Well it’s May already. May always means something to me, over and above the other months of the year. A few things come to mind. First of all, it is my birthday month. Second it is the time of Fashion Week, (albeit not this year). Thirdly it is the time of year when my heart breathes a sigh of relief, the leaves fall, and with it any lingering heavy energies slip away, ready to be transformed by the crisp and present coolness of winter. A time of reflection, nurturing and the potential creation of ideas ready to ignite and blossom in the Spring. One such project has been in the creative stages for quite some time now, and as all creative people know dreams are not and should not, be manifested too hastily. Continue Reading…
Well, here it is.
The article on social media I have been promising for years. You will notice that I have named it Unsocial Media, so at this junction you will glean an insight into my feelings on the subject. For those who know me professionally and personally you will know that this is a subject close to my heart and you will also be well versed in my opinion about social media and the destruction it causes in peoples lives, young and old. Those same people have been asking repeatedly when I was going to write this article which I have contemplated for a very long time.
For reasons unknown even to myself, apart from my own intuition, I have resisted until now.
It seems the time is now.
For the longest time, I have been watching, observing, discussing, and lamenting the some positives but largely negative impacts of the shiny, interactive platforms we call “social media”. It is a contentious subject at the very least, and one which creates very heated responses very quickly in any group you care to mention, but especially the fashion industry. For at least the last three years at Sydney Fashion Week, sadly cancelled this year, this discussion has been one that doesn’t get old. Most people I’ve spoken with have a love/hate relationship with it for a plethora of valid reasons.
In our current global situation, where social media is playing an even greater role in the lives of nearly everyone we know, it has become alarmingly apparent to me that platforms upon which the fashion world particularly focuses has reached the lowest ebb ever. You might ask which platforms I am referring to? Well, Instagram mostly and Facebook to a lesser degree as I think it is no longer patronised by the fashion world to the extent it once was.
I have seen a rapid decline in interesting content on Instagram and in my opinion it has just turned into a tart. A once interesting, varied, high quality content experience has now mutated into a highly inane and dissatisfying experience of scrolling, and subjection to copious amounts of people yelling at me through automated videos about subjects which hold no interest or connection to my account. Advertisements that I spend my life trying to lessen (when I can be bothered) answering Instagram’s questions about “why I don’t want to see this”. Followed by nauseating low level porn that I have grown so tired of seeing that my eyes glaze over at having to semi-accept the garbage being presented as “content”.
In the hope of not offending anyone, it is also rapidly turning into a vehicle of self promotion for many. Even in the current global circumstances, where most fashion people have literally gone from working jobs to not at all, I have witnessed quite a number of people continuing to self promote, instead of creating vehicles that collectively help the many in order to drive change and hope for all of our fashion futures.
I cannot be the only person who is so irritated by Instagram brands who have no real brick and mortar presence, and therefore no real “skin in the game’. Massive followings, important Instagram space, yes. Don’t we have to question the actual contribution to the industry? Is it not a question of ethics? We are now so vocal about the ethical responsibility of brands, the hows and the wheres of their production but yet we fail to discuss the ethical presence of those brands on social media and the impact they have on the real fashion and retail platforms.
Then of course, there is the subject of the “influencer” and the role they should be allowed to play within our fashion world. Both difficult subjects I know, and believe me, I have been present in so many discussions around both these subjects. I know how contentious they are and have been in a few heated discussions of my own. I don’t say that there is no place for these things but I am a big fan of bringing elements to the fashion industry at large that serve the collective and not individuals. Our industry can no longer afford or sustain this selfish approach of self serving and self important behaviour. Things are way too dire for that. I believe our focus needs to be around contribution and what serves our collective interests and subsequent global recognition.
Rightly or wrongly, I have a very small Instagram following. I think the term for someone like me is a “micro-influencer” in the sense that my following genuinely follows my fashion work. Importantly, I don’t feel the need to have a large following, and as a dear friend and professional colleague of mine said, “keeping track of and controlling social media is a job in itself and if you are a solo business person it’s often hard to do this. You find yourself wasting time trying to work on your social media presence instead of working on your strengths within your business. I find that I have the potential to waste a lot of time trying to understand growing a business via social media, which can be frustrating when that is not your strength. It can also be hard to navigate the authenticity of accounts and products, as people tend to believe in products simply if they have a good account with lots of followers, which can be just smoke and mirrors”.
