Category Archives: Interviews

An Ambassador for Change

If you’d asked a young Zuhal Kuvan-Mills- living on her family’s hazelnut farm in rural Turkey- where she envisioned herself being in 2018, would making waves as a rising fashion designer be her first guess?

“No, not at all!” laughs the talent behind local label Green Embassy. Casually dressed for our chat at the Vashti offices, the bubbly artist is proudly sporting a newly-thrifted red cardi- a far cry from her own ethereal, luxurious creations.

“I think I look a bit different to most designers, in my old jeans, old shirt and RSPCA (Op Shop) jacket!” She jokes.

With this patent down-to-earth attitude, Kuvan-Mills recounts the unconventional journey that led her into the world of fashion.

“I actually started as a veterinarian surgeon in Istanbul… then did further studies in conservation biology, then did a postgrad in education.

“I was purely academic, just teaching… this was until about 2004,” she recalls. “I decided it was time for a break.”

Unable to shake the pull of the crafts she had first learnt from her mother and grandmother, she decided to pursue her long-lost love of tailoring and textile making.

Cue the birth of Green Embassy.

“I was creative, had always done things like sewing,” the designer remembers. “Living in the Swan Valley with a few animals, I focused on textile arts for a few years.

“One day, I wanted to photograph my work, but instead of on the wall I displayed it on a woman’s body and someone thought it was couture! So the idea started there.” She laughs.

Green Embassy is Australia’s first internationally recognised organically certified fashion label, striving to uphold the rigorous Global Organic Textile Standards. Kuvan-Mills’ nature-inspired designs are driven by fair trade practices, zero-wastage production and organic, chemical-free textile creation. She even makes her own textiles where possible, with the help of 50 obliging alpacas.

“I process straight from the backs of my animals all the way to the runway,” she gestures. “I wash, I clean, I cart, I felt, I spin, I knit, everything!”

When asked why being environmentally-conscious in her designs was so important to her, she confesses. “I hated fashion. Absolutely hated fashion… I like the creative side of it, the art… [but] because of what’s going on with fast fashion- I was sick of it. After oil and gas it is the second biggest polluter.

“But I realised that if I am a teacher I can only teach 30, 40, 50 people (about conservation) in one go. If I am an artist, well, then I can exhibit- I wait for my exhibition time, only for just as many people see my work. And then I thought, what about fashion? Fashion can be the medium.”

Making it’s big runway debut in 2014, Green Embassy’s collections have made a big impact on the international stages of Paris, London and Beijing. Kuvan-Mill’s signature aesthetic of floating silks, structured organic cotton creations and felted motifs of roots and branches all come back to her initial vision.

“Art. Conservation. Sustainability.” That’s how Kuvan-Mills surmises Green Embassy.

The designer says she wants people to feel pride wearing her designs. “They are wearing an art piece, something to take pride in and keep for next generations of their family.

“Every piece I create is unique, I can never make the same one again because of the textiles. Each piece, even the same size can be different. It’s the total opposite of fast fashion.”

Kuvan-Mills’ 2016 collection, Silent Rainforest, was a dark horse highlight to the 2016 Vancouver Fashion Week. Featuring rich orchid-inspired tones, the designer says the collection was influenced by the desire to bring awareness to conservation efforts for Balinese rainforests.

“I used to teach about [rainforests] when I was in the UK. I was in Bali a few years back and noticed the amount of destruction that was going on there because of tourism, constant cutting and clearing,” she says. “I called it Silent Rainforest as a kind of tribute to [Rachel Carson’s seminal conservationist text] ‘Silent Spring’, but the way it’s going with the land clearing it really will be a silent rainforest.”

Since its success, she has debuted her 2017 Empty Oceans collection, featuring recycled plastics. “I found cut offs from the fishing industry, fishing nets in skips outside the factory. I just made this little simple top while I was having my coffee in the kitchen,” she laughs, “and then Pamela Anderson chose it to wear in a magazine interview!

“It was amazing to feel that kind of support coming from across the world.”

Her latest line is inspired by IUCN’s Red List of endangered animals. “I’m focusing on two species right now, the ones we are losing right in front of our noses: Carnaby’s Cockatoo… and another one in the tropics, the Cassowary,” she says. “I’ve been collecting feathers from parks and land and the rivers. I also work with merino wool and silk, which I try to find in op-shops.”

Kuvan-Mills is humble about Green Embassy’s success and is now focused on using her growing platform to further the eco-fashion movement in Australia.

“This little fibre, which all started with my alpacas, turned into this textile, which turned into Green Embassy, and Green Embassy was only a springboard, a catalyst.” She says.

