Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Buses are always late so I am on foot most of the time, half running half walking to here and there, I dont know why- except for pure vanity, but I will never do joggers! It is is hard to find the perfect, practical, good looking shoe.There seems to be an abundant of shoes in the world, so many choices so many styles however it is often hard to find that good quality well designed footwear. An even harder task is finding a shoe produced in Australia. The lovely Melbourne based designer Kristy Barber has added footwear to her womenswear label Kuwaii and in doing so, has rejuvenated my enthusiasm of shoe shopping. Made in a local family run factory with reclaimed leather as well as being beautifully designed, Kuwaiis' new range is extraordinarily tempting.

Why fashion?
I started as a love for making things and an interest in how garments were put together, it was a very natural progression to study fashion and then to start a label.

Can you introduce us to Kuwaii?
Kuwaii is based in Brunswick, Melbourne, and is a personal philosophy of dressing. Each piece is carefully considered- effortless and refined so that these are garments to live in.
Our emphasis is on interesting and meaningful garments. The concept for the label was always a more old Fashioned approach- a return to quality throughout all processes. I wanted to produce beautiful pieces made to last and for their owners to treasure. We focus on workmanship, fabrics, and finishes. Whilst being both stylised and subtly poetic, I hope that Kuwaii garments are intelligent in both their design and production processes. Kuwaii pieces are made locally in Australia, with a strong commitment in excellence in manufacture and supporting the local industry, with the manufacturing process being overseen 100% by Kuwaii to ensure all garments are produced ethically.

You have recently added a shoe range to the label. Why the move into footwear?
It was a lucky collaboration really, I met the shoe manufacturer who were keen to work with a more emerging designer to produce a small collection of footwear. I have always wanted Kuwaii to have a more holistic approach – I guess a lifestyle – so the move into footwear has been amazing, and I've just been so proud of the product – how great the quality is, how comfortable they are, how well they wear, and how ethically they are produced. And I've been so happy with the response from my customers too!

Where and who produces your shoes?
They're produced in Melbourne suburb Clifton Hill, by a small, family owned factory who has been operating for 30 years and who of course oversee the entire production process themselves meaning that these shoes are produced in an non-exploitative environment, 100%.

Why Melbourne for production? Why is this important to you?
This week I met with a knit wear manufacturer and it was completely heart wrenching to hear his stories (and see his photo albums) from when he operated a bustling factory in the 90s employing 65 people, and having state of the art knit wear machinery, to now employing 5 people and having to send his knit machines to scrap metal as there is just no use for them anymore. Personally I don't believe we should discard the skill set and trade of our country. I feel very strongly about keeping trade and industry on shore and supporting the industry here. It's a sort of patriotism and wanting to support and build upon the community here within our shores, and not letting go of the rag trade history we've had.

What inspires each collection?
One thing with producing on shore is that we're slightly more limited with the possibilities of producing designs – limited by the machines the factory has available and how long things take to produce. So I definitely work within parameters given to me by the factory. We devise silhouettes, decide on colours, textures, stitiching details, perforations, linings, laces. The inspiration and colours for the footwear definitely reflects Kuwaii's clothing inspiration for the season and the shoes are devised to be pieced back to any of the Kuwaii garments.

What's next for Kuwaii?
We would love to open a flagship store! At the moment we sell out of our showroom space in Brunswick, which our studio is behind, which is a super cute way to meet our customers, but our dream is to open Kuwaii land … We also recently secured our first international stockist!

Find Kuwaii here

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I.C.A Watermelon

Julia Knupfer is the talent behind I.C.A Watermelon, a Berlin based knitwear label. Relishing in the ambiguous nature of dying with plant extracts, each piece is unique. Her collections are full of body and unusual textures. Shape and form are prioritised while faded colours compliment. I.C.A watermelon represents knitwear at its finest, exploring the endless possibilities you have by taking your time, slowing down and continually being inspired by the materials you work with.

Can you explain the philosophy behind I.C.A Watermelon?
I.C.A Watermelon is a contemporary designer line for women with a commitment to sustainability. The subject of nature and environment plays a central role and is conceptually translated into garments. Traditional handicraft especially handmade knitting and crochet is a consistent feature of the collections. My vision is to create sensible and strong pieces that reflect the zeitgeist and last for a long time in terms of material and style.

Why knitting? What motivated you to this traditional craft?
My grandma and my mother taught me knitting and crochet when I was a child and it still gives me a cosy feeling. Wool is such a versatile and expressive material. That's why I love it.

Your designs are always very structural and full of contrasting textures what inspires you to design in this way?
Contrasts are always fascinating. I am often inspired by the huge variety of natural structures. I love to explore different combinations of fabric treatments and techniques such as weaving and braiding to create unusual atmospheres and structures.

Can you tell us more about your natural dying production?
I started natural dying out of a need, because a few years ago it was quite hard to find a suitable colour range of organic fabrics which I liked to work with. Now natural dying is part of my creative process. Dying with plant extracts produces an astounding spectrum of subtle colours. I really enjoy the fact, that depending on time, temperature and concentration the outcome is never clear.

