Who's your favourite brand at the moment?
Let's discuss work wear, you're mostly wearing suits at work, tell us about your favourite brands?
Sarah Darby has a unique talent and it's the gift of illustration. Sarah felt a need for change and wanted to have a career on her own terms. Having not picked up a pencil since she was 16, she decided to take some night classes and post her work up on social media. Sarah's followers have fallen in love with her fashion illustrations and watched as her artistic skills came to life. Since her rise to fame, she has worked with renowned brands, has been named one of Harper’s Bazaar’s ‘12 Australian Fashion Illustrators to follow’ and was an official illustrator at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival for 2015 and 2016.
I interviewed Sarah about her fashion journey so far, giving an insight into everything from how she creates an illustration, to tips on how to stay motivated.
Firstly, I have to say your illustrations are beautiful and unique. You’ve come such a long way since when we’ve first met congratulations! How does it feel to have worked with some of the renowned brands that are in every fashionistas wardrobe?
Thank you! It feels amazing - and I still feel genuinely surprised when anyone does!! I'm definitely learning as I go.
What were you doing before you picked up the pencil?
I worked for Coles in Marketing for years, and before that, I was a publicist in London.
What made you want to start illustrations?
I had my second girl, Gracie, who is 3 now. I was struggling to manage the kids and my job, but I wanted to have a career. I thought what can I do on my own terms? I remembered that I used to enjoy drawing, but I hadn’t picked up a pencil since I was 16. I took up some evening classes to learn about fashion illustration and I just started to draw and post on insta.
How did you turn your passion and hobby into a career?
I think the marketing background helps. I’m pretty proactive in approaching people that I admire and want to work with. That combined with my age - somehow I don’t feel so afraid of ‘no’ anymore. I don’t take it as personally as I used to. As with anything, people only see the successes. There are lots of knockbacks and weeks where I hit the refresh button on email a lot!! Also, its trial and error. Not every avenue is the right path for you!
How long does it usually take to create an illustration?
If I'm at home, it's an hour. I do pencil then black liner then colour. The jackets take much longer as I have drafted an outline, cut a template, transfer the image, ALL before I actually paint the picture!
Also, how do you keep motivated and inspired?
I’ll confess, I definitely have my wobbles. I'm a real victim of self-doubt. But I remind myself that it's a pretty awesome gift to be able to spend your time doing something that you love and still have time for your kids. As a pick me up - I read the Collective mag cover to cover. It's so inspiring and it's full of awesome people doing cool things!
You were named Harper’s Bazaar ‘12 Australian Fashion Illustrators to follow’
How did that make you feel to read that?
Shocked! Flattered… and then I took a deep breath and realised that I'd name hundreds of artists who I think are better than me! So I think of it as good marketing - and I get back to trying to earn their respect!
You were the official illustrator at Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival for 2015 and 2016. Tell us what did that involve?
I feel so lucky to have had a chance to work with VAMFF! In 2015, I got to sit in the front row. Actually in seat 1A. Which was pretty exciting for someone who has never been invited to a fashion show at all! I covered some of the shows for their insta feed. I also covered the street style from outside the event. I loved that. It gave me such a great opportunity to meet people! Last year I did a few sketches from runway, but I also did the illustrations for the High Tea event which was fab. I illustrated the menus, place setting and table numbers. It was really fun to let loose with a creative brief - it was Alice in Wonderland meets Great Gatsby! How fab is that?!
Your latest project currently is working with FROWTRIBE creating bespoke illustrations on vintage denim and white shirts, tell us all about it! Sounds amazing to create your own unique one off piece!
I feel like I have found my thing. I just love drawing on the denim jackets. I love the idea of making these pieces that people will wear. As soon as I have finished one, I have 10 more designs I want to draw up! Working with FROWTRIBE is great. Amy Shaw, the Director, is amazing. She has such an eye for fashion and having her select what jackets I illustrate, just means that customers are guaranteed a cool jacket. I love fashion, but I don’t have the eye to pick out the styles! I rely on bloggers like you to point in the right direction!! Working with Amy means I just get to focus on the design!
Any special projects we will be seeing soon?
I'm not done with FROWTRIBE! We have some more awesome secrets to reveal! And I have some fun, more unusual illustration collabs coming up too! Enough to keep me out of trouble!
Any advice to any budding illustrators out there?