Perfectly described don’t you think? And no, she is not old like I am so it is not a generational difference.
To further this narrative, some years ago now, I well remember speaking to another in the fashion world; a beautiful, successful, young woman who described her feelings around social media like she was a cardboard cutout due to the isolation she felt due to the pressures put upon her by social media. The expectations, the perfect lifestyle, and the constant perceived requirement to post content, several times each day, which would serve to impress or dare I say “trump”, her followers and friends. I am not suggesting that she fell into this trap, because, we all know it is a trap, right? I am only describing the sentiment of her words and the potential debilitating consequences and subsequent feelings of inadequacy and misery for those who do succumb to its powers. A very real problem in our current world wrapped up in our collective addiction to devices, low attention spans, and our unhealthy patterns of communicating through devices versus open communication.
She also commented that she struggled to come to terms with the level of comparison she felt in all aspects of her life because of her social media accounts. This ranged from her hair, body and beauty choices, her choice of boyfriend, her living quarters, her lifestyle, hobbies and diet. She explained that she felt this led to an inauthentic expression of herself and the resulting inability to live a life that was just her own. She felt the pressure to keep up with her friends and their illusory social media lives was at times, crushing, and perhaps even worse, that her most personal moments, those which she cherished alongside her greatest disappointments were exposed not only for everyone to see, but for all and sundry, many of whom were complete strangers, to comment on and gloat over. My heart melted when I heard her describe the effect social media had had on her young life. Simultaneously, I was extremely heartened to witness her realisation that her own common sense and innate sense of self prevailed as she declared she did not need social media to revel in her own authenticity and shine in her own beautiful essence.
I post to Instagram rarely now. Largely because I am genuinely busy and partly because I don’t want to bore people with content about nothing. I post when I feel I can motivate, inspire or uplift people who genuinely follow my work and whom I can help. In essence, I try only to share the love and the passion of the work I do in Australian Fashion.
My dear friend went on to say, “I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I don’t spend a lot of time on it because I recognise that it can put me in a negative state of mind. I enjoy it in small doses”. She went on to say, “on the other hand I don’t like the feeling that you may be missing out on some particular thing. Being able to look at so many different activities in one quick moment makes you feel you should be packing more into your day/life. It often confuses what your values are in relation to others. For example, seeing a picture of a mother baking with their child all of a sudden makes you feel like you should be baking with your children, when this isn’t necessarily a passion of yours.
It can create unnecessary anxiety in this way.
I don’t often feel jealous because I want people to have amazing lives and love people doing well and succeeding. This makes me feel happy, but social media sometimes makes me feel like I’m not doing/achieving what I should be”.
An older person I know, and a mother of three told me that all her kids are completely addicted to social media, particularly her teenage daughter. She said that she personally used social media as a tool, as she regarded it as beneficial and informative for shopping, trends, and news.
Hmmm. I don’t know what I think about that. Shopping? Well, maybe.
Trends? Does the world actually have trends anymore? I think we’ve moved past that.
News? Well, let’s not go there.
She did make the comment that in their (kids) head, social media was their link to the rest of the world and that it was an addiction. I liked her honesty.
My focus is really on whether social media is negative or positive and how it relates to the fashion world. So on we go.
There is something else that really worries me about the social media world and its particular relevance to the fashion world.
It is just me? … or are many young women and men starting to look like each other?
This insistent and consistent trend for the young ones to look the “same” is really disturbing.
Why and how have we created and consented to a world where individual differences are not celebrated? I am not talking about runways, only general audience here. Why have our levels of self esteem plummeted to the all-time-low of not being comfortable with ‘who we truly are’, and if this is truly the paradigm we are happy to accept, what depths of despair awaits us?
Is the older generation of fashionistas responsible for this and if so, did we not have a duty of care to mentor this younger generation of fashion followers? This tendency to over-do everything … fake tan, enhancing boobs, eyelashes, waistlines, and butts is not only ugly but completely unnatural not to mention the shellac! I don’t want to think for a nano second what the health implications might be down the track and don’t even start me on the eyebrows!!! You can hate me if you want, but I say, it is time to reclaim our natural beauty and encourage the young ones to do the same, in all our glory. We all possess beauty in one form or another, and the tendency to want to look like each other is an aspect which belongs to sheep not the human race.
