It all started when Clare Robertson-Macleod’s visa expired a few years ago. After establishing a life for herself in Los Angeles, the young designer had to pack up and move back to her native Bangkok. “When your life gets uprooted, it forces you to reevaluate and think about what you really want in life.” What she wanted, she decided, was to start her own fashion label. She’d spent a few years studying at Central Saint Martins in London and always had aspirations to become a designer.
Growing up between Bangkok and London, Robertson-Macleod was surrounded by fashion, mainly because of her mother’s successful modeling career in Thailand and because she helped her aunt, a local designer, source fabrics and sew some garments. A couple of years ago, Robertson-Macleod returned to L.A. and began work on her brand, Tank Air. Her line of essential tees, skirts, pants, and dresses launched late last year and has since captured the attention, and Instagram feeds, of influencers like Kim Kardashian West and Kylie Jenner.
Despite the attention that Tank Air has received from notable personalities, models, and musicians, Robertson-Macleod insists that going viral isn’t the point. Her bike-short bodysuits and slinky slip dresses may appear to be in the same family as the hundreds of contemporary, influencer-approved brands carrying the same garments at an approachable price point, but Tank Air, which is an anagram for her cousin and best friend Katrina, offers something slightly different.
“There is luxury and there is contemporary, and I just wanted something in between,” Robertson-Macleod says. “My mum’s hand-me-downs gave me an appreciation for luxury fabrics and quality construction. They also made me realize that I don’t have pieces that I really love, treasure, and will save to give to my children because everything feels really ephemeral right now.” Tank Air’s tightly edited collection is made in downtown L.A. with sueded jersey, four-ply silks, and 100 percent cashmere sourced from Japan and Italy. The price point starts around $195 and tops out at $690. As Robertson-Macleod explains further in her brand statement: “Our goal was to recast a version of the feminine identity in a modern society, and in doing so, we found ourselves with one foot in the luxury market and the other in the contemporary market.”
Robertson-Macleod is passionate about filling this small niche, but more than that, she is hoping to build a real community around Tank Air, not one focused solely on Instagram influencers, but women in general. “In my opinion, this generation wants to be more than just part of an audience,” she says. “I think they care deeply about finding a part of themselves reflected in their choices and associations with people, brands, products. With Instagram, brands now have a space in which they can imbue identity into their products, giving the consumer the option to actually connect with a brand on a personal level.”
Robertson-Macleod has “no idea” how the Kardashian-Jenner teams found Tank Air, nor does she know what the future holds in terms of other celebrities. For now, she’s focused on building her brand, her community. “Tank Air really came to mind when I realized I didn’t have a go-to label,” she says. “There are so many beautiful womenswear brands in both the luxury and contemporary market, but I never felt like any of them really ‘got’ me. It’s hard to really relate to a brand’s identity when they don’t look like you, speak like you, or think like you. So I decided to be my own representation.”