In case you missed it, Chanel presented their latest collection from a life-size CRUISE ship. Rightly so, since it was Gabrielle Chanel who first donned the term ‘Cruise’ as it related to fashion. ‘Cruise’ wear is now referred to mostly as ‘resort wear’ and applies to clothing which represent ‘affluent customers who were expected to spend the post-Christmas/New Year’s weeks in warm-weather climates’ (thanks, Wikipedia). That is, threads for folks who can afford to chase the sun.
The truth is that very few of us Gen Y can afford to live such a frivolous lifestyle, but we like to parade around as if we can, booking mini-getaways, going out for fancy dinners just 15 minutes from home and throwing money at Air BnBs an hour away. Which is why I think the Cruise trend will have great appeal for buyers. The allure of ‘escapism’ and of sitting on a tropical beach without a phone in sight is really, really appealing. Except that of COURSE there would be a phone in sight because if you sit on a beach with a magazine and no one is around to take a photo did your REALLY sit on a beach with a magazine???
Here is a sneak peek at some of my NEW leafy, tropical and escape-inspired designs available for sale in the shop, which is (drumroll…) no longer password protected. Enjoy!
So start thinking anchors, postcards, beach chairs, umbrellas, beach balls and cruise liners! Of course, if you want to dream up some ideas together, get in touch 🙂
Oh, and happy holidays, Australian parents. Grab yourself a cruise magazine, live vicariously as you stir that spag bol and plan a mini vacay to the local play centre 😛 !
Sewing has changed… When we were kids growing up in our Mama’s country fabric store, (The Renmark Sewing Basket!), my sister and I would browse through McCalls, Butterick, Simplicity and Vogue patterns for HOURS, writing a to-make list to hand on to our clever Mother. There is something so lovely about sitting down with a pattern book (and all its ugly, 90s-styled shoots) and imagining what COULD BE (were those garments not set in a 90s fashion shoot). Fast forward 20 years and nothing strikes terror in my heart like a trip to Spotlight with four children. I recently sat down at the pattern tables for a quick browse while my daughter pummelled people with the trolley, my boys made hilarious jokes about the Halloween costumes (in the books they may or may not have accidentally ripped) and my toddler ate a packet of very-crummy-crackers to keep her contained in the trolley. I left in a fluster with an armful of patterns I still haven’t sewn AND without my phone (which I spent 10 minutes panicking about and then found on silent in the back of a drawer full of patterns). #mumlife
SLOTHING AKA ONLINE SHOPPING This, my friends, is why I online shop. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that slothing on the couch and enjoying a relaxing browse through your favourite online stores (Hello, Zara Australia online!) is the preferred mode of shopping for most of you. About 18 months ago, whilst slothed out in one of these post-dinner digestion shops, I discovered a delightful little store called Hello Dear Kids run by Mijeong Jeong. Mijeong’s Korean-based store sells incredible PDF sewing patterns and – HOORAY – the gorgeous models appear to have been photographed not just in the last 20 years but like, YESTERDAY. On-trend shapes, retro and fun fabrics and lovely, bright photography (and she’s even on Instagram with all the cool kids!). Those of you who know me will know why I loved her vibe immediately.
DIGITAL CREATION So, confession: I’m sewing-averse. I CAN sew, and the feeling of having created something amazing is like a drug…but I prefer to step aside and let Makers Make. The drug for me is seeing things made from my fabrics. So I stored this glorious Harem Jumper Pants pattern in my memory (aka Etsy Wishlist) for a rainy day and got on my merry way designing fabrics.
I set myself a challenge to use a palette from my Pinterest Colour Board with an unusual blue, green and mint combo I hadn’t used before and yep, you guessed it, here’s the delicious fabric that resulted…
NEW FASHIONED SEWING Oh, the wonders of the internet. Through browsing on INSTAGRAM I discovered Hello Dear Kids on ETSY. From a pattern on my IPAD I created a DIGITAL TEXTILE DESIGN. From that I purchased MY FABRIC ONLINE from Spoonflower, downloaded my pattern and sewed it into a cute lil’ romper I’m now sharing in my BLOG and on MY INSTAGRAM.