My purpose in writing this article is not to bad mouth social media as part of me does recognise its benefits, although I do believe that many accounts are reducing to all time lows as every day passes. I do however see a lot of misery and sadness created by this illusory reality which takes us away from our blessed daily lives and the beautiful experience that living in every moment can provide. Whilst our heads are buried in our phones and our social media accounts, real opportunities and real life friendships are walking by. I encourage you to be led by your heart, and return to your true fashion souls. Be who you are and be proud of you. Be strong in your sense of self and by all means, beautify your magnificent self. I don’t mean to put guidelines around what this might mean for you as individuals, for of course, that is not my place. I also love to beautify myself, and for all the people that love and know me … they will tell you … I am as vain as all Hell!
Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that!
In the heyday of my styling years, I used to tell the scores of women and men I styled, and occasionally even now when I fall back to that work, “look into that mirror and have the courage to see the beautiful soul that is looking back at you. Allow your tears to flow in the realisation of who you truly are, and adorn your magnificent self appropriately”.
It seems the pertinent moment in time to let all you beautiful fashion people know, that I have cried real tears for the state of the fashion world right now. I come however with a message of great hope and to let all of you know that all will be well.
Yes, our industry will change and perhaps the new fashion world will be unrecognisable to some. It is a change that has been coming for a very long time, and one that is timely and sadly, very necessary.
Our new fashion space will be refreshingly re-calibrated, and those people who were temporarily acting as place holders, but who never really cared, will fall away.
Those who remain will be the real deal ; The leaders ; Those who hold, and who always have, held the vision of what is to come and those who possess the ability to take it to new heights ; Those people will rebuild the amazingness of what has never been in question – the brilliance of Australian Fashion.
Be a vehicle of light everyone and hold your heads high. This too shall pass and when it does, the landscape of Australian Fashion will never look so bright …
Watch this space.
Until next time,
A couple of years ago, I was sitting front row at the Fashion Design Studio‘s graduate runway as I do each and every year. It is my yearly gift to FDS that I write an article about the emerging designers who most stand out for me and to support the incredible contribution and long list of enormously successful designers which have called FDS their home. Continue Reading…
Well, I’ve just had my birthday and that always means one thing … Fashion Week is over.
This year Sydney Fashion Week was a completely different experience for its devotees, as many less than positive media articles have already touched on. An event usually well patronised, it was unusually quiet and I have to agree that it wasn’t the well oiled machine of times past. But I think we can all agree we are in changing times aren’t we and as such, are collectively witnessing phenomenal transformations.
The absolute highlight this year was the Aqua Blu show; always a hit in the eyes of the media worldwide, but this year even more so.
For me, the Aqua Blu show rocked for a totally different and very personal reason.
You’ll notice the title of this article. FROW TO RUNWAY … My Journey.
Let me explain. Usually, I get to hang out in the front row …
So here we are again.
Fashion Week 2019.
It started with a bang last night at the AJE show which opened the week and which all fashionistas and industry heavy-weights wait for.
My fashion family are around me again. Simply. Excitement and hugs all ’round.
Day 1 this year is the day ‘The Innovators’, the FDS Alumni get to show Australian fashion devotees what they are truly capable of, not to mention the direction in which our beloved industry is travelling.
I am always in awe of the talent which struts that runway and this year will be no different. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that we are in for something really special.
I literally can’t wait to grace the FROW. I don’t always get to sit in the FROW and I am totally happy with that. I feel privileged to be able to attend any of the shows and feel blessed to be seated at all.
Sitting in the front row however at The Innovators show is an essential, because it is from this vantage point that I and many others can truly appreciate the blood, sweat and tears which have been spilled over these intricate and varied collections. Every detail, stitch, and beads of anxious perspiration that has baptised every, single, piece.
For these young designers, Fashion Week is EVERYTHING.
It is their introduction to playing with the Big Kids on the Block, and I should imagine it has its bloody scary moments.
I sat down and had a chat with Alex Zehntner, Senior Design Lecturer, followed by some insights of some of the designers who will be showing this year.
Please … Share the LOVE!
Senior Design Lecturer, person extraordinaire, lover of style, and creative mentor to Fashion Design Studio is utterly dedicated to the legacy we create for Australian emerging fashion designers.
We caught up this morning and he shared his thoughts about why FDS churns out the most fabulous talent, time and again, each and every year filling our fashion minds with respect and our fashion hearts with joy.
