THIS MONTH: ELLE Mock-Up

STYLE: Lewis Macmaster

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This Australian model isn’t one to shy away from the spotlight. In fact, turn the lights off and watch her unitard glow. Lewis a fan of London-based print and embellishment brand Spangled, regularly sporting their multi-coloured, glow in the dark, pastel printed jumpsuits. For someone who titles herself as ‘King Lewi’ in her Instagram bio, Lewis definitely rules the colour game.

STREET: Bag It Up

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This month’s style pack had a little excess baggage. No, it wasn’t the suitcases filled to the brim with Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival looks. Fashion week goers’ best companions were chain strap clutches. Your newest plus one: a Gucci, Chanel or Saint Laurent. Bonus points if it’s red and fits a few snacks.

SHOP: Beau Coops x Romance Was Born

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We can always count on Romance Was Born to bring the magic. The Beau Coops x Romance Was Born collaboration, Whispering Angel, sees four styles handmade in Italy using quality leather. The Camille Slipper Mule in blush with faux fur trim is a heel-baring dream, while the Adalene Brocade Silk Booty features awe-inducing Indian silk brocade, ruffle and gold block heel. Get moving on these.

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FASHION JOURNAL: Alexander McQueen is reborn through coats and bags (Unpublished)

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Creepy. 

We now have the chance to get our hands on a piece of Alexander McQueen, but not in the way you might expect.

Tina Gorjanc, a fellow graduate of London’s esteemed fashion school, Central Saint Martins, has created her final project out of human skin.

Cull any horror movie images that may come to mind. She’s used a chunk of Alexander McQueen’s hair instead. Not as scary, but equally creepy.

In his 1992 collection, Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims, McQueen used his own hair suspended in the lining of his thorn print coat. Gorjanc was given access to take a sample of the hair by the institution who now owns the pieces, though she wouldn’t reveal the source.

The hair was used by DNA lab technicians from London’s Imperial College to extract genetic information from McQueen’s DNA. Not able to patent McQueen’s DNA, the information was instead used with pre-existing skin to replicate every aspect of McQueen’s skin.

The skin was treated so it could expand, and heat was applied to kill the first layer of cells, creating leather.

The leather was used to create coats and bags, some displaying replicas of McQueen’s tattoos in the exact same size and placement. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but this is taking it next level.

Unlike animal leather, human leather is subject to sunburn as it has less protected layers. In other words, you’ll need to slip, slop, slap your bag.

Known for his horrifying, shock inducing and hair-raising designs, McQueen was a formidable force in the fashion world before his death in 2001.

Not only is the Slovenian graduate imitating McQueen’s gothic design tendencies, she is reviving the beloved designer in her Pure Human collection.

A collection made to raise eyebrows, Gorjanc also raised questions about a person’s ownership over their genetic information.

Gorjanc used Alexander McQueen as a tool to show that regardless of a person’s prestige and social standing, there is no protection over their genetic DNA. It also helped that the DNA from his hair was authentic, and McQueen’s aims to forever push the envelope were equally enticing.

See, it’s not all just skin deep.

tinagorjanc.com

Mock Meat?: An experiment (Networked media)

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After a failed bus attempt, two tram rides and a misguided 20-something minute walk (Google maps is not my friend), the lights of Brunswick street called out in the fading night sky. Madame K’s Vegetarian; we stumbled on the quaint restaurant with its neon sign lighting the pavement. Inside, multicoloured cushions lined the mismatched wallpaper walls with mounted blue china plates. Framed family photos against trinkets on side tables gave a feeling of eating in someone’s home, in an empty restaurant with the sounds from our conversation filling the room.

Not far from the local Asian restaurant one can find along any street in Melbourne, the point of difference is that this one is a falsity. Not in terms of its authenticity, what this restaurant provides is something known as mock meat. As the name suggests, meat that is, in fact, not meat. Fake meat. F-eat. M-ake. I don’t think those will catch on.

Coming from a Greek background, a meat based diet is necessary for survival. Not a scientific fact, but the Greeks would have you believe it. For me, fasting for Lent means a no meat diet, which gives me a taster of the vegetarian lifestyle for a week out of every year. Though I might complain before starting the fast each year, it’s never as hard as I have myself believe. Interestingly, up until this year, finding a meat-like substitute was never something I considered. Tofu, vegetables and countless carbs rounded out my week’s diet. It just so happened that this year while I was on Lent, Bethan invited me to the Cornish Arms for a vegan “chicken” burger.