When I explain to my elderly, quilting grandmother that I design fabric for businesses via email, she smiles and nods sweetly. It IS unbelievable what is possible now through the Interwebs. Yes, when it comes down to it, you need to know how to sew – the old fashioned way – but Mijeong does a beautiful job with her instructions and heck, Google and YouTube are a second away.
And of course, I had to have my sweetest ‘baby’ model her new threads and her new headband. She was VERY stoked about the super-roomy pants and peplum, which she showed through many twirls, break-dancing and lifting her peplum up like a skirt…fortunately, far less revealing when the peplum’s attached…and her new Kitschy Kitty headband was stellar for holding back the fly-aways on this windy day.
When I invest time, money and energy into a garment or if it holds significant nostalgic value I tend to want my kids to wear it for the whole 6 months that they fit it. That means, especially for those of you living down in the Southern States of Oz, it needs to be layer-able. So I’ve included some Winter Warmer options for pairing with this pattern.
Well, I hope this has inspired you to try something new! A palette outside of your comfort zone? Digital textile design? Digital sewing patterns? Shopping online and shopping small? Purchasing fabric online? Slothing? Go boldly, friend!!!
It’s no secret that Dusty is the new Black. This is no news to anyone if they’ve fallen as hard as I have for all the Dusty gracing their Instagram feeds but I wanted to pinpoint why I really love this trend….and so, of course, I decided the world needs yet another trend board 😛 (By the by – if you’re stuck with trends and not sure where to look, I have just launched my first ever guide: Trend Spotting for Small Businesses with handy-dandy hints and tips for small businesses on how to spot a trend and how to put together a palette. You can download a copy by signing up to my email list here).
One of the cultural shifts towards this trend is from a society of hipsters and young people pushing back against fast and disposable. The theory is that GenY’s preference for recycled materials and ethical processes affects our lean towards tones that appear softened by said factors.
But for me, it’s personal.
I grew up in a sunburnt country. In fact, pretty jolly near it’s burning heart about 3 hours inland from Adelaide in South Australia. The landscape was arid.
I took my husband there a few years back (we’d been many times to visit my grandparents, who still live there) and he commented on how it was just….’desolate’. I laughed: I had never seen it that way! Even in its harsh, deathly way, the desert inspires such awe. Plants grow despite thirst. Birds nest despite sparse bush. Kangaroos eat salt bushes and even tumble weeds grow a life of their own…!
I’ve always loved artists who can see something beautiful in the ordinary. Of course, I’ve made my obsession with Jeffrey Smart known and it’s taken a few years for me to recognise what it is I love about him….it’s a deep respect for anyone who can take this sunburnt country and show the world how beautiful it is. That inspires me.
And that’s why I think this trend could be a really huge thing for Australia. It’s our time to show our dusty, red heart and bear our desert with pride. And that’s why I’m sharing this palette with you: get out there, Australia – show them what we’ve got 🙂
If you own a small business and are looking for more dusty trend inspiration, feel free to shoot me an email with a sentence about your biz so that you can browse the dusty designs in my Shop (it’s password protected because…copycats :P….and also because I like to keep my designs fresh and relatively unseen).
There are also some gorgeous Instagram accounts to check out:
And again, if you’d like to know more about Trend Spotting, be sure to join the email list and receive a copy of my new guide: Trend Spotting for Small Businesses.
Many of us only dream of running a successful and popular kids’ clothing/homewares business, but Angelique Woodburn of The Midnight Gang has done it, sold it and is onto it again. This is a lady who knows what she’s doing. I was super honoured that she asked me to design her new Midnight Gang range (which launched this week) and had to ask her where she draws her inspiration and passion from!
What started your journey, creatively? When did your first dream up Howi and then The Midnight Gang?
I started Howi in 2013 when my son was born and I found a major gap in the market for cool kids clothes. I decided to move on from the fashion industry as my passion was dwindling and if it’s one thing I have learnt, it’s that the key to success is passion. Since completing our home renovations my interest had turned to homewares. But when decorating my kids rooms, again I found a gap. I wasn’t able to find quality blankets that were fun, interesting and still looked beautiful and stylish in a child’s room. I also have a passion for responsible and sustainable choices so I found it difficult to find blankets that were made from Organic Cotton. So, in 2016, I decided I would combine everything that was important to me and start my very own organic bedding label!