“All our full time staff have been with the school for over a decade, and have exceptional hands-on skills in all areas. We also work closely and carefully with industry experts who act as guest lecturers in their areas of speciality. Also, our part time teachers are currently working in the Australian fashion industry.
We are committed to teaching our students the importance of conceptual and original thinking. To understand the crucial and full aspects of the design process is key – from inception through to completion. There is enormous focus on traditional hand skills such as bespoke tailoring, couture hand finishing, menswear and sportswear, textile printing and surface design.
All students must be committed to building and successfully developing strong skills in all areas of fashion, fashion design, the history of fashion and its evolution, pattern cutting, drawing, textile and CAD design as well as business acumen.
This is done extensively and students dedicate hours to each subject. They must be deemed competent in order to pass each subject allowing them opportunity to continue on with the course.
Once they have completed two very intense years they are required to focus on a third year, culminating in their fashion design degree. This final year is filled with notions of collaborations and sustainability and this is infused consistently throughout the course. Also, in this final year, the students are guided through the global fashion industry and introduced to local and international artisans and contacts to create their final collections.
We already have a fabulous vehicle to showcase the seemingly never-ending talent that is FDS, but we need the industry itself to support emerging designers through financial grants, government interest and funding. A general nurturing and support from Australian industry platforms at large is necessary.
It is our greatest desire to see this sector grow so that we are able to provide the proper legacy for this country’s future fashion designers; something so many who have gone before, have been able to take for granted”.
Alex Zehntner – Senior Lecturer, Fashion Design Studio.
Sarah Moore – MANON
I began my career in nutrition after studying Health Science straight out of school, however I felt that something was missing from my life. After a period of reflection I decided follow my passion for beautiful, interesting and unusual fashion and become a fashion designer.
My short term plan was to work for a label so I could gain some insights into the industry and how it works. Now that I have completed fashion design I dream of having my own label and potentially working away from Sydney.
My label, MANON possesses a dark and moody tone. It sits in alignment with my desire to finding beauty in the duality and darker things in life.
I am drawn to monochromatic looks and garments which promote the layering of texture versus colour.
My choice in using limited colours forces me to broaden my aesthetic through the mastering of patterning and textile manipulations. Establishing the “signature” of my brand was the easiest part, and it is deeply linked in with my true nature and aspirations. My process is always developed around the particular mood and feeling that I want to convey and is always represented in the mixed media images which I create.
The target age for my brand is for women between 25-40 as I feel there is a significant gap in the market for this demographic. I focus on sustainability in my design process and this allows me to create garments which are “forever wearable”. I pay attention to utilising subtraction cutting methods which importantly reduce fabric wastage and wherever possible I include locally sourced natural fibres. FDS is not for the faint hearted. The course is tough and full-on, but I have left with enormously strong skills. I am extremely grateful for the wealth of knowledge which I can now confidently build my fashion future on.
It’s very easy to learn to sew, design and create, but to take all this to a further level, requires an immense amount of well, sacrifice.
To manifest the dream of fashion week, every waking second must be devoted to the cause. For me being mentally prepared and strong is a very important aspect. Sitting in four walls, most days, can take its toll. Having systems in place to stay focused and motivated is important. Ted-Talks, fashion documentaries and fashion movies have kept me inspired. Strong support systems, family and my teachers at college with whom I could be open and honest were key.
Studying, FDS industry night, and now Fashion Week. My biggest anxiety was being able to juggle everything. I was never concerned about my skill of sewing, cutting or construction. I work 3-4 days in the industry and am blessed to have a brilliant team of hand sewers who did help me with hand work and embellishments.
Australian born to Lebanese parents, provided the combination of two very different cultures and has allowed me to break the mould of couture in Australian fashion. The excess and luxury of middle eastern fashion flows through my collections and my label is totally made in Australia.
This years collection “Azrael” is a narrative based on women and mental and emotional trauma. My demographic is women who have an appreciation for quality, handmade and intricately detailed garments. Couture is a very detailed, precise and tactile form of construction.
I’ve always loved the notion of a “Couture Maison”. To create an empire, home based to live, work, and meet clients is my dream.
One of the few things that the Australian fashion platform is missing, is support.
Label Ministry and other similar platforms are a fundamental cog in the fashion machine. It is so important that there are people writing about designers, getting to know who they are, what they do, and how they get to the point of creating a collection.
I find that Australian fashion has long been extremely commercialised; the sad reality is that designers that once made it due to their innovation and creativity are slowing acquiescing to the demands of what sells.
