Kate knew she always wanted to be in fashion and has been sewing ever since she was 14 years old. From gloves to bags and eventually party dresses. At the time she was unsure that fashion could only be a hobby, she went on to study journalism and soon to realise her passion was for design and turned her hobby into a career and studied fashion design at RMIT . Being inspired by the world around her, including the most delicate pieces of lace and embroidery. Taking her creative journey of her own with her passion of lingerie beyond just an idea. Showing practice makes perfect, but industry based knowledge is the golden key.
During the course, we did a unit on lingerie and I instantly fell in love with the concept. For my final assessment, I made a bodysuit, a padded bra and a bralette and it marked really well. With that positive feedback, I started making bralettes at home and posting them on Instagram, and it all sort of grew from there. People started to buy them, and it was really hard to keep up with the demand, as I was hand making everything by myself.
I am a lover of fine, beautiful fabrics. I can get so inspired by the tiniest bit of vintage lace or a beautiful lace trim so I always start my collection looking at fabrications.
Travelling is a big one- I went to India for a few months just after I started KAT and it was actually amazing how inspired I felt. The fabrics over there are gorgeous and a lot were embroidered so it was absolute heaven for me, I had my sketchbook in hand constantly!
I learnt proper sewing techniques at University, (however this does not mean I am good at sewing by any means haha. I am so messy! )
iPhone (Instagram never sleeps!)
Special thanks to Kate xxx
Kirsty Irwin is a self-taught fashion designer from Adelaide. Having started at a young age her talent was strong and didn’t go unnoticed. Before Kirsty would get ready for the weekend she would think to herself “if I could wear anything what would it be”?. From there she would then go on to design her own clothes and draw them from scratch. Such a talented person it takes to do this. Kirsty first began working in retail and from there working as a wholesale fashion agent. After gaining experience she then went on to create KIRSTY IRWIN & JAGGAR the label. Now relaunching her self-named brand KIRSTY IRWIN. One of her main focuses is on cutting edge style, and quality as well as high-end pieces for individuals.
You’ve created not one but two labels! Tell us about JAGGAR The Label. How was it creating your first brand? It must’ve been exciting to get your ideas out and creating a collection!
I had actually started Kirsty Irwin before JAGGAR & that is how Australian Fashion Labels stumbled upon me as a designer. Starting up a label is a very exciting experience and I would encourage anyone to give it a crack, if you have a true passion for it.
Tell us, What made you want to create your own self-named label?
Although I had almost complete creative control with JAGGAR, designing/owning your own namesake label is a completely different experience. This is what I have always wanted to do in life, so I’m just going for it!
Typical day in the office?
Step 1- Get caffeinated… This is a very important step!
Step 2- Answer the abundant amount of emails you have received overnight.
Step 3- Could be anything! The best thing about this job is that no day is the same. Anything from designing, fittings, fabric approvals, to the administration side of the business.
What inspires you when you’re designing a collection?
I find both music & travel my biggest sources of inspiration.
How do you go about sourcing your products? Especially leather, I’ve always been so curious about the process (I'm a big fan of leather jackets… I love them!) Tell us about how you source your leather- to creating a leather jacket or leather skirt. What is the process?
I am a huge leather lover, as you probably know. So it’s all about the quality of the leather. I don’t start designing until I have found the leather that puts a smile on my dial. The process for leather styles always take a little longer, so I have to do these styles before the rest of the collection. So it’s really the leather that sets the mood for the collection sometimes.
What’s it like to see both worlds from model to fashion designer?
My sister is the one living the #modellife! I decided to stop that at a very young age. I think immersing yourself in as many sides of the fashion industry is always a good idea.
What is the most challenging thing about creating a label?
There is so much more to it that just designing. Obviously the business side is another huge aspect. You have to wear many hats, so sometimes you aren’t going to know how to wear some of them.
……And the most rewarding? If I see someone in one of my designs as I am walking down the street I give myself a little mental fist pump. I get a real kick out of girls that just contact me on social media, appreciating all the time and effort gone into their garment.
How would you describe your personal style? Does it reflect into your designs?
I always cringe when having to describe my “style”… I like to mix grungy, worn in pieces & match it back with more structured, sophisticated style. This will definitely be imminent in the KIRSTY IRWIN collections.
Your biggest achievement with your brand?
Seeing JAGGAR on the runway at Fashion Week, has been my career highlight so far. Watch this space!
And lastly, any advice and tips to people who want to get into the industry!
Prepare to work hard & be ready to overcome some hurdles along the way… It’s a wild ride, so make sure you hang on!
5 Second chit-chat with Kirsty…
Most treasured item in your closet? My first ever design… A pair of crazy leather pants!
The person that inspires me the most…… My amazing boyfriend, Tom! He is pretty much a design assistant ha ha.
When I leave the house I never leave without my…..My phone! Instagram never sleeps.
Dream location shoot? Somewhere no one else has ever been allowed.