So let us both understand. I’m a meat eater who is open to trying a vegetarian/vegan diet and if that involves mock meat, then I have my fork ready. Before this experience, I had tried mock chicken but not ventured from that.
We decided to order a range of dishes with different meat substitutes to get a true test of mock meat. The Lemongrass Duck, Lamb Madras Curry, Barbecue duck and the Fish curry. What the dishes didn’t come with, however, was a warning. ‘May contain hot chilli’ would have been nice, but perhaps I was too naive and should’ve anticipated the chilli content given they were Asian dishes.

While the chilli was a personal issue (self-confessed chilli coward), it seemed to overpower every dish. Even if you thought you might, just might, be able to taste the mock part of the “meat”, you get hit with a piece of chilli. And while it wasn’t so hot that it required me to down ten glasses of water after each bite, it was definitely a factor to consider in this mock meat experiment.

When the dishes arrived at the table, my immediate thoughts were that they were beautifully presented. Rice made into a perfect mound with each serving dish garnished with herbs. That and the small portion size. Perhaps my idea of the word ‘large’ is different. They gave off an aroma that any other good meat dish would, which satisfied my mind into thinking what I would be eating would be meat.

Let’s start off on a negative. The duck was not duck, and it was obvious. Ordering the lemongrass duck and the barbecue duck, I thought that we would have some luck (apologies for the unintended rhyme). The lemongrass duck, though cut into pieces like duck normally would, was much too chewy and almost too moist to be duck-like. Not to say that duck should be dry, it just wasn’t the right type of moisture. The barbecue duck arrived and the feeling I got from the rest of the table was a mix of disappointment and confusion; it didn’t look like barbecue duck yet it had the usual tropes like a yoghurt sauce to accompany. Again, not really barbecue-y and not nearly the right texture. So though the duck was edible and not horrible, it wasn’t a great success.

Coming in second place was the fish curry. What came to the table was something that resembled a fillet of fish with the skin on. It could have even been a fish that I hadn’t tried before if I hadn’t known it was a vegetarian dish. Unlike the duck, the fish was a little too dry for my liking. I like my fish to have a little more moisture and a little more flake. It appeared the fish was covered in sea weed to resemble skin which surprisingly added to the fishy flavour. The “skin” was slightly over charred and chewy, but was necessary to keep the overall perception of being fish.

My personal highlight was the lamb. Unlike the mock chicken and duck I had tried, the strange chewiness and odd moisture was not present. It pulled apart like lamb would; the oddly satisfying stringy-ness. Mixed with the sauce and the rice, it was a pleasant dish and left nothing much to be desired. I ate it feeling satisfied and not at all missing real lamb.

Overall thoughts? Yes, I prefer meat. But do I miss real meat when I eat mock meat? Not so much. I am open to trying more meat or dairy substitutes to see if they measure up to the real thing. But what I really want to know; if it’s not meat then what is it?

 

Interested to hear more reactions about mock meat? Check out occasional meat eater but mostly vegetarian Sophie’s blog, proper vego Bethan or straight up meat man Ben.

 

Rather listen than read? Ben’s thoughts on mock meat here, Bethan‘s musings, Sophie‘s ideas or my ponders.

Interview with Anna Lindell of A Thora

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Image courtesy: https://www.broadsheet.com.au/melbourne/fashion/article/vamff-national-graduate-showcase-2016#gallery-25

I sat down with the intelligently graceful Anna Lindell to discuss her time at RMIT, her glorious graduate collection and her feelings about the upcoming VAMFF runway. Cue fangirl squeals…

What was RMIT’s Bachelor of Fashion (Design) (Honours) like?

It was intense. I really enjoyed the course its quite a rollercoaster. Especially in fourth year, the amount of time you spend up there with the same people, and a lot of us would have a little corner each. A part of me misses it now, partly because I don’t have the studio space anymore. It’s a really good environment to be in. It’s such a nurturing environment. So even though it was really hard work, the people you are surrounded are really great which makes it.

What’s your graduate collection about?