Mia Rodriguez – Mi’an’Mar
I’ve literally always wanted to be a fashion designer – right down to my early days in kindergarten where we asked to draw what we wanted to be. Mine said. Mia – Fashion Designer.
It means a great deal to be involved in Fashion Week. Long, long nights and hard work have paid off.
The opportunity is something I have been working towards for the last three years of my fashion life. I hope that literally everyone loves my collection.
Building dreams of a career in fashion is not an easy thing to accomplish and it is platforms like Label Ministry which help us to gain confidence in our careers, bringing publicity and attention through the coverage of our journeys, and to instil the importance in our minds of working hard and understanding that this equals success.
I have enormous confidence in my designs as I alone know, how much work goes into them. Naturally I hope that the industry at large will see this too. The fashion world is so hectic, but it is really a buzz to see everyone gathering around a runway to see what I have been designing and creating.
I’ve had a blast at FDS and looking back on it I have experienced such amazing moments. Our buying trip to China and India with our incredible design teacher, and then on to Paris and London for couture. Now Fashion Week! It’s so incredible.
I think the teachers at Fashion Design Studio … ROCK!
They care so much and they really push for all of us to succeed and excel!
In the lyrics of a song I liked, I remember the words … “He is not fancy; he just wears black”.
This epitomised the underlying basis of my brand aesthetic and largely formed the reason I use so much colour.
I think it’s fun to be bold and to be seen! You only live once so why go under the radar?
I use illustrations for all my garments and I firmly believe the inside should be just as important as the outside. If you look inside of any of my garments you’ll see hand drawn printed linings that tell a story.
I think, being a part of the fashion industry it’s so hard not to compare your designs and style to others, but I think my most brilliant moment was realising that there is no point comparing and now I can really embrace myself, my aesthetic and joyfully, my fashion future.
Mi’an’Mar … stands on its own.
Ineson’s aesthetic is refined, sophisticated, deconstructed, with a focus on tailoring, feminine draping and silhouettes designed to flatter the body.
The label, while highly conceptual, is firmly focused on remaining wearable and long lasting. It is designed for women of all ages, not trend focused.
Ineson almost exclusively used natural fibres.
I am ethically aware, and where I have outsourced labour, it has been done in Australia and a fair wage has always been paid.
Once the label goes into production, I would need to produce overseas however I would strive to always seek ethical options.
I studied and continue to explore traditional and unique pattern making methods. My collection merges these processes and expands upon them. This experimental approach creates the innovative silhouettes and details that Ineson strongly identifies with.
I think my passion and skill in pattern making is what sets me apart. My design process is mainly pattern making. I am not a designer who can design through illustration – I design as I drape and pattern make.
The textiles for this collection are inspired by Kylie Minogue’s music video, Slow, a pop-culture reference rich with elements which draw inspiration from a Barcelona skyline, rippling waters, and sunbathers upon pool tiles.
I chose to study at FDS because of their incredible Alumni.
The intensity and fast pace of the course means that only the students with passion and talent are successful.
Meet the designers here |
Until next time,
Tonight, I had the pleasure of attending the Fashion Design Studio’s 2018 annual graduate runway.
The eagerly awaited fashion spectacle which showcases the most celebrated of their students. The outstanding and often times breathtaking talent is awe inspiring and one must always remember that we are, in that very moment, bearing witness to those who will be the future heroes of the Australian fashion industry.
May I open with this.
Fashion design is not for the faint hearted.
If you’ve been keeping up with our latest articles, you already know that Label Ministry ventured to lovely Auckland for New Zealand Fashion Week in August this year.
While most of Jade’s mission at NZFW revolved around the production of the unreal runway show for Heaven Swimwear I was lucky enough to have some time to kick back in the front-row of several other shows.
While I relished my time at every show, one label stood out among the rest. An… orange diamond in the (not-at-all) rough, if you will …
As you know Label Ministry recently visited New Zealand for fashion week. I was there to cover and work on the Heaven swimwear show for which I crafted the involvement of none other than the amazing Imogen Anthony, beauty extraordinaire and one of the best walkers of the catwalk I have ever seen.
This year for the first time, I travelled with Sophie, my wonderful intern who will, as I explained in a previous article be contributing to Label Ministry from now on. It is a most gleeful subject that Label Ministry is growing at an incredibly exciting rate and Sophie’s experience in the Australian fashion industry is greatly welcomed and appreciated. She is experienced in fashion public relations and writing as I am sure you will find evident in her article below on Rachel Mills …
Say a big hello!
