We first had the pleasure of meeting Erin Louise, the talented designer behind Lady Albert at Fashionation in Cooma. We were so intrigued by her designes that we wanted to find out more.
Leiden: What is your earliest fashion memory?
Erin: House of Elliot, it’s a TV show set in the 1930s that was on when I was in primary school. I loved it. Pretty sure my friend and I used to get into trouble for not doing our school work because we spent all our time talking about the show. I love the fantasy that fashion can create, the House of Elliot defiantly sparked that curiosity.
L: What drew you to fashion design?
E: As a kid, reading Vogue magazines, I thought designers were it. There is so much more to the industry than what we see in a picture or shop front. I’d like to say I love the whole process, from the illustration, drafting the pattern to sourcing the fabric, cutting and sewing — but pattern making is my biggest dislike, I drink a lot of tea during this stage.
L: Where did you study fashion?
E: I studied at the West Australian Institute of Fashion Design and Technology in Perth.
L: Briefly describe the experience.
E: The experience studying? Intense. By our third and final year, 90% of the students had dropped out. The course was very much focused on the practical side of the industry. Pattern making, construction, and the technology used in both areas.
L: How do you approach designing a collection?
E: My first collection, for our graduation, I had no idea what to do. I think I procrastinated for the first couple of months. I knew I wanted to use wool and leather. I also wanted to incorporate a technique we had learnt in a class, nuno felting. I loved the idea of manipulating a luxury fabric like silk to create something completely different from its original form.
L: Where do you source your fabrics?
E: I try to keep it local. There is a small business in Perth, Treetop Colour Harmonies, that specials in providing materials for the felting community. She hand dies her silks and wool tops in a small studio in her house. The colours she creates are amazing, she draws her inspiration from the environment and you can see this in her work. I have also found a few small fabric stores that supply wool fabrics.
L: Do you sew your collections yourself?
E: I do. I feel very strongly about being able to provide a product that has been produced locally and to a certain standard. I am still learning, but would attribute a lot of my experience from a Perth couturier, Ingrid Hocking. I worked for her during and after my studies and loved every minute of it.
L: From where and what do you draw inspiration?
E: I think about the Monaro a lot, the harsh conditions through the season.
L: What inspired your most recent collection for Fashionation?
E: I showed my graduation collection at the very first Fashionation and wanted to separate myself from the look of that particular collection. Most of it was quite whimsical and I wanted to produce something that could be sold off the rack. Then I think I got a little bit excited and carried away, making hand woven neck pieces and attempting to rouche tops.
L: Who do you design for? Describe your woman.
E: I have always struggled with this question. She is someone that is strong, independent, and ethically aware. Not afraid to be different.
L: What other designers are you inspired by?
E: I absolutely love John Galliano, his ability to redo history in a piece of clothing, I also love his story. At home, Romance was Born; they continue to push the boundaries on what is acceptable in fashion. I love it. Ooh, and their recent collaboration with Jenny Kee.
L: What did taking part in Fashionation mean to you?
E: This was an opportunity for me to not only try something different but work with the local girls I’d used in the first show, models, makeup and hair. Nikki (from Bear Beauty) and I worked well together on the first show, and to be honest, I think we all had a lot of fun just mucking around with ideas for makeup. It’s great to watch and work with other creatives, to bring together something a little extraordinary. It was a lot of fun to work with my models again, they pretty much choreographed the runway by themselves.
This year I was also offered the opportunity to design a garment that would be used on the promotional material for the show.
L: What’s next?
E: I am working on a little project with some people from Cooma. Other than that, now that winter is over and the snow has (almost) disappeared, I guess I should refocus on coming up with some new designs and thinking about the next step. What that is, who knows? Sydney Fashion Week?
Photographs: Lauren McKay
Illustration: Judy Kuo
Interview: Emma Batchelor