It’s all made from bike tubes, a little bit of traditional textiles, but mainly bike tubes. A lot of people ask me how I came up with it but I don’t know exactly how I started using bike tubes. I started with the idea that I wanted to recycle something, and I always liked to play around with unusual materials.

I walked into a bike repair shop in Richmond and asked if they had any . At that point I was looking to see if they had any waste, they also had bike chains. He showed me big tubes of the rubber, the broken tubes. I just started experimenting.

Do you cycle?

I love to bike, but I actually don’t bike in Melbourne. I don’t have my own bike here. When I was in Amsterdam and back home in Sweden that I bike a lot. I sound like a bit of a chicken but Melbourne driving it a little bit intimidating for me to bike. I’m pretty sure I would get hit by a car on day two.

Did you encounter any difficulties in the process of making your graduate collection?

Sometimes the machines wouldn’t always work with the rubber. I remember the rubber used to stick to the machine as it would get really hot, and even when I was knitting. I sliced them down into smaller strips into a yarn ball and knitted it together. They used to get stuck on the needles so I used baby powder. Everyone else on level 10 was hating me because there was baby powder all over the floor.

How did you react when you found out you were picked to show at VAMFF?

I couldn’t believe it. I don’t think they sent anything through to the ones that were selected. My closest friends were asking who got in and I assumed I hadn’t because I didn’t hear anything. I remember I had a missed call from an unknown number. I was waiting for a call from Readings about this book for my friend, and wasn’t stressed to call this number back because I assumed it was from them. I called back the day after and was a bit like ‘oh my God’. It was jaw dropping. It took a while to sink in, how big of a deal it is.

This means that you’re hand picked from all the graduates out of Australia, you’re one of the best!

That still hasn’t kicked in. It’s a weird feeling but it does feel really great.

Can you imagine if you were to win, what your capsule collection with Target would look like?

I can but I don’t want to jinx it! I’m trying to visualise already what the capsule collection would look like. I’m not even that superstitious.

Is this your first time showing at fashion week?

I was selected for the mid-year show at Melbourne Spring Fashion Week. I think that made me feel a little bit calmer for VAMFF, I know what they’re talking about when they mention fittings and everything like that. Because I also had uni and assignments at the time of MSFW, it was hard because you had to be completely focused on the runway even though you weren’t being marked on it.

What’s the whole process like, from fittings to catwalk?

It’s quite surreal. I experienced a little bit of it from my internship, all your hard work is over in a few minutes. Because it’s my own work this time, I’m very critical of it always, so you look at the faults. Nobody else would see them but you look at the runway picking out the things you could improve on. That’s also what you bring with you the next time you work, the improvements you want to make.

They put everything on right but there was one dress they put on inside out. I finished off one of the knitted dresses, you’ll have little finish ends and you could see them and I was just like ‘oh my God’. I don’t know if my friends were just trying to be nice but they said you couldn’t notice. I had to tell myself to calm down; it’s fine! In the rehearsals there are a few more mistakes. It almost makes you more nervous as to what could happen in the real show. Afterwards when it’s finished its euphoric.

If you were to start your own label would it be here in Melbourne?

Either here or in Scandinavia.

When do you predict you would start your label?

I would like to have industry experience first; internships and full-time jobs. Learn from other people’s mistakes. I’ve done one internship, and am currently looking into doing one now. I did one for Iris Von Herpen in Amsterdam for three months during the long break. End of november to mid-March.

How was your internship experience?

It was good. It was also really hard work. In a way it kind of prepped me for the final year of my course as we used to work six days a week, in the studio sometimes, and it would be from 9-6 or seven-ish; reasonable. As it got closer and closer to her show we would be there from nine in the morning until 12 at night. There was also a really good intern team who were strict but supportive. A really good close knit group of people. The designer herself is Dutch and there were only two other people who were Dutch, the rest of the interns were from Italy, France, all over the world.

How did you land your internship?

I can’t remember exactly what it was but I read an assignment from RMIT and I came across this designer and I really liked her stuff. At the start of the course I found it really hard to find what it was I was really interested in fashion, it took me a couple of years to get there. I read about this designer and I thought it was brilliant how she used a lot of 3-D printing and a very futuristic approach. Even though I don’t particularly do that, I think that’s when I started realising you don’t only have to use textiles in fashion.

With everything going digital, where do you think the future of fashion is going?