Rachel Mills gently set in motion day two of New Zealand Fashion week this Tuesday gone. They are an Auckland-based womenswear label committed to sustainability and the sole use of local manufacturers. The label is based on seeking to “transform the process of getting dressed into a ritual rather than a chore.” Their designs can only be described as gracefully modern and charming, and the Rachel Mills Fashion week session captured this entirely.
The intimate installation was essentially a room for spectators to walk through, broken up by the blocking of different models against hanging material. It took place in The Studio of the ANZ Viaduct Events Centre, inducing a sense of ease in all of us who, (at first hazily), wandered through the room. The studio itself had high ceilings and a definite industrial sense about it, which made it feel, when set against the installation, like a New York loft apartment or a quiet street when one meandered within it.
Almost every piece in the collection was simplistic but embellished tastefully with romantic wraps, folds, relaxed fits, clinched-waists and tie details. The colour palette mostly stuck to light-greys, whites, and neutrals, with the occasional delightful pop of lemon or electric blue. The result: A willowy, sophisticated, feminine, effortlessly-cool vibe. The pieces on show largely tailored to smart-casual looks, but could be suitable for any occasion that calls for an understated yet chic beauty.
The piece that stood out most for me was the ‘Divided Pants’ in Harlequin spot and organic multi check, available now online for pre-order. (IMAGE: Divided Pant.jpg). The pants are split into two different halves: A soft cotton check in pale purple and white, and a silky black and white polka dot. They can be styled to look almost like a wrap maxi-skirt, or just left looking like trousers. I don’t quite understand the mechanics behind the pants and how they transform, but they were very flattering on model Diana Anuenue who sported them styled as a skirt on the day, and something I’m dying to get my hands on.
The room was dimmed, while the beautiful wistful-looking models were lit up against sheer curtains that evoked the feeling of a lazy Sunday morning. Most notable among them was stunning model Raina Masters, who commanded the room with her warm disposition and enthusiasm to quietly work with those photographing her, making for an enjoyable and personable event so different to that of many other installations.
Cinematic projections played out against the fabric backdrops, with the enchanting live vocals of Lilly Carron weaving a post-breakup mood that was utterly dreamy and captivating. It was as though Lilly’s presence was a ‘final destination’ within the installation, as at first it seemed that the vocals were recorded. Alas- no. Lilly’s voice really was that hauntingly beautiful live, and added the final touch needed to concoct Rachel Mills’ magical session. Lilly Carron is certainly one to keep an eye on for those interested in the music scene looking to support local vocalists as well as local fashion labels.
The whole thing had me wanting to own and wear every piece on show, while sitting in a cafe, gazing out a window at rainy streets with Lilly’s rendition of Etta James’ ‘I Would Rather Go Blind’ on repeat.
If it was Rachel Mills’ intention to have me wanting to stay a while with a book and a hot cup of tea…
She certainly succeeded.
Until next time,
This year I was fortunate enough to meet a wonderful inspiring woman by the name of Rebecca O’Hearn, the founder of a website which you may have heard of … Smart. Casual. Classic.
A website, refreshingly aimed at the 45+ market age and imperfection is almost the centre point for all it represents and encompasses. A wonderful juxtaposition of style, health, and fashion for the older market.
With a background in Australian magazines and media, she spent seven years with FHM where her position culminated as the Fashion and Grooming Editor. She then went on to be the Fashion Editor of Woman’s Day, and during her time there, Bauer launched Yours magazine for which she became Fashion Editor also. In 2017 Bauer closed the title at which time she directed her passions online to her current website.
Bec describes Smart. Casual. Classic as the “market out there who are starving for relevant content for the mature Australian woman”.
As many of you will already know, in August of this year I travelled to Auckland, New Zealand to work on the Heaven Swimwear show.
As a show producer, fashion editor and stylist I was privileged to bring on board for this event, the beautiful Imogen Anthony who walked for the show. The first time ever that an Australian swimwear label has shown in NZ.
And walk she did.
Like a boss.
And … mustn’t forget the gorgeous boys!
This article however is to celebrate the designer behind this ever growing label Heaven who has now stepped in to some very large shoes after the Creative Director of Oz Swim Group, Kristian Chase has decided to concentrate solely on designing the globally acclaimed sister label Aqua Blu.