Have fun and support others who like to draw. Comment on each other works and encourage. Don’t see other artists as competition - go and make friends! And be bold. Approach people you want to collab. The worst they can do is ignore you or say no thanks. That’s not so bad really, is it!
Be sure to check out Sarah's Foxy Five questions below and her social media Channels!
FROWTRIBE customised denim jackets
Chocolate or Savoury?
Salt and vinegar chips are my biggest weakness!
Favourite place in the world?
Canggu in Bali. But anywhere with sunshine and water that’s warm enough to get in without a wetsuit on!
I never leave the home without my…
kids!!! (Well, it certainly feels like it. ) Pencil and a thin black liner!
Favourite illustration you’ve drawn?
Probably the one of the back of my own jacket. Its a pic of Inka Williams, who I draw a lot… she has beautiful eyes!
Heels or Flats?
Definitely flats! Nike high tops, silver brogues or boots. You can’t chase a toddler in stilettos, I have to be realistic!
S.Wallis is a Melbourne label that creates limited high end quality pieces. Created by the unique fashion duo Shakeera Wallis and Emily Nasr. Together the two are the ultimate master minds of simplistic classic beautiful designs for any wardrobe.
They source the highest quality of fabrics and materials from around the world for their collection consisting of cotton, wool and silk. Their designs are classic quality versatile investment pieces, without the hefty price tag.
Head Designer of S Wallis Emily Nasr answered some of my curious questions about being an independent Melbourne label.
What inspired you to become a fashion designer?
I instinctively knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a fashion designer. As a child, I created clothes for my Barbie dolls (it didn’t take me too long to realise the inefficiency of sewing clothes directly on to a doll). At 12 years old, I decided I was going to do a BA in fashion design at RMIT and that’s what I did. As I said it was Instinctive.
How would you describe your own personal style? Do you find this bleeds into your collections?
Carefree spontaneity balanced with a classic tailored aesthetic, in a nutshell. I have a love for combining interesting textiles and prints, this is definitely reflected in my collections.
Describe the quintessential ’S. Wallis Girl’…
The 'S.Wallis girl' is a woman that understands fashion but isn't consumed by it. Elegant of mind and classic in nature. Adventurous. A seeker.
Your first two collections have a particularly nostalgic theme in common, is this this something you will carry through to your next collection or are you looking for new inspiration?
The nostalgic theme is inherent to our brand DNA but we are always evolving with each season! Spring Summer 2015/16 references the seventies; re-imagined into contemporary and feminine silhouettes.
Do you create your own textile prints or source them from elsewhere?
We actually do both. Some are created in house and others are sourced from specialist print designers in Milan, London and NYC, which are exclusive to S.Wallis.
Tell us a little bit about your process in fashioning a collection - from concept to design and creation?
Behind the scenes is certainly not as glamorous as people think, this is a common misconception. Below is a basic outline of our design & development process:
Research & fabric sourcing
Mood board to set the look and feel of the range
Presentation to the team
Design, colour palette & fabric allocation
Range review, pricing and sign off
Specification sheets sent to factory
Fits and fit comments
Salesman samples for wholesale orders
Final range review
Place orders for Bulk
Shipment samples to be sent & approved
Delivery into warehouse
Stock allocation for stores & wholesale
What difficulties have you encountered in creating your own brand?
As a small independent label there are a lot of factors beyond our control that present a number of challenges. Some examples of this are: Supplier minimums, a lack of resources, a limited distribution network and competing with large multi-national companies.
If you could give your younger self career advice, what would it be?
To have the courage to do what you love and if something doesn't feel right trust your instincts!
Song: Reckoner by Radiohead
Piece of Clothing: Our Heritage Milano Camel Trench
Way to Relax: A glass of Red wine & a film
Special thanks to
Shakeera Wallis , Emily Nasr and Chantal.
Jessica Awad is a talented Australian designer, she's the creator of Jessica A label and is no newbie on the scene, with much experience and expertise after working for different brands gaining her experience in the industry she has brought her own mark to the fashion industry.