I think there’s still a long way to go before everything is 3-D printed or everything is going to be digitally made, but I think we’re going to get closer and closer to an in-between. I think there will always be traditional textiles. I think couture, avant garde stuff will always be there but the way we do it will change. I think it already has changed quite a lot.

Can you imagine a time when traditional hand operated machines like screen printers become obsolete and are replaced with these new technologies? 

I wouldn’t like to think, because I think the imperfection you get from hand always adds something different. Everything digital is very perfect and immaculate but when something is made by hand its a one-off, original. Even if it’s a little touch it makes all the difference.

Is that uniqueness something you want to bring to your future collections?

Yes, I think it’s something everyone always aims to. It doesn’t always turn out that way. It can be a small detail, a technique, but you always want it to be for yourself but also mainly to open up someone’s eyes to something new.

What do you think of Australian fashion in general?

I think it’s growing and they’re working really hard. You’ve got some really good designers. I love Dion Lee. Melbourne has got some really strong labels like Life With Bird. There’s a good market for it.

Do you think what’s going on in the world influences fashion?

Definitely. I think especially now there’s a lot of unisex clothing which started a few years ago. I think as a designer it’s really beneficial to read a lot of newspapers, and try to keep up to date with things outside of fashion. I look back on it now and there were all these stories about unisex bathrooms and a few fashion designers will pick up on that and say ‘hold on, something’s changing’ or relationships between genders are changing and they’ll base a collection around that. It could even be a side concept to your design concept.

Where do you typically draw inspiration from?

Usually it starts with reading. Sometimes philosophical readings about fashion and the body, and the relationship between the two. I always go into that relation, how the two work together. And then often it goes into the material, and then build them into the body and see how it works.

How does it feel having graduated from the same uni as Toni Maticevski?

He’s brilliant, he’s done so well. He’s a bit of a hero at RMIT, they always using him for marketing. We’re all thinking ‘are we living up to that? Pressure’s on’. He works really exceptionally and he knows how to communicate his work.

Do you have any favourite Insta accounts that you follow?

I follow Dion Lee, and Iris Von Herpen which I love because I get to see previous work and collections I’ve done which is fun, and Houssein Chalayan. Dion Lee I like because he works so great with materials, all of his textures, which they do close ups of and I love.

Any advice for starting a career in fashion?

It’s hard. I think as a newly graduate a lot of people will intern for free. You’ve really just got to make connections and if you really like a company, like a small label, you have to really hassle them to get a foot in. Even if they don’t have vacancies try and talk to them and get a communication started. If you do internships see if there are possible placements after you finish. I find Melbourne a bit tricky, I know there would be more opportunities in London and cities like that. But I also do like Melbourne and their culture in arts and fashion, so I like to hope there’s something here. I think I’m going to stay here for a little bit longer, and possibly go to London at the end of this year. I would like to go to New York because all my friends would be there but I think London suits me better fashion wise, they’re a bit more conceptual there.

Any last words for third years going onto their final year?

We were all quite terrified for fourth year. You would be in third year looking at the fourth year’s work and you would say to yourself ‘oh my god there is no way I’m going to do that when I get there’. But then you get there and you have to do the thesis. It’s fine. You should be prepared, have a really good break beforehand. Keep your head around concepts a little bit but there’s no need to freak out going into fourth year. Be excited and enjoy it even though it’s a lot more freedom, but I’ve also never worked as hard at uni. Get sucked into it and it’ll be fine. You’ll cry a few times, but maybe that’s just me.

Runway review: Balmain Fall 2016 Ready-to-Wear

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Image courtesy: http://celebmafia.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/josephine-skriver-balmain-show-paris-fashion-week-march-2016-11.jpg

 

RUNWAY REVIEW: Balmain Fall 2016 Ready-to-Wear

Balmain’s Fall Ready-to-wear 2016 collection was all over Instagram. Not for the beautifully designed garments, the amazing workmanship and the success of the runway, but much rather the supermodels’ hair switch ups which caught the world’s attention.

Balmain’s creative director Olivier Rousteing created what was coined a #BalmainArmy at his show at Paris Fashion Week. Supermodels by the likes of Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Alessandra Ambrosio all sported different coloured wigs in opposition to their natural colour. It’s a sure way to guarantee media attention. Add a collection inspired by Kim Kardashian and watch the fashion crazed go wild over social media.