What kind of designs do you feel most nostalgic about?
I have such fond memories of my childhood and I remember my bedroom being my sanctuary where I would play for hours on end, immersed in my own imaginary games. I used to have a big white wicker chair and a vintage floral bedspread and I still love that style today. This has been a big inspiration for our second collection coming in SS17/18.
Do you wear pattern?!
I don’t tend to wear a lot of pattern, I am more of a jeans and white tshirt kind of girl! However I express my love of colour and pattern in our home decor. Our floor rug, throw cushions, fruit bowl, wall prints etc all have beautiful pattern and colour and surrounding myself with beautiful colours makes me feel so happy and uplifted. I also have a lot of indoor plants so I am constantly surrounded by the natural patterns their leaves and flowers create.
Where do you go for inspiration?
My children and nature are two things that I always get so much inspiration from. I design with my children in mind and what I know they would love, and I also think back to when I was a child and what I would have loved. I only have to step outside into my garden to be inspired by the flowers, stars, wildlife and creatures and every new season brings new inspiration and ideas.
What are the current trends you’re loving and hating?
I am absolutely loving the floral trends at the moment and I always love anything with a vintage twist. I never hate a trend, as I think there is something beautiful and inspirational in everything. However I am not personally a fan of the monochrome trend. I think children are so full of creativity and imagination and I think they need colour in their spaces to inspire them!
If there was one artist you wish you could collaborate with, dead or alive, who would it be?
I would have to say one of my favourite artists of all time is Claude Monet. I absolutely love his paintings of the french countryside and all the beautiful ponds and parks. Every one of his paintings makes me wish I could transport into it and just sit and be. They have such a sense of peace and tranquility about them and his appreciation for nature is truly evident. Something I wish to imprint on my own children.
How do you take a break from business?
I only work on my business when my children are napping are when they are with my mum, one day a week. I have a very strict rule in my house where I am not to do business while my children around awake. They come first and I want to be present in their lives. That’s the beauty of an online business, the hours are totally flexible and work really well with a young family.
What are your wildest dreams for The Midnight Gang?
My wildest dreams are that The Midnight Gang becomes a household name and a ‘go to’ place for beautiful bedding and children’s homewares. I would love to see our blankets stocked in my favourite stores and it would be an absolute dream to open the pages of Real Living magazine and see my very own products featured on their gorgeous glossy pages!
When I was nine, one of my best friends copied my work. I had been copied for a long time before that, but when her work received acclaim I couldn’t emotionally handle that. I shed some tears. Her Mum comforted me and told me it was a form of flattery and so, I have spent 23 years convincing myself that this is true. I was angry, I didn’t want peoples’ stupid flattery when it felt like theft! But what’s interesting is that nowadays the anger is gone. I understand copying. To learn new techniques (not for profit, for learning, in the privacy of my studio) I have copied other artists. I have carefully studied Mary Blair and tried to replicate her work or watched YouTube videos on Manga drawing. I have copied. I have also had big businesses ask me to copy other peoples’ work. And. I have had sweet, innocent, little businesses ask me to copy other designers’ work. I’ve been sent screenshots from other companies and asked to do ‘basically exactly this’ or given a small swatch and been asked for ‘this style’. When I try and stray, try to add some Ellie-flavour or create something more in-line with their brand or trends they direct me back to the original brief, ‘no, we just want it like this one’. I don’t need outrage about the ethical quandary this puts me in. I’m not even angry. I get it, it’s life. I’m not writing another copycat post full of anger (because I get it, I do, I have felt the anger). But instead, I want to move past the emotion and perhaps, maybe, suggest a systematic sickness and the antidote. An antidote in the form of 5, possibly difficult, tablets to swallow!