I featured her label in my current shoot
What inspired you to become a fashion designer? Tell us a little about your journey so far…
As a little girl, I was always inspired by clothing and what the new upcoming pieces were, as well as looking through my mother's wardrobe filled with funky pieces from the 70's and 80's, this was my first steps in loving fashion and knowing I wanted to be involved in some way. After studying fashion through high school, i knew this was the industry for me. Through years of experience working under the umbrella of a fashion house and helping brands develop and create pieces into store, it was time to step away from the umbrella and begin my own label to get a touch of Jessica A to public.
What was you experience studying fashion design?
After failing to get into the design course I wanted. I applied and successfully got into a fashion production and design course at a Tafe institution, this in fact, turned out to be my better pathway as it allowed me, not only to learn about fashion design, but the process' involved in taking a design, to a pattern and into production. This was a great stepping stone in learning the trade steps and helped me enormously when i began working in the industry.
Your inspiration behind your current collection
Our current collection "Blossom into winter" range was inspired by the beautiful blossoms in summer I was surrounded by when developing my winter range. As i knew it was going to drop in the colder months, i decided to make the floral a subtle greyscale tone, so it suited the season correctly. Using the blossom print, i wanted to create beautiful but easy silhouette styles, that customer could wear from work to dinner to out on the town without having to change anything but their flats to their heels.
How do you go about sourcing your fabric?
I'm very lucky when it comes to sourcing fabrics, as I have an awesome fabric agent overseas who helps source out the quality fabrics I'm after. When I am forecasting I will look at the upcoming trends in fabrications that are coming through and decide whether or not they are right for my target audience. At the start of every sourcing season, I will send a list to my agent who will find the fabrics that i'm after and will send a library of different options for me to select and choose for the coming range.
Tell us a little bit about your process in creating a collection - from concept to design and creation?
Every collection that is created takes a lot of thought processing and time. I begin by forecasting the trends filtering through from the catwalks of the US and European fashion markets. Its at this point, where I will create a plan of action on the upcoming trends, colours, fabrics and styles that will be the in thing for the upcoming seasons. From here I need to calculate how to change these points of trends to suit the Australian market and to ensure that the Jessica A The Label identity is filtered through these future crazes. Once I have worked out what key points I would like to grasp from the trends, I will begin to design the collection, with a hint of trend but ensuring that our key easy gal attitude of Jessica A stays within the collection. As much as Jessica A likes to be up to the market with designs, our focus of forecasting, mainly transparent's through our prints, colours and fabrications, as we like to keep our styling simple and not overly commercial, as we want our ladies to be able to wear our collections for seasons to come. From here, I then send my designs and specifications of our standard fit to my factories, whom then begin sampling the collection. They will then send these samples to my team and I for fitting, the sampling and fit process will go back and forth until the fit and collection is right. It's at that stage we will begin selling the range.
What is the most challenging thing about creating a label? ……And the most rewarding?
The whole thing is a challenge, from the general fears of whether or not the label will be loved by the world and how to get the word out there that Jessica A exists!!! To the ins and outs of not only running a label but a business ahhh!! It's not all creative vibes flowing, there's even mathematical challenges I face almost everyday, that drives me crazy but it's all worth the stress and lose of night sleeps, when you see a customer in the streets or on social media excited to be wearing your label!!!
How do you feel the name change of your brand? Are you targeting a different audience and what was the story behind the brand label name change?
I am very excited with both the label name change and our new website launch. The new name is a lot more appealing and clean, which relates to the styles that we have always and will always offer. Easy to wear and fresh styling.This season Jessica A. offers retailers a collection that puts a heavy focus on creating pieces that have a designer aesthetic, yet still keeping the collection commercial and wearable, appealing to the labels original market.
We are not targeting a difference audience, we are just wanting to expand it. We are looking at making Jessica A. a brand that will appeal to the Boutique market, as well as continue to sell to our more mainstream retailers. We want to strike a great balance, of still being able to offer our more commercial customers what they want and expect from the label, however our focus has now moved to creating exclusive designer capsule collections within all our ranges, which will be offered only to the Boutique market.
Your biggest achievement with your brand?
Stocking with The Iconic
Describe Jessica A in 3 words
Fresh, Easy to wear, Price driven
Dancing the night away (and singing even though my voice is no Whitney Houston)
Get to know Jessica a little more……
I never leave the house without my… my phone
Favourite song at the moment : John Legend and Sam Smith song - Lay me down
My most prized item in my wardrobe : My prada case bag
flats or heels : heels
Tea or Coffee: Coffee
Special thanks to Jessica xx