Many critics had a lot to say about the use of this frenzy inducing ploy. There was backlash about creating a ‘Kim’ collection; figure hugging dresses, thigh high boots, the use of pastel tones. I agree it was amusing to see the models with different hair colours. There are apps that I’m sure we’ve all tried which alter our hair colours. I’m still sure that I wouldn’t make a good blonde but that’s a different story.

Rousteing is a clever figure in fashion. And clever doesn’t even cut it. When you look at it, what he did was genius. In the age of social media where content is flashed before our eyes in a matter of seconds before temporarily disappearing with the swipe of a finger, a little shock value never goes astray. What I find sad, however, are the lengths designers must go to for their collections to be deemed successful in the 21st century.

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Image courtesy: http://models-fashion111.tumblr.com/post/140560795685/models-backstage-at-balmain-fall-2016-fashion-show

When images of the show flooded my Instagram feed, I was initially mesmerised by Rosie as a brunette. Talk about bringing out her killer cheekbones. But what remained after that fleeting fascinating was a love and longing for the look worn by Josephine Skriver. A beautiful tasselled dress that I can’t seem to forget about. So while the adrenaline of the show was over, I was able to appreciate the craft of the garments. The true essence of fashion behind the bright lights, filters and hashtags.

The intricacy of the dress in the beading, tasselling and the lines of pearls rolling off the chest brought the collection from mainstream to couture. It had elements of the boudoir: blush tones, the tassels of lampshades, lingerie like corsets, delicate beading and pearls against the skin. The belted waist added to the shapeliness of the look, accentuating the feminine features of the waist, shoulders and décolletage. The use of suede added to sensuality of the entire look. Not forgetting to mention the dizzying movement of the tassels as Skriver walked down the runway.

A modern take on the Victorian corset dress with the tassels providing volume and drama, it was a 2016 collection with underlying historical references. Coupled with the thigh high boots I noticed the undertone of Western American fashion; a dominant woman in charge of her femininity. And while this may seem obvious to fashion folk, this deeper ‘reading’ really allows for a greater understanding of artistic value.

So while Kim still saturates our screens and Gigi Hadid dates Zayn, fashion remains a constant yet paradoxically changing force. Interestingly, Rousteing’s lampshade look was not entirely dissimilar to Jeremy Scott’s Moschino chandelier dress. What’s next? A torch? A match? A lighter? Burn bright little flame.

VAMFF CULTURAL PROGRAM: Fashion Writing Series Workshops

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@anastasiasouli_ 

It’s 9.30am on a Sunday in March. Spending the morning lying in bed, eating croissants and watching trashy reality TV seem like the perfect trio. Instead I’m awake, fully dressed and entering the glass doors of the Melbourne Museum. No, I’m not here for the dinosaurs. The museum is the site for the first fashion writing series as part of the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival. An entire day hearing talented speakers talk about fashion and writing? I’m all ears.

The day opened with Janice Breen Burns from Voxfrock. A truly inspiring speaker with over 30 years of experience from being a journalist with a typewriter, to producing on-the-spot videos of fashion week in the taxi on the way to the next show. One can not sum up her career in a mere sentence, but let’s just say as an aspiring fashion journalist, Janice has the biography of dreams (it might’ve taken everything in my power not to write #goals). Janice is very writing focused, and as a journalism student, I found myself nodding along to her as she spoke. Here are a few key points she made:

  • you must have good basic grammar (a given, but sometimes overlooked)
  • a daily reading habit (every morning wake up and scroll through some articles, easily done and crucial in improving your writing)
  • a fashion library/archive (Janice alluded to an entire wall in her house dedicated to fashion titles- my fantasy! Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion and The Pictorial Encyclopedia of Fashion were her top, though pricey, recommendations)
  • commitment to accuracy (interesting; though integral to journalism, something that we should also commit to in fashion writing)
  • friends in fashion (something that has become my focus over this year. Not only about building connections and contacts, it’s sometimes just nice to be able to sit down and talk about fashion over a coffee!)

Janice spoke about the use of words that make a piece “sparkle”. “They make your reader want to romp to the next sentence,” she said. To do this she highlighted the importance of reading, reading, reading. From anywhere and everywhere. She found inspiration from reading a piece about surfing which described the ‘bubbling’ waves, the perfect adjective to describe the hem of a particular Elie Saab dress.