1. Recognise that fashion is copy. (Ironic, no? That the first step to changing is acceptance?! What is this, Ellie? AA?! But seriously.)It can be sad. It can be frustrating. But it can also be freeing.I highly recommend Johanna Blakley’s popular 15-minute TED talk, “Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture” (or here’s the transcript). In it, Blakley talks about the legality of copyright and how the fashion industry is unique:
“Unlike their creative brothers and sisters, who are sculptors or photographers or filmmakers or musicians, fashion designers can sample from all their peers’ designs. They can take any element from any garment from the history of fashion and incorporate it into their own design…”
Blakley asserts that it is this permitted ‘sampling’ that forms the lifeblood of the fashion industry. Making decisions about what trend from what era to revitalise and refresh and combine. After all, there is nothing new under the sun, it’s the ‘curation’ that is the art. Once we accept that a certain degree of copy is the lifeblood of our industry we can give ourself permission to perceive ourselves as curators rather than creators. But…
2. Look backwards. Instead of copying current trends, we could all dust off some patterns from our grandma’s sewing cabinet, dig out photos of our 90s parachute pants, grab a copy of the Sound of Music and feast our eyes on clothes made from drapery. Find fashion that makes our hearts sing (excuse the Sound of Music pun) and do something of the same vibe (because even copying old fabrics is copying). We would start nostalgia-based fan clubs! We are turning clothing into landfill simply because it doesn’t fit the current ‘trend’. If we can create more timeless items or items that hit an emotional chord rather than a current fad, perhaps we can hold onto our pieces for longer and love them harder.
3. Look forwards.Instead of looking around, we can look for future trends – not in the kids’ fashion industry, not even in fashion, but more broadly…. The art of trend forecasting can be a bit mystifying and confusing and we get scared and look sideways instead – we stay safe by checking what other brands are doing – but if we try and de-mystify this art of ‘trend forecasting’ it gives us confidence to go boldly in new directions. So let me try a little, from my fledgling knowledge: trends are forecast in response to cultural, political, scientific etc shifts and developments. Obviously, one of the top sources for what’s happening is the news headlines. Some picks from today that would catch my eye, for example:
* Ali Baba revenue surges to 10b * Study reveals mums’ media habits * Michelle Bridges slams food industry * How to Insta the hell out of a festival * Star Wars : Episode VIII title revealed
From this I would do my own research: what are Chinese buying online? Are they interested in Australiana? Considering our obsession with social media what snapchat filters could be amplified as textile designs? What superfoods would make a cool pattern? What is festival fashion from the past? What were women wearing to Woodstock? How did the hippie culture evolve and what is the ideological difference between a hipster and a hippie? Where is the next Star Wars being set and what would that look like? There are galactic trends, 70s influences, earthy tones…but these are all based on bigger social changes and THOSE are glimpsed at in the news. So many questions to explore artistically! Imagine a whole range based around a question rather than an aesthetic?!
I also pay particular interest to innovations in science and technology (what are the new space developments? Photographs? Is virtual reality upon us? What will those worlds look like?) as well as looking to movies being released in 2018 and what themes they follow, worlds they’re set in and the fashion that they might inspire.
I browse for trends in cooking magazines (how are they styling things?) as well as interiors, since it has been said that the furniture industry is both ahead of the fashion industry and more steady. My last source is the runway. To see what’s happening in adult fashion. I like to look outside my niche and see how it can be applied within.
The very favourite moodboards I receive from clients are boards with a vibe instead of a design. When a client says, ‘I love the feel of these images, let them inspire you’ I want to kiss their face. It can take more conversation and refining (what appeals to you about these? What kind of lines do you imagine? Organic or structured repeats?). It’s intellectually more taxing than ‘exactly this design, but with these elements’ and it’s more time-consuming but, in my commission scheme, it costs the same amount, the end result is so much more unique. Both the client and I can feel so proud of the new offering we’ve brought to the industry.
4. Know that people can copy products but they can’t copy your mind. A creative mind is always one step ahead, and being first is an honour. If not the Australian community, the Australian Instagram community is small and supportive. They know who was first, they support innovation and in lifting ourselves we lift one another. As a team, we are thriving because of the innovators consistently upping the game for one another. Because of those going first.