“The label grew outside of Australia and gained success, and I focused on outside, but I was always waiting for a change back home.

“When I started, support for this was nothing…but now I’m starting to see a massive, supportive, and vocal community which is working without needing anyone.

“It’s here already, it just seems like people are waiting for something to happen.”

The designer hopes that her newest venture, Eco Fashion Week Australia, could be just that something.

“We started [the festival] last year and I was speechless. I ended up leaving many designs at home, as our schedule, our venues had all been organized for just a few things, and it suddenly got huge!” She gushes.

The festival is Australia’s first national-scale celebration exclusively for environmentally-positive fashion. This year’s event, hosted in Port Douglas and Fremantle, boasts 44 local and international eco-conscious designers, with nightly runway shows, clothes swaps and seminars.

“We have some big names coming in, but I’ll keep that as a surprise!” Teases Kuvan-Mills.

“Now it’s an international event, with good support outside of Australia, it’s finally giving opportunities for local young people, young designers…four, five years or so ago, when I started in Perth, I was told there was no such thing as what I wanted to do. Eco-fashion was just a hobby, it’s a bit of art, and that was the attitude.

“Now there’s a global movement that’s educating people to make the right decisions, especially now fashion can be more or less the same price as a cup of coffee.

“I think we are starting to connect more with what we are wearing. Showing love and value toward our clothing, you are kind of building a relationship. Being sustainable is just changing minds so people will start valuing locally produced, handmade and sustainable materials, so they start buying and supporting the local economy.”

Eco Fashion Week Australia is on from 15-21 November in Fremantle.

 

Written By: Kate Nightingale

Images: Green Embassy

Learn more about Green Embassy here.

Designer Feature: Geachi

 sally__DSC617234

Telstra Perth Fashion Festival’s WA Born was swarming with Western Australia’s most talented designers this September, showcasing their designs on a global stage. Jessica and Sally Geach were among them, showing off the latest from their label Geachi.

Birthed during the sisters’ studies in Fashion Design at Polytechnic-West TAFE, Geachi prides itself in bringing avant-garde pieces to your everyday wardrobe and specializes in evening wear. The label’s sleek yet fun garments compliment all body types, which is exactly what Geachi is about: exposing women’s “hidden sexiness, femininity, and confidence”. The sisters affirm us “everybody should feel glamorous, sexy and a million dollars when wearing Geachi”.

Head designer Sally gives us a glimpse into the inner workings of Geachi, from what prompted its launch to what inspires its designs.

“From a young age I was always creating things,” she says. “I began sewing when Jessica would come home from her fashion design course and while she sewed for class I would sew my own little creations. It all stemmed from there, it was something I was good and at really enjoyed!

“Once I learnt how to sew I think I started to take notice of fashion. Seeing Haute Couture collections blew my mind as I realized art and creativity could be transformed into amazing garments. Both Jessica and I have always loved styling and creating outfits, so once we realized we both had a passion for it we knew we would join forces one day.”

After studying fashion, Jessica continued her studies by completing a Commerce degree in Business Marketing and Public Relations. The team wants to combine their understanding of the creative and business sides of the fashion industry to conquer the world with their designs.

“We aim to be one of the top online fashion destinations for women’s fashion,” Sally says. “We have a year full of exciting events and photo shoots, each week something new and exciting happens for us so who knows where it will lead.”

As for what inspires their creations, Sally assures us it is “everything”. “We love looking at different cultures and traditions, seeing how different people create things and use art in there own way. We love colour and texture. [Also] travelling, seeing new fabrics and prints. Making an inspiration board of a theme we want to go with for the season that we can continually feed off and design from.”

While Candice Swanepoel and her embodiment of all things glamorous and feminine make her an ideal model for Geachi gowns, the designers say they want to appeal to every woman. “We aim to embrace all parts of being a woman and celebrating the female form. We want to bring glamour and femininity to our designs so any woman can feel absolutely amazing wearing our clothes; whether she is an everyday working girl or a well-known celebrity.”

The Perth-based duo say there is great support for local WA Designers. “Whenever we tell people what we do we get such a great response. There are lots of events and opportunities for local talent to get great exposure and positive push to do really well.

“An event like WA Born are great for meeting new people in the Perth Fashion scene and allows us to tell more people about what we do at Geachi.”

The Geach sisters hope to be involved in more events like WA Born in the future, so keep an eye out for more of their awesome designs!

