You might have missed it, but the first online fashion debate of 2023 was triggered by a plain white camisole tank top. It all started on 1st January, when 20-year-old content creator Josephine uploaded a stop-motion unboxing video to TikTok.
The brand in question, LA-based Tank Air Studio, was no stranger to virality. Bella Hadid is a fan, which pretty much guarantees popularity among those in the know. But while many influencers had already made videos about their pieces, Josephine’s hit different. Why? Well, it’s probably got something to do with her caption: “Unboxing my dream top <3”.
Now with more than 2.2 million views, Josephine’s TikTok video soon migrated to Twitter, where those less acquainted with Bella’s favourite basics weighed in: “I’m losing my mind,” said one user. “Three pounds at Primark I swear by God,” commented another.
But this top had cost $70 and, according to Josephine, was worth every penny – even though it was actually her sister who bought it as a Christmas gift.
“I personally have tried my best to move away from fast fashion, so the price to me was never an issue. This is an independent brand,” she says. “I also figured that the quality would be so good that I would not need to replace this top for probably five years plus. I thought this is clearly worth the money.”
Everyone else who’s got their hands on the tank top seems to agree. “The perfect tank does exist…” reads the caption on TikTok user Brooklynn Gallagher’s video. “Tank Air Studio makes the best basics,” confirmed influencer Steph Bright. According to the brand’s website, it’s the subtle flare at the bottom of the top that makes its design so special. But naturally, we had to speak to Tank Air Studio’s founder, Claire Robertson-Macleod, to find out more.
“Our essentials are all about bringing high quality fabrics to pieces you can wear every day and night; they are a marriage between sexy and functional,” she says over email. “We spend a lot of time sampling different patterns and testing different fits. I also have my friends test each piece to get as much feedback as possible.”
Part of the magic also comes from the sueded stretch jersey fabric which is super soft and, crucially, thick enough to provide support. “It’s not see-through and you don’t have to wear a bra with it,” Robertson-Macleod explains. “It’s form-fitting enough that it gives you the support a bra gives you but without the feeling of actually wearing a bra.”
In fact, this is the main reason Josephine loves her white tank so much. “It doesn’t feel like you’re trying to fit in the top, it feels like the top is trying to fit you,” she says. “People are saying they could get this top from Target or WalMart, but the quality wouldn’t be the same.” She’s such a big fan that, just a week after receiving her white tank, she’s already planning to order two more in black for her and her sister.
Indeed, for many fans of the brand, the “Studio Tank”, as it’s formally known, seems to be something of a gateway drug. Delve into the brand’s hashtag on TikTok and you’ll find videos of girls showing off their collections, as well as hauls and unboxings.
“Their quality is honestly unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced before. I have all their tanks,” says 21-year-old Amy Lillian in one of her many Tank Air haul videos. “And they are so transparent about their practices and what they pay their workers.”
For young shoppers with cash to burn, that last part is particularly important. Research has found that Gen Z are willing to pay more for a brand that feels authentic, shares their values, cares about its employees and runs in a sustainable way. Tank Air ticks pretty much most of those boxes. Unlike a lot of brands, it’s extremely open about employee’s welfare, for instance. “We have two sewers, who are brothers. We met when we were both starting our respective businesses and have since grown our businesses together,” says Robertson-Macleod. “We work with our sewers and cutters directly to ensure they are paid fairly. Their wage comes out to well beyond the minimum requirement set by California, in reaction to fast fashion brands working with factories that paid as little as two cents per piece.”
Ticking the sustainability box, however, has become increasingly difficult as the business has grown. “When we first started Tank Air [in 2018], all of our pieces were cut from deadstock fabric. Overtime, it became really difficult to continue sourcing deadstock fabric that had the same quality that our customers love,” continues Robertson-Macleod. “High quality deadstock fabric is hard to find and, when you do come across some it’s usually in super limited quantities, which allows for a small production run.”
This means that the tank top actually isn’t one of the brand’s sustainable pieces. “For essentials like the Studio Tank, we didn’t want one customer to receive a different quality top than their friend,” she explains. “But while we don’t use deadstock fabric for our tank anymore, we still locally source all of our cut and sew fabrics from a mill in LA, and still continue to sew small batch productions locally in Downtown Los Angeles, in an effort to keep our quality high and not over produce on any styles.”
Not everyone has the cash for a $70 plain tank top. But if you can afford to invest, you can be confident your money will be fairly distributed throughout the entire supply chain. “Making things locally, ethically and in small batches does end up costing more, but we’re able to ensure high quality and that everyone is treated and paid well,” says Robertson-Macleod.
For Josephine, this is a huge part of the Studio Tank’s appeal. “Brands [like Tank Air] just are genuinely better and operate in a much more ethical way,” she says. “I did consume quite a lot of fast fashion in the past, but that deterred me from actually finding my personal style.” Now that she’s investing in quality basics, Josephine’s enjoying experimenting with layering and accessorising.
But while Tank Air Studio has become known for its staples, tank tops and baby tees aren’t the only thing it’s good for. Other key It girl pieces include hand-painted sheer mini dresses, butterfly pointelle tops, lightweight knits and a particularly sexy bodysuit, all of which add subtly opulent twists to classic styles. From afar, it might simply look like you’re wearing a standard, red midi skirt, for example, but up close intricate details are revealed.
“The vision for Tank Air has always been to create a house for multiple lines across luxury, essentials and objects,” Robertson-Macleod says. The cult following? That’s just an added bonus.