5. Find the right designer and respect them. I have been blessed with the most beautiful clients. Almost all of my clients come to me because they love my work and they respect my vibe. I’m incredibly honoured. My favourites, as I said, are those who say, ‘I’ve looked at your work, I love what you do, I trust you to do____’. When these marriages are made we work seamlessly. They respect me as an artist, I respect them as the creative visionary and financial risk-taker. They let me do my thing, I make sure I’m providing a product they love. Everyone’s happy. When designers are asked to ‘copy this’ it creates uninspired designers and adds very little, actually nothing, to the industry.
I’m not saying clients are always at fault. Designers need to say, ‘no, I can’t copy that’, even when it’s really hard (and trust me, it can be really hard). But we also need to learn to stop asking.
(Side note: one fast and cheap option, if you don’t have a really concrete vision, is to ask designers if they have existing designs that might work. The range of designs I have on my website, for example (shameless plug!) are often cheaper than commissions, even with a colour change included and I’m more than happy to negotiate bulk discounts via email. I’m super flattered by one of the ‘big guys’ in particular purchasing my designs – I feel like it’s a real win for the whole industry when designers are having their fresh art purchased.)
Finally. (Congrats if you’ve made it this far!)
A word for those who have been burned by the big guys (or the small guys…): I really do feel for you. For those of you who have poured your heart and soul and finances into your products, who have fairly paid every link of the chain only to see a replica a fraction of the price at a large retailer. I too have had my designs stolen. It smarts.
In Blakley’s talk she cites designer Tom Ford. He designed for Gucci and then the counterfeits boomed. After some research for Gucci they simply surmised that ‘the counterfeit customer was not our customer’.
The fashion-forward, the trend-savvy, the ethical-loving-hippies, whatever your target audience is, unless it’s the ‘Mums needing $4 clothing’, you’re not competing for the same customer as ‘the big guys’. Keep shooting for your niche, keep doing your thing, and, hard as it is, let the others go. Build your people and love them hard for loving your unique work.
I sure do. x
PS. One very last note. I do think it’s important to recognise that we do not live in a vacuum. Just last week Doo Wop Kids released this GORGEOUS design.
I was gobsmacked. Just the week before I had designed this fabric.
The minute they released their new fabric I sent them a message with my design saying, ‘THIS IS CRAZY! We’re on the same wavelength!!! So cool!” – I was not upset (and they weren’t, either!) not accusing or frustrated – there is no way that either of us saw each others’ designs – I was genuinely amused and excited to find like-minded people. I don’t work for Doo Wop (I just love them!) and I haven’t seen anything like this anywhere else. We just have a similar aesthetic and taste. Sometimes, when a few of us are drawing bananas, listening to Madonna and eating sherbet, those bananas end up looking similar 😉 Be kind and give the benefit of the doubt! It’s a small world.
* The True Cost documentary cited instances where leather tanneries were pouring chromium into the Ganges River in India. * In the Australian Fashion Report, several of the big chains I shop at, and not necessarily just the cheap ones, would not specify where they sourced their leather or wool. * The movie also showed a Punjab village where an insane percentage of children had disabilities from the pesticides in genetically modified cotton crops. * The documentary also briefly covered the tragic 2013 Savar building collapse and showed how the situation continues to escalate. The low prices and ‘bargains’ we all exclaim about at our biggest chains are causing a literal collapse of the garment industry, setting wage bars too low and perpetuating poverty. Basically, if you’re paying under $10 for a t-shirt, it’s probably not enough… * This was all juxtaposed with fast fashion ads (“GET THE LATEST LOOK!” “DISPOSABLE CLOTHING! TRY IT NOW!”), teenage girls flaunting their $6 purchases on YouTube, Boxing Day sale craziness….all in all: it painted a fairly grim picture of the Western World standing on the back of those less fortunate.
1. The fashion industry is the world’s second-largest polluter. 2. The world now consumes a staggering 80 billion pieces of clothing each year, up 400% from two decades ago. 3. One-in-six people work in the global fashion industry. A majority of these workers are women earning less than $3 per day. 4. 250,000 Indian cotton farmers have killed themselves in the last 15 years. Partly as a result of going into debt to buy genetically modified cotton seeds. 5. Only 10% of the clothes people donate to charity or thrift stores get sold. The rest end up in landfills or flooding markets in developing countries like Haiti where they are bought by the box and kill the local industry.