And while writing about fashion is sometimes seen as frivolous, Janice explained that fashion is a “visual history of what’s happening in the world, of the human race”. I thought that provided the perfect ending to her talk, and really left me with the reassurance that I’m not the only one out there thinking fashion is more than just a great dress or a pretty skirt.

Speaker and the day’s mediator Alison Kubler spoke next. Listening to her career accolades was awe inducing, having released a book titled Art/Fashion in the 21st Century on top of countless art curations and freelance pieces. What I really took away from her speech was the importance of good manners, something that the modern world is lacking. A polite email, a nice phone call and a simple thankyou are the differences between landing a job and being let down.

Editor of i-D magazine Australia Wendy Syfret gave a highly engaging, thought provoking and downright hilarious speech. So much talent and intelligence for someone so young. It was brilliant to hear from a girl who grew up in the same generation as myself, doing the same thing, achieving great things and starting really interesting conversations about very important issues. The session was very much focused on the conception of story ideas and finding sources, which my journalistic brain attached to immediately. Here are some of the best bits:

  • the best stories are usually very big or very small
  • find the voice in the story that hasn’t been heard
  • play devil’s advocate- what if I took the wrong angle? What if the person if the person I thought was the hero is the villain?
  • what has the mainstream missed?
  • what are the questions people aren’t asking?
  • does this article need to exist?

Definitely a refreshing talk to really train myself to look deeper into an issue and not take the easy angle. If I’m not contributing to a conversation, then they’re just empty words!

Last up were brother-sister duo Matthew and Laura Bannister of independent magazine Museum. To sum them up in a sentence they are a pair of cool kids doing awesome stuff. But they’re so much more than that. Creating, designing, writing and editing a magazine that is published and distributed in newsagents and museums globally? That is the stuff of magic. If anything, their talk made me appreciate my editors at Catalyst ten fold because of all of the planning and stress that goes into making a publication. A seriously impressive accomplishment that made me feel small in comparison. A magazine versus a blogpost? It’s all about the small things here.

Overall a highly informative, inspiring, though provoking and entertaining day of fashion talk. See you this time next year?

 

 

 

Not all chatter, chiffon and champagne

Bridal couture is mostly where it’s at, but who fashions the bridesmaids? Melbourne designer Antoniette Fusillo discusses designing beautiful dresses for the non-bride.

The trees of RMIT Brunswick’s campus enclose the buildings in what appear a green refuge for the fashion folk. Walking through the entrance, I search for Antoniette, whom I can recognise only from her Facebook profile.

I spot a woman sitting on one of the couches facing the window. “Antoniette?” I ask timidly, for fear of being wrong.

She turns around, acknowledging me. I notice she has a chic shoulder length sweeping hair style in caramel and honey tones. Coffee in hand, it’s obvious she’s a woman running on caffeine to combat a lack of sleep. A black pencil skirt with a black shirt tucked in, under a black jumper. The drab day Melbourne has provided us is as grey as the couch she is sitting on. She tells me that she is waiting on a call as she rests her phone beside her.

A warmth radiated from her subtly black kohl rimmed eyes, as genuine as her hand shake. The weather produced a moody contrast to Antoniette’s ever smiling demeanour. But much like rain on a wedding, which is believed to be good luck, dark skies on the day of our interview added to the intimateness of conversation.

A self-titled “juggling act”, Antoniette is currently studying her Masters of Fashion and Textiles at RMIT Brunswick, lectures seasonally at RMIT and coordinates the design department at the formerly titled Melbourne School of Fashion (now known as Fashion Masters).

Antoniette is far from a stern, unrelenting fashion designer who throws tantrums at their staff. Hold the phone, Naomi. She let me interview her during what seemed like her only break in a full day of tutoring. A day which was to see a guest who would be arriving to co-judge her students’ work, and hence the un-silent phone by her side.

Antoniette descends from a family of creatives. Much like the origins of Italian powerhouses Versace and Prada, her father was a tailor who learnt his trade at a young age in Italy. Her mother became a seamstress and pattern maker in her teenage years, while Antoniette’s sister is an artist living overseas. It’s obvious there’s something in the waters in Italy. Perhaps it’s infused into their wine.

