn for years to come.

Shop sustainable luxury and carry a little piece of Australia with the Ocre Designs collection. 

The Fashion Advocate x  

Philosopher-cum-artist-cum-designer, Dr Tarn McLean is the Creative Director of sustainable, luxury handbag brand Ocre Designs.

Philosopher-cum-artist-cum-designer, Dr Tarn McLean is the Creative Director of sustainable, luxury handbag brand Ocre Designs.

Philosopher-cum-artist-cum-designer, Dr Tarn McLean is the Creative Director of sustainable, luxury handbag brand Ocre Designs.


  • Hello. I am slightly confused and hope you can clarify for me. The article states the bags are ethically made however they appear to be leather or fur. How is that ethically made? Unless it is faux fur,pineapple leather or another material that doesn’t exploit animal’s I find it hard to see how they can be marketed as ethical?

    Alicia Toner

  • I love this whole concept! Classic design with amazing Australian accents of opal and pearl. I’m looking in to my first piece now!

    Kylie Collins

  • Hi Fashion advocate
    Thankyou so much for your gorgeous article about Ocre. Your words are so considered and really correspond with what we are doing here.
    Sending magic
    Tarn and the Ocre team xx

    Tarn McLean

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