What I saw and read could not be unseen or unheard. I was determined to find away to move forward but…honestly….I didn’t think I could afford to shop ethically AND fashionably for 4 little people. Wrong! Guess what? I’ve come up with a new way of shopping for my kids that is still fashion-savvy but more ethical, of equal cost and in fact, time-saving. I’m calling it: Moderate Minimalism. It’s not perfect. It requires forgiveness for incidental purchases when I’m rushed or stressed and past transgressions when I just didn’t know but it’s a step in the right direction and it’s easy. Here are the new rules we’ve been following:
Figure out what you need, before you need it.
Take 20 minutes to lay out the kids’ next-season wardrobe and check for gaps. Before you do this, decide how many of each item of clothing your kid will need (this site recommends having enough clothes for 7-10 days but I honestly think 4-5 is enough. Unless you leave your dirty washing pile for 5+ days at a time…!) so you can check it off against what you have. Write down what you *need* in an iPhone note or similar (Evernote with photos if you’re hardcore!), so you can refer to it and you’re not making impulse purchases or wandering Westfield grabbing ‘cute’ things. Also consider this great rule from the True Cost website: will your kid wear that item 30 times? Great litmus test! NB: If you’re disappointed you don’t *need* a jumper that you really, really wanted – buy the next size up and pop it aside for next year – just don’t forget it like I do! 🙂
Capsule that wardrobe!
I know. ‘Capsule’ is the buzz word of the season. But creating a wardrobe where everything coordinates (or mostly) doesn’t just save money, it saves time and stress as you’re not having to ‘supervise’ your kid and vet their clothing choices. It all goes. For more info on capsule wardrobes and living within your ‘needs’ check out the Minimalism documentary on Netflix or Google ‘capsule wardrobe’.
If you have to buy, make sure you love it.
Buy pieces that you love, especially for sentimental reasons. I’m such a sentimental shopper, I’ll buy things that remind me of my childhood or my Mum or that fabric I had on that quilt (or those Women’s Weekly Cakes….!!! How amazing is this pinafore by Eclectic Bambino using my AWW Cakes fabric?). I have to hand my kids’ clothes down to other children so buying for love, not trends, means I won’t fall out of love with those items when they’re pulled out of the wardrobe in 18 months.
Buy handmade and well-made.
I can’t vouch for the majority of handmaidens and small businesses but I know for certain that the ladies who purchase my fabrics from Next State Print purchase ethical fabrics, because Next State are fabulous at sourcing these. I also know that these handmaidens sew the garments theirselves with a lotta love, which means it’s done ethically. But we can’t forget those businesses who have sacrificed time and margins to ensure they provide ethically-made goods when manufacturing. Just because goods are made overseas doesn’t mean that workers are exploited: ask questions of your favourite companies and if they’re paying their garment makers a fair wage and ensuring great living conditions: go nuts! Moderately 😛
Did you see that statistic about landfill? Eek! Just when we felt good about our high-and-mighty-selves for donating to Salvos (cough cough chucking out our old wardrobes so we can start afresh)…! As much as I would love to justify buying new everything every time after watching these movies and hearing the statistics I just can’t. So here’s a moderate option: check out bricks and mortar and online op-shops (my two fave online at the moment are Use-Ta in Melbourne and RadVintageShop on Etsy – pop your favourite secondhand haunts in the comments!).
Or either this amazing Mickey or Sonic jumper with these fab Kapow tights (again, by me and on special!!!). We all love new things and supporting designers but there is such beauty and value in re-loving our older goods.
There are also many buy-sell-trade groups for designer clothes. I know this doesn’t bode well for many makers but well-made clothes become sought-after seconds. You can get almost as much for quality secondhand designer clothes as brand new. Especially the super cool, well-designed pieces. The increased resale value means customers place higher value on buying those goods, knowing they can get a decent return. Also, because customers are happier to pay more for re-sellable goods it pushes companies to make quality, lasting goods. The whole industry is raised by supporting quality!
