Faces of VET – TJ van der Meulen's story

An up-and-coming fashion design student at the Holmesglen Institute in Chadstone.

Monday, 14 August 2023 at 12:00 am
Fashion designer TJ van der Meulen with Minister Tierney at 2023 Victorian Training Awards

TJ van der Meulen

Inspired by film, theatre and queer aesthetics, TJ van De Meulen is an up-and-coming fashion design student undertaking their Bachelor Of Fashion Design at the Holmesglen Institute in Chadstone.  

TJ recently showcased their designs at the 2023 Victorian Training Awards gala when a scarf, inspired by the diversity of the queer community, was proudly worn by Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education and Minister for Agriculture, The Hon Gayle Tierney MP. 

We sat down with TJ to chat about what inspired them to become a designer and their aspirations once they’ve finished their course. 

Tell us a bit about how you ended up studying design.

'I began studying fashion design at Holmesglen in 2022 with their Cert IV in Clothing Production course. 

After coming home from living in China just before the pandemic hit, I was in quite a slump working almost 24/7 at my local Spotlight as I was too afraid to pursue my dream of studying fashion. Almost everyone had told me it's an impossible career and will never work. 

It wasn’t until my older sister, Tayla, showed me this course and helped me enrol. This led me into the 3-year Bachelor in Fashion Design with Holmesglen from 2023 to 2025'.

What are your key inspirations as a designer?

'My key inspirations are anything theatrical, campy, and queer. Movies and TV shows are also a big inspiration, especially historically accurate period pieces'.

Why do you think it’s essential for diverse voices to make their mark in fashion?

'Diverse voices need to make their mark as we have been here the whole time, and we are finally in an age where we can be creatively queer and free. In such an accepting society, comparing it to only 30–40 years ago, there are so many more queer people that have a right to be heard, and everything they have to say is just as important as the next person'.

What advice would you give to someone considering doing a VET design course?

'My advice to someone considering doing a VET design course is 'just do it'. It's like a taste test into the real world. 

Some people from my course went on to create their own brands or gain skills and knowledge to get a job in their preferred design area. And some, like me, loved the learning and the knowledge the teachers have, and so continued to a higher degree'.

What’s your dream or goal after graduating?

'After graduating, I hope to be a successful costume designer or something in the field of theatre or acting as a designer. I would also love to dip into cosplay and drag costuming'.