Enter Stephanie Cunningham …
Stephanie Cunningham started her Fashion Design degree in 2008 at Whitehouse. Starting with sixty in the course, it soon reduced to twenty five. Right from her point of graduation, Stephanie went straight to Hussy as an intern and describes this as most fortuitous as it pushed her into the industry straight away. They produced womens clothing, shoes and accessories. From there she went into a hands-on-role in sampling and designing for a girl who started a formal wear label. From there. she moved across to a label which produced a maternity line. As strange as that seems it gave Stephanie three solid years of well rounded and invaluable experience. As the fabrics were all stretch it provided Stephanie with the knowledge and all she needed to know about creating fashion “with a bump”. During this time, the label opened a physical store, so Stephanie learned to interact with customers to find out exactly what they wanted. After that she went to bridal wear, again dealing directly with customers which allowed her to see the design process right through from start to finish. She then started to design for herself and finally moved across into swimwear.
What is the only aesthetic you haven’t worked on so far?
Probably, denim …
In your experience, what does the customer want?
The customer wants “the familiar” but not something that has been done before. For example, women love the crop top but my job is not just to re-create the crop top. It is to take the popular item and add fresh, new elements to create a new masterpiece.
In my mind, this is the problem with Instagram brands who churn out the same thing. I think the design element is missing and does not consider what the customer wants.
What is your opinion of social media?
I love social media and as the same time, I hate social media.
People who follow Instagram closely seem to take so much notice of the influencers but some of the brands saturate Instagram so much with the same material that there is a real pressure for everyone to look the same.
Heaven has strongly pushed the view forward that our customers do not have to look like everyone else. I think we are helping people to realise that they don’t have to look like they are all the same and that in reality, colour and individuality speak volumes.
Why do you think people who follow Instagram feel like it’s important to look the same?
I think it’s because of the celebrity culture, and everyone is desperate to fit in.
Slightly older groups have the opinion that they don’t want to be the same, but the younger demographic does not know anything different and therefore, don’t have the confidence to be completely individual.
We are seeing lately a translation of older designs, and the revival culture is huge which really equals a trend. To me, this proves that we are not completely innovating as much as we could, and this is why we try to be as creative as we can at Heaven to fill in those fashion and social gaps.
What is your opinion of the influencer?
In some ways I think that the influencer is unnecessary due to the the constant saturation of that one person and one general style.
On the other hand, I feel that it can work well, as long as the influencer translates specifically to the brand that they are aligned with.
There is an obsessive tendency around the culture of Instagram and influencers, so I would prefer to see “quality over quantity”. The exposure should be about the brand, not the influencer.
The saturation point has reached an all time high and over exposure can reverse the benefits to a brand.
At Heaven we are extremely careful to research the value of the influencer to make sure that it is right for our brand and not just an avenue to provide the influencer with free content.
What is your opinion of paid posts on Instagram?
In my opinion that would be need to be attached to specific strategy and my feeling is many Instagram brands are fleeting and this is the reason why.
What do you think about influencers sitting in the FROW at events?
I think the same strategy applies, and for my brand it is important that loyalty for our customers is paramount.
The industry people who attend our shows actually bring something to the event, the industry, the brand and its culture. They are not just there for the selfies.
It is the difference between having a brand that has the real world aspects; bricks and mortar office space, staff, sewing rooms, etc and the desire to be globally successful and recognised. Very different to some of todays “Instagram” brands.
What keeps the Heaven brand so well patronised and popular is the attention you pay to your customers and quite simply the quality. Would you agree?
Yes. We work hard at those aspects and they have always been at the pinnacle of our brand motivation.
I was reading an article the other day about the huge problem of things being worn, and then returned in massive numbers via online shopping portals. What is your view about this problem?
I think it comes back to the same old problem that we can’t see, feel and try the garment and therefore our motivation becomes purchasing for the instant adrenalin rush of something new, the Instagram post and the ultimate “like”. It is no longer about the garment, but more so about the moment.
Where do you see the future of Heaven?
Well, quite literally at the moment? … the sky’s the limit.
Funny about that … it is after all called Heaven 🙂
Model Extraordinaire | Imogen Anthony
Imogen’s Team | JayMillionaires
Photography | Thanks to Fiona Goodall of Getty Images for the photographs.
Check out the beautiful, luxurious garments by Heaven.
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Until next time,