The benefits: time and money.
This doesn’t mean we have to stop supporting our favourite businesses. In fact, it means the opposite. By cutting out my fast food (fast fashion!) I’ve stopped grabbing bits and pieces here and there and saved $4 + $20 + $8 + $7 + $15…..etc. That means I can properly research a cute top or wait for my fave company’s latest release and put in a purchase without feeling the guilt or buyer’s regret of that cheap top or trend-y top (that is no longer trendy next season)… This has also saved me time – we don’t need to loiter at the shops just ‘looking’ and having my kids bombarded with the BUY BUY BUY message of shopping centres. We can get outside and get some fresh air instead (I shop from my phone or computer at nighttime) OR we can ferret through an op shop, which is one of my favourite pass-times and much more kid-friendly!
Let’s be honest. A good majority of people don’t have the time or the energy for any of this. I get it. I really do. So here’s a really simple way to keep yourself in check: download the Good On You app and use it when you’re next at your local shopping centre. Most Australian fashion retailers are featured – enter their name in as you walk into their store and have a little read about where their goods are sourced, how they pay their workers and their commitment to the environment. Then you can make an informed decision about what you support, or don’t 🙂 Sometimes it’s the lesser of a few evils, but even these tiny decisions can help move our world, particularly our ‘third’ world, into a brighter future.
If this has been helpful or you have any tips or know any fabulous Australian companies producing ethical clothing I would love to hear about it! Comment here or on this Instagram post 🙂
About a year ago a sweet friend messaged me and said, ‘have you heard of the agent, Nerida Hansen? I think your work would be a great fit for her’. I hadn’t previously believed my work would ‘fit’ anywhere. I don’t do the typical butterflies, love hearts and kitty cats that win wrapping paper competitions. I’m more the kind to include an ibis or a Hills Hoist – purely for the challenge… Anyway, I popped on over to Nerida’s website and I was obsessed. The artists’ work was fresh and vibrant, there were a host of styles and oh, the colour palettes and visual gymnastics…so much life! I dropped her an email immediately and the rest is history. Over the past year Nerida has become a friend and mentor and I’m so grateful for the way she advocates for us and pushes all of her artists to keep their work fresh and ahead of the pack.
At recent trade shows Nerida’s clients have been blown away by the unique offering she brings to the landscape and I know even bigger things are coming for her agency. I decided to have a chat to figure out what it is that drives this UBER busy Mum of two, creative shepherd and powerhouse:
Tell us a bit about your background and where you first developed your interest in design/licensing?
I have always been interested in design, dabbled in fine art and dreamt of studying textile design, but none of that has eventuated – so far anyway.
After playing with my own small fashion label for a few years I landed a job as a buyer for a major retailer where I was purchasing for major licenses such as Disney, Warner Bros, Hello Kitty, Eric Carle etc. This introduced me to the world of licensing, which was really where my business today started.
The long hours as a buyer didn’t suit my family life at all, so after I resigned I tracked down 2 designers from the USA and Sweden who I had been following on social media, and pitched their fabric collections to a manufacturer for Spotlight. They accepted the work and within months I was doing my first licensing deal as an Agent.
From the start I wanted to see more creative and independent designs on commercial products, and with such a homogenous retail landscape, it is what drives me today to not only represent artists, but educate retailers on the power of licensing and purchasing independent art.
Would you consider yourself a creative person?
Absolutely, but I don’t dedicate the time to developing my creative self. With small children I find time management the biggest challenge in life – and I always choose beach time over any other creative pursuits. My creativity lends well to my business where I have to curate what I present, set up trade show booths and preparing files or presentations that clients are wowed by.
How would you describe your job?
It is an interesting mix of administration, marketing, mentoring and design. There is no single approach when It comes to customer needs, and I need to try to be on top of who has what opportunities where, which ones are a priority and what preparation i have to do for meetings or phone calls coming up. In the past i have not had as much time, but now with 2 children in school I dedicate those school hours to working on this agency, and I am fine tuning all my processes to make marketing and sales a priority. I am also known to be up at 4am to catch up on some work:)
I have legal and financial administration, as well as many artists to mentor and talk through project and presentations with. All in all, it is a very exciting business, and I love every minute of it. But at the same time, it is a lot of hard work. Licensing is also a real the ebb and flow of income, so many hours are sometimes spent working towards something where you won’t see royalties for 6 months. In saying that, I am really starting to build on so many more projects and have been converting more sales, so I am looking forward to that becoming less of an issue.