Neither one of Antoniette’s parents however, wanted her to become a part of the fashion industry. Images of slaving away behind the scenes in factories, working long hours and employee exploitation discouraged them from handing her this inheritance.

“My parents still tell me to this day to change careers, be an accountant, be a lawyer,” she tells me. “It was innate, I remember sewing when I was young, making tops at seven.”

During her school years Antoniette was a high achiever in maths and science. Though she maintained her arts subjects, she was always very business orientated.

“Its not about pretty pictures,” she says. “With so much more competition in fashion, it’s becoming more important to have formal qualifications. I have friends in the industry that have loads and loads of experience, but no qualifications.”

Antoniette advises that if you want to be a small business or a start-up entrepreneur, you have to have a balance between creative talent and business knowledge. Coming from a woman who has never had to interview for a position, she is definitely an expert on the topic.

“You need to spend someone else’s money, make mistakes under someone else,” she says.

Antoniette’s own induction began when Mariana Hardwick, one of Australia’s leading designer of bridal couture and luxury fashion, attended a fashion show in the final year of Antoniette’s Honours degree. Mariana approached Antoniette, offering her a job as an assistant. Her first major position post-grad; it was the stuff of student dreams.

After three months working with Mariana she became a senior designer, and after six to eight months she became a creative director, staying in this role for eight years’ full time. Her work involved communicating with offshore processing, organising photo shoots, branding, trade fairs and doing ready-to-wear collections and bridal ranges.

“There were times where I’d be at work at 2 am getting calls from security saying ‘Mariana it’s time to go home’ and I just didn’t even have the energy to say ‘it’s not Mariana’,” she tells me.

Antoniette resigned and became freelance for Mariana, doing “crazy ad campaigns and highlight promotional pieces, the most fun”. She moved to Paris for seven months (“which didn’t feel like work”) where she did market research, sourced inspiration, did trade fairs and worked on collections.

“When you have time thats where these ideas come from,” she says of her stay in France. “When you work so hard for someone else you wouldn’t mind if it was building something for yourself.”

And that she did. Antoniette Fusillo launched in 2009. Moving studios in January this year, Antoniette put her label on hold after five years of establishing it. There are speculations of starting a partnership, but she says that she’s undecided on what point in her life she wants to do it.

Her eponymous label started as a wholesale range, with promotional look books for two seasons each year (Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer). It was a “niche, high end, evening wear product”, unlike anything offered by existing brands. This uniqueness was noticed by small boutiques who sold Antoniette’s designs. Her success, however, was not without small challenges.

“It was hard to break into the market with those price points at the time,” Antoniette says. “You’re competing with established brands that are producing offshore that can make a good turnover and sell for less. It was also a learning curve to find makers.”
After wholesaling for four years, she continued to service the boutiques that kept reordering. She then worked through private sales with a client list of VIPS who would order when they required.

“With wholesaling you’re behind the scenes, being creative, not knowing who’s buying it, being disconnected from the consumer. Private selling was more enjoyable. It wasn’t 60 tops to be finished by tomorrow, it was more bespoke, personal and exclusive,” she tells me.

Antoniette’s foray into bridesmaid design, however, was not a conscious decision. The “incidental” move emerged when Geelong store, Tinky, kept reordering bridesmaids dresses made to order.

“My label became know for that by word of mouth. There was a potential market,” she says.

Antoniette’s aesthetic when it comes to designing bridesmaids dresses is to create ones that aren’t defined as such. Traditionally, the bridal party wore garments that were identical to the bride and groom in an attempt to ward off evil spirits. In contemporary times, the only spirits you have to worry about are the ones you’re downing at the open bar.

“I don’t want them to be conventional,” she says. “It’s quality, long lasting, durable, and made for you to fit and flatter, so you’re more likely to wear it again.”

She had clients who would ring her, saying that the week after the wedding they wore their dress to their husband’s dinner party, or others who cut their full length gowns to wear at the races.

Antoniette comments that the most recent popular ‘craze’ with bridal parties is dressing all the bridesmaids in the same colour, with a different cut to suit individual body types.

“Can you imagine putting everyone in the same dress?” she says, smiling.