If I could go anywhere right now I’d go to…………………………… Mexico!
Describe the fashion industry in three words. Exciting, innovative & challenging.
Definition of Style. What does style mean to you? I personally think true style is not something that can be taught; you are born with it running through your veins.
Not to long ago, I became acquainted with Tiffany at the Adelaide fashion festival. We then spoke about her personal brand and from there she explained about what she did. Her brand Millicent Elizabeth is dedicated to providing classical styles for the busy modern woman.
Millicent Elizabeth is a premium Australia clothing label. Made by hand in Australia with the use of superb natural fibers. It is a unique label in a world of mass-market fashion, as garment production is limited to just 100 garments per style. It offers clients a unique opportunity to own these limited designs as once they sell out to be collectable styles.
Tiffany has built her brand on the principle of clean modern understated elegance. Her range is clean cut and exquisitely classic. This is a powerful range and classical that will never go out of fashion and very useful for everyone’s wardrobe.
“Our philosophy is based on the fundamentals that less is more harmonised with smart design which enhances the wearers natural beauty.”
What made you create Millicent ElizabethTell us your story and your brand name.
My brand names comes from my two middle names which are named after my great-grandmothers. I started Millicent Elizabeth because I felt frustrated as a shopper and couldn’t find a modern minimalist women’s wear brand, in luxurious fabrics.
How did you get started in the industry? I started off in Merchandising
Have you always wanted to be a fashion designer? No, I tried a few things before fashion, jewelry design and found it took too long to get tot the end result, I’m pretty impatient, after I design something I want to see it in the flesh straight away to see if works or not.
Where did you study fashion? TAFE SA
How do you go about sourcing your products? I don’t source, I design, pattern make and sew it all together myself. Proudly Australian designed and made!
How long is the process of a Season collection? it takes at least 2-3 months to put a collection together, source fabrics, designing and fitting.
What is the feeling like seeing your collection on runway? It was a phenomenal feeling, it takes your breath away, make all the blood sweat and tears worth it.
Where is the final product made? In my studio, in the Mill (artist hub)
What is your favorite part about being a fashion designer? Seeing your designs on customer, make them feel beautiful confident and make the piece their own.
How and what gives your inspiration for each collection? my designs are very architectonic, so I look at architecture, art, interior design and film
Who is your target market?
25- 40 year old women who love design and who love the design detail, it’s the all in the detail. I find a lot of my clients are in the design field themselves architects and interior designers.
How would you describe your personal style? Does it reflect into your designs?
I’m very minimalistic, I don’t like over embellishment, for me less is more, black is certainly my favorite colour. I love fabric but I chose texture over print.
What’s your current achievement with the brand that you are most proud of?
Coming runner-up at this year Emerging Designer Award at the Adelaide Fashion Festival
Who’s your inspiration/ fashion designers who you look up to? Alexander Wang for Balenciaga, he was the one to bring back-packs in an elegant way.
And lastly, any advice to people who want to get into the industry! My advice is learn as much as possible from others, as people are your greatest source of information.
If you want to start a label, embodied your brand you are your greatest advertisement.
Special thanks to Tiffany xx
Glitz and Glamour there is never a dull moment with the emerging designer Courtenay. Founder of Melbourne label MAUDE Studio
Having handcrafted all her collection to shimmer perfection. Courtenay’s hard work shows in all her ultimate statement pieces.
I sat down with Courtenay for our interview inside a café, below where her studio is situated. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek upstairs. I must say it’s very enchanting to see the full range out in display I was mesmerised by the handbags, a truly beautiful collection. From lined up bags to cabineted glitzy sparkly shoes she had hand embellished herself.
Did you study fashion?
I attended RMIT’s, Bachelor Of Design (Fashion) course, I graduated in 2008 with first class honours.
I was awarded Most Promising Student in 2007, which was judged by Karen Rieschieck, owner of Alice Euphemia which was a little boutique in the Nicholson building which housed independent Australian designers. After the completion of my course I moved overseas to Stockholm, Sweden. I interned for 6 months with local designers Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair. It was a small boutique fashion company where i got to work in all area's of the business. The designers there was really creative and inspiring, it was great to work alongside her.
What was it like to intern overseas?
I always knew when I graduated I wanted to go to Europe. My internship was for six months. It was a fantastic experience, because it was a really small team of seven people, so it was very hands on. After my internship I then started working for a much bigger company, which gave me a different skill set and valuable knowledge into the high street market.
What is your label about?
MAUDE Studio is very much about stand out pieces. I focus on capturing the preciousness of an object within wearability as well trying to make something fun, interesting and unique. It's also a celebration of design imagination. i want to develop the idea of creating preciousness within certain objects, that's what i'm exploring at the moment. I don't take myself too seriously and I love what I do. MAUDE Studio is about people who want to celebrate their unique personality and style. The brand is for anyone who is after something fun and interesting. The Maude customer is outgoing, independent and smiles involuntarily in response to shiny things. It's not so much about an age group, more about a mindset and attitude
What made you create this label? Tell us your story
I’ve always wanted to have my own design studio but before I could start on my own label, I wanted to gain some experience in the industry. After working within a small and super creative boutique design firm, I then worked at a much larger and more commercial fashion company, so I felt quite confident in being able to start my own label.