What do you look for when considering whether to take on an artist (what makes a good design, collection and portfolio)?
The design aesthetic needs to be completely original and with a contemporary edge, which is what I want my agency to be known for. As far as skills and capabilities go, I look for technical expertise, and I love artists who can incorporate low and high tech – for example, someone who uses an interesting fine art approach like painting, etching, collage or screen printing, then has the skills to creating digital repeats out of it. For vector-based artists, I just want a unique look that is not something an in-house design team could achieve. It is so important to have a strong sense of colour, with a very good understanding of fashion and the importance of incorporating fashionable colours into your surface art. More and more I am finding buyers are drawn to pattern design because of colour, as much as they are the structure of the design. Even though in most cases they can change the colour to suit, they are buying it because it will sit right in with the collections they are building.
What is your point of difference from other agencies?
My clients tell me how fresh and contemporary my presentations are, which is the aesthetic I always want to be known for. I want to keep growing my focus on art repeats, quirky kids designs and fashion colour. One point of difference is the connection I have to my artists, I love to work with, and develop emerging artists where I think they have something really different to offer, and I love learning from the more experienced artists too.
What’s the best part of being an agent?
Seeing beautiful independent designs on commercial products that are available for all to see and buy! Knowing that I played a part in that is very rewarding, as is, helping artists create income from their art.
You recently attended Heimtextil in Frankfurt and are soon headed to Surtex in New York along with other trade shows, can you describe the vibe of a trade show and what happens?
Trade shows are very interesting, they are generally buzzing with buyers walking the floor and talking to the design studios they might be interested in. The big ones I have done can also have a fair bit of down time, where you get to see what everyone else is doing, and who else is in the market. Mind you, you know the minute you walk away from your booth, some very valuable and interesting clients will pop by! Which is why you always have people working with you!
You learn so much from the shows, and they are an invaluable experience for all designers. But they are not a short term solution to launching a surface art career, they are a marketing investment. The show I was at recently is full of studios who have been doing the shows for over 20 years or more. They are earning amazing income, but they all encouraged me to stick at it year in and year out, as each year builds and the customers always come back. I am in the process of selecting 2 more shows to do each year, which I intend to do every year, to ensure my clients know where to find me.
You’ve recently moved from Victoria to Queensland, how have you found the change in the creative vibe?
I haven’t been here long enough yet to fully understand it, but I am very excited by the conversations I have had and the connections I have been offered. I am very excited to roll out my workshops and really get to understand the creative scene around Brisbane and the gold Coast- there is so much happening here!
Finally, you and I have been talking about a textile design course…what kind of content are you hoping to provide to the residents of the Gold Coast and beyond?!
I am running a series of workshops which are designed sequentially. They aim to educate and prepare both emerging and experienced designers for creative careers. I think for all designers wanting to make a lifestyle from their art, having a diverse approach to what they do is the key. So my first workshop is introductory, looking at creative career pathways and all the different ways an artists can create income from their art. I follow that workshop up with one specifically more tailored to the Surface Art Licensing business. For many designers, it is a bit of an unknown territory, so I aim to enlighten participants, and hopefully give them the tools they need to move forward into surface art licensing. These workshops are followed up by some of the more technical aspects of designing for surface art: Creating Collections, Using Illustrator to create repeat patterns, and using photoshop to digitise and prepare repeat patterns from original art. These will initially be run at Warehouse 5 in Burleigh Heads, so hook up to their facebook pageand instagram and stay tuned for dates and details.
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Please also stay tuned to my Instagram, where I will continue to provide Instagram Live content including, ‘Why do I need an agent?’ and ‘The Basics of Creating a Pattern- without a computer!’. 😀 But it’s live, which means it disappears once I’m done! I’m a ninja like that….catchya soon, pattern lovers!