Antoniette describes bridal wear as “slow fashion,” though this does not prevent her from exploring the trends. Her inspiration is a “fusion” between fashion and non-fashion mediums across contemporary and historical spheres; films, icons, eras, artworks, jewellery, music and architecture.

“I research trends, not to prescribe, but to have a context and relevance,” she says.

Across Antoniette’s campaign are the words “completely Australian made”. She has produced offshore for other companies previously, but Antoniette’s core value is to be authentically involved in the entire process. Rather than waiting for a delivery and opening a box, she enjoys the control of keeping it local.

“Producing in Australia is very difficult, it’s like a secret society to find makers. Once you’ve got them you have to hold onto them,” she says.

With the rise of ‘fast fashion,’ local production faces a threat the size of a 12 inch stiletto.

“Companies like Cotton On will have over 2000 stores by 2016, while walking down a former strip of designer shops you’ll see leases and empty boutiques.”

The mass market soars, while independent designer labels are at a slow decline. Melbourne independent fashion retailer FAT closed two stores this year, swimming in a debt of over $4 million. Melbourne-based label Claude Maus is currently closing both in-store and online trade, while famed Australian fashion designer Josh Goot went into voluntary administration earlier this year.

“The lower market succeeds because it reaches the masses,” she says.

“People don’t necessarily appreciate a quality product. They see a t-shirt, if it shrinks, if it twists, if it distorts; I spent 10 dollars on it.”

In Italy, there is an overwhelming culture of investing in quality garments, and a great pleasure and intrinsic urge to do so.

“In Italy they will go without food to buy, it’s at the forefront of their lives. My 60 year-old aunty in Italy would comment on how nice my glasses were, but would tell me they were two seasons ago,” she laughs.

Two markets exist in Italy; the lower and high end. There appears to be no mid-range market. “You’ve got Zara and H&M, then Prada,” Antoniette nicely explains. I can imagine a highly glamorous Milanese woman walking her dog in her Zara culottes, H&M blouse and Prada handbag.

Whereas in Australia, a mid range market is prevalent with stores such as Country Road and Witchery. Witchery’s sales sales rose eight per cent to $849.6 million in 2014, a precursor to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) claim of retail trade increasing by 0.4 per cent in the month of January this year, growing to $23.88 billion.

While Australian’s are happy to tap, swipe or insert away, the “only time people really spend a large sum of money on a garment for one day is for a wedding”.
Antoniette has been a maid of honour twice or three times for close friends, so has first hand experience of both sides of the issue. In her own wedding, Antoniette covered the costs of having a bridal party.

“I had an entourage, but more so because I wanted to dress them,” she says fondly.

Her experience in working in bridal/bridesmaids wear wasn’t all chatter, chiffon and champagne, however.

Antoniette would have uncomfortable experiences where brides would have a specific budget and would get their bridesmaids to pay the excess. Factor in hair and makeup costs, flights to destinations for international weddings and wedding gifts: you might as well take out a loan.

“For me, if you’re gonna ask someone to be a part of it, then you should cover it and not put them out of pocket, that’s my background,” she says.

Off the record Antoniette tells me juicy stories of bridezillas. Sorry, no disclosing here. She does tells me that brides can easily become “egocentric,” “narcissistic” and “consumed in the day”. It becomes a “fantasy” and “once they get an idea in their mind” it’s very difficult to stray from it.

“It becomes bigger than Ben Hur,” she says of a bride’s perception of her wedding day.

“Build pain and suffering into your prices as miscellaneous costs,” Antoniette tells her students.

Though dramatic and scandalous stories are inherent in the bridal industry, Antoniette also had her share of “beautiful brides”.

“I was lucky as I had a certain level of client that knew attention to detail was important, that the bridesmaids were a reflection of them and there style, and they wanted their girls to look just as good as them,” she tells me.

And it seems Antoniette’s clients would also class themselves as fortunate. Clients would buy gifts in the form of flowers and perfume for Antoniette as a way of saying thanks for the laborious work that went into the conception, design and production of their gowns.

“I am a people person, but you have to be a certain person to be in bridal,” she tells me.

There is no doubt Antoniette’s character is attributed to her great success. She gives me a kiss on the cheek and a hug as we leave; a very Italian gesture.

Just as one would do at an Italian wedding, let’s put our glasses together in toast to Antoniette. Salute, this one’s on the house.