Where are you based? What do you like about living there?
I am based in Berlin and despite of the weather it is a perfect place to live and to work. The design scene is very young and vibrant and moreover housing and living costs are low. I like the creative energy on the streets but also the chilled out and relaxed pace. Then there are many visionary people who are working on a greener industry and created a space for the new green fashion movement here.

What's next for ICA watermelon?
Right now I am working on a seasonless and permanent collection simply with colour and material updates each season. Because, I think it makes sense to slow things down. It allows me to work less wasteful and gives me more time to concentrate on doing great designs with a high quality standard. My personal highlight will be the opening of my own showroom and shop in Berlin at the end of this year.

Find more of the collection here


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Transparent Seams at Sydney Design Festival

A.L.A.S and Transparent Seams is putting on an exhibition and workshop as a part of this years Sydney Design festival.

The exhibition and workshop acts as a bridge to reconnect consumers to their clothes, to inspire people’s involvement in the design process and explore solutions to updating or bringing new life to their discarded clothing! Guests will be invited to watch the design and production process that transforms disused... clothing into completely new garments; we will be turning armholes into necklines, necklines into bustles and shirts into skirts!

A one off practical workshop will coincide with the exhibition giving guests the tools to up-cycle their favourite old t-shirt or an unwanted garment from their wardrobe. This project will incite passive consumers to re-connect with their clothing through creative and fun solutions to breathe new life and meaning to their garments. By creating something new but keeping element of the old garment, the clothing’s history and life is extended and consumer becomes the creator.

Please come along!


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Study- Tara St James

Tara St James is an incredible designer and mentor. After working as the creative director for Covet, Tara launched her own label Study in 2009 and has swiftly established herself as a key innovator in the ethical fashion scene. Her intelligent zero waste designs and constant collaborations with artists and textile designers are probably the key components to her success. A firm believer in open sourcing, Tara has also set up the Study Hall project, throwing interns into the deep end. Each intern is given the skills and guidance to create their own collections which they then sell to stockists.

Tara tells us about her latest collaboration and gives us an insight into some exciting new developments she is eagerly experimenting with.

What was the inspiration behind your latest collection?
I'll talk about my upcoming SS12 season here as the inspiration for that is most prominent on my mind. It started with the work of artist Zhen Chew who developed a series of Blind Train Drawings in her native Australia, which I am using as prints and the main inspiration for textile development for the collection. The New York City subway system is the secondary inspiration for the collection, which compliments Zhen's work and allows us to expand on it in our own textile development using printing, pleating and dyeing to simulate the folds lines of the train tracks. The body shapes are being kept clean and simple to really focus on the textiles.

Can you explain the concept behind your no waste skirt/top and your approach to versatility?
I started Study with an entirely zero-waste collection for SS09 and have continued to use this patternmaking technique in subsequent seasons. In the Spring 11 collection I made a no waste skirt because the fabric - which is a silk ikat that was hand woven in Uzbekistan - is very narrow and can be used without waste.
Every season I repeat a version of the square dress which can be worn in many different way. This is the most basic form of zero waste as it is just a large square of fabric that has intricately placed buttons and buttonholes allowing the customer to play with it and find their ideal shape. Essentially I want my customers to have fun with their clothes and play around, which is why my designs are made to be versatile.

You are very open with your fabric sourcing and production knowledge, why is this important to you?
A lot of the suppliers I work with are small, fair trade companies or mills that work very hard to be sustainable. I want to support them by buying their fabrics. But I also want them to succeed independently of the work they do for me since I'm not big enough to support them all on my own. So I share their contact info with fellow designers who I respect so we can "group fund" them as suppliers. I'm not worried about being open sourced with my supplier info, I'm confident in my designs and know that other designers will be able to make beautiful garments using the same fabrics without the risk of saturating the market.

Can you tell us more about your project "Study Hall"?
Study Hall is an intern project. The idea is for them to design a mini collection, under my supervision, of 3-4 pieces. They will develop their designs, source fabrics, calculate costs, make samples, sell the styles to a retailer, produce the styles and deliver them to the store. All between now and the end of August. It’s doable. A mini version of what designers and big houses do repeatedly every season.We are now on round 2 of Study Hall with 6 interns, each will be doing one item instead of 4, and they will work together to make the complete collection more cohesive. I have 2 textile designers working with me, so they'll be designing their own textiles as well as garments, so I'm very excited about this season of Study Hall!

Why New York?
I love New York. It's as simple as that. There's a fully functioning garment center here where I can develop and manufacture almost everything I need. And I can walk outside my door and be inspired. I tend to draw inspiration from music, art, people and movement, I need to be surrounded by energy, I don't work well when it's too quiet or peaceful.

What's next for Study?
Always a tough question! I want to continue to develop the brand's sustainability and really evaluate my chain of production to see where I can be more transparent and where I can make improvements. I'm also working with AirDye this season to develop a line of printed textiles that require little to no water use in the printing. This has been a big challenge to source a fabric that is suitable for this next level of printing, but I think we have found what we need! Stay tuned...

For information on her projects go to her informative blog here or the Study website here