What’s a usual day in the office?
My studio overlooks a gallery space which is such a nice place to arrive to every morning. Basically at the moment I hand make all the pieces so that takes up most of my time. My usual day is centred around sewing, cutting out fabric pieces, applying all the hardware different gold hard wear plates installing them. Answering emails and getting in touch with people, being present online and in social media.
How many in you’re team?
Currently its just myself, however I have some really special and amazing people who have donated some of their time to helping me out at this early stage. Also I have worked really closely with Niika who are an amazing digital agency and managed to create an incredible website and online store which reflects the MAUDE Studio style.
How did you learn to create and make your handbags?
I taught myself how to make them. I learnt at Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair that you can make anything you want however you want, there are no rules. Coming from a womenswear background, I approached handbags the same way you would a garment. However it was a long process of trial and error to make the bags perfect, as the they need to be practical, functional, long-lasting and durable-as well as pretty and fun!
How do you go about sourcing your products?
It just depends, I try to find my fabrics locally but unfortunately that is difficult. Often I can’t find what I need so I have sourced some of my fabrics though an overseas wholesaler, but where I can I will buy fabrics locally.
What materials do you use?
I use synthetic fabrics different variations of PU and PVC, as well as Polyester. I’m vegetarian so I prefer not to work with leather, and there are some really amazing synthetic fabrics available.
Where is the final product made?
All items are handmade locally in Melbourne by hand.
How did you get to where you are now with your label?
Experience and hard work. Having worked for a small design label helped me learn how to run things in my own small business. In addition to this, working for a larger company helped gain an understanding from a really structured business perspective. I have also just completed a Certificate 4 in Small Business so that was really useful and relevant.
How and what gives your inspiration for each collection?
My first collection Blue Planet (2012) was very much inspire by David Attenborough’s documentary titled “The Blue Planet” I’ve always been fascinated by sea creatures and in this collection you can see it is very much present. It was a five piece woman’s wear capsule collection featuring delicate pleating and flounces to emulate underwater creatures.
Glittermare (2013) was a mixture of shoes and clutches embellished with brightness and sparkles and spikes. I managed to source a whole heap of sample jewellery at the time and I came up with the idea to use all of those to regenerate something existing to make a new and exciting creation. I wanted to make pieces which were really over the top bling, crazy cool it was a scary fun look that I developed and applied onto clutches and shoes. I love the photos of this collection its one of my favourite shoots.
The Candy Collection (2014) I knew I wanted to explore handbag design and so I decided to start to develop and focus on that. The Candy Collection is a 5 piece ensemble of bright and shimmery embellished handbags reflective of all things sugary sweet and artificial. It is currently available to purchase via the online store. I wanted to represent the feeling of being in a candy store but also make something beautiful and unique at the same time.
My previous collections, Blue Planet and Glittermare were both developed as just personal creative outlet. Whereas The Candy Collection is my first commercial collection available for purchase
What is your favourite part about being a fashion designer?
Working for myself is great, I have so much creative freedom. Previously I had worked for a really big company so now working for myself I can explore different ideas and concepts that inspire and drive me as a designer. Being able to do what you love and what interests you then finding a customer who appreciates that is very rewarding.
What’s your advice on networking to all our emerging designers and students?
Be outgoing and introduce yourself, be interested in what other people are doing. Follow people up people and if your very genuine about yourself and what you love people will recognise that and be interested in helping you out. Also, be nice it’s free and you never know where it will lead you.
What’s your current achievement with the brand that you are most proud of?
Getting my brand off the ground. Everything has come together really well and I’m really happy with the brand identity and the collection. I feel really proud of the online store and fortunate to have been able to work with Niika who have done such an amazing job with my website and online store. I’ve also had great people help me through the process supporting me at different stages with different things.
How many years did it take for your idea to hit reality and start becoming a reality?
The concept has been bubbling ever since I was a fashion student. But so far its been eight months and the online store launched a couple of weeks ago.
Who are your inspiration/ fashion designers who you look up to?
Lots of people as well lots of different things! I do have a huge appreciation for Manish Arora he is amazing. What he does is what I dream about doing, he’s really into embellishments and delicate designs, which I admire and love.
And lastly, any advice to people who want to get into the industry!
Try and align yourself with people who you admire and look up. Also with whom you want to see yourself as eventually. Try and get close to them and learn from them. My internship really defined me as a designer. Choose your internship wisely because your time is very precious, you have the potential to learn so much or so little. Additionally having a belief in what you're doing
Special thanks to Courtenay xx