Photography by DanBrady.co

HMUA by Amy Brady

Styled by Sally Geach

By Joanna Delalande 

WA Designer Runway 2: Megan Salmon

Bridget Dress
Bridget Dress

It was the bright, fabulous 80s styling in the pages of Mode magazine that first drew Megan Salmon to the world of fashion. The art career she had been pursuing till then does not go unnoticed in her collections, each piece a unique exploration of how colour, shape, and textiles can come together to compliment and celebrate female individuality and beauty.

Megan’s label started in 2000, and has since explored ideas surrounding our perception of beauty and the part clothing can come to play in that. “How [clothes] can transform one’s confidence and alter perceptions of beauty and identity.” She tries to develop clothing that delivers functionality, but also creates shapes that compliment all women.

Inspired mainly by art and textile, the designer calls to women appreciate art and culture with her collection. “Cate Blanchett would be perfect for my label,” Megan says. “She epitomizes the beauty of women who are talented and intelligent.” Her work links the worlds of art and fashion through the manipulation of vibrant and unique textiles, and the creation of sculpture-like forms.

This year Megan completed a fall winter 15 collection and a spring summer 15/16 collection. The twenty-page catalogue spreads feature an impressive range of fabrics and colour combinations, true to the designer’s form.

Of the latter assortment of designs Megan says her favourite is the Bridget dress, inspired by 1960s Brigitte Bardot. “I love old pictures of 60s starlets like Bardot where they look sweet and sexy all at once, yet with a girlish demeanor,” she explains. “This dress is timeless and contemporary all at once.”

As a Perth-based designer, Megan admits working in WA does have its challenges; not only is she isolated from the stylists of the major magazines, she finds herself having to freight her collections to the East Coast, which she explains is expensive and time consuming. For this reason, she encourages aspiring fashion designers to strive for representation in retail on the East Coast. “Get agents who know the retail over there and can sell you into much bigger markets than here in Perth,” she says. “More sales gives you much more control in every area.”

But Megan says working in the remote state of WA can also be advantageous. “We are unique here in that we carve out our own style without being held up to fashion trends. It’s great for creativity.”

Megan’s plans for the near future include continuing to broaden her label’s market, with the aim of addressing international sales. We are eager to see her inimitable designs travel the rest of the world!

By Joanna Delalande

WA Designer Runway 2: Jessica Bratich

angbackpack1

Jessica Bratich launched her handbag label in late 2011 and has since taken the runway at the New York Fashion Palette, Perth Fashion Festival, International Fashion Week and Townsville Festival. Her bags have been seen on television presenters Erin Molan and Lisa Fernandez, actress Courtney Eaton, and “The Face of Australia” winner Olivia Donaldson. Her designs were recently featured at the Telstra Perth Fashion Festival’s WA Designer Runway 2.

And X-Factor judge and former Spice Girl Mel B was reportedly spotted carrying two Jessica Bratich clutches during her time in Perth. Not that the designer is willing to stop here. “I would like to see my designs on someone like Blake Lively,” she says.

Jessica was not always interested in being part of the fashion industry. “I probably started later than most,” she confesses as she talks about her communications and marketing studies at university and her simultaneous interest in competitive karate. She had been working part time in retail for several years when her interest began to grow, and when she retired from karate she decided to pursue a career in fashion.

Jessica’s collection ranges beyond bags and clutches, to headscarves, hats and caps, and jewelry. She aims for diversity in her designs to create products to suit varying occasions, “from day to day to red carpet events”. Her products are built for practicality and functionality as well as serving an aesthetic purpose. Her favourite from her collection: the Angeline Backpack, a small, snakeskin backpack available in black and cream, which she describes as “young and fun and right on trend now”.

The Perth-based designer says her inspiration can come from “anything and everything, but mostly from people and the comments they make about what they want in a bag”. Her awareness and understanding of what goes on in the fashion world shows in her collection, which is on par with all the latest trends and movements.

While she has found getting national exposure and breaking through to the East Coast difficult, she finds the relationship she has with other Perth designers invaluable to her creative process. She also appreciates the “local support I receive from people here who want me to succeed”.

Perth’s isolation from the rest of the fashion world in no way seemed to stop Jessica from making a name for herself, however, and the dream does not stop here. In the future, she aims to expand to the East Coast and even Overseas, while continuing to introduce new ranges of products. She might see more celebrities wearing her clutches yet, perhaps even Blake Lively.

By Joanna Delalande 

Designer Feature: Hello Parry

logo 8T3A7861

As street wear, unique high-fashion and individualisation of style is becoming more evident in the world of fashion. it is a very exciting time for Perth based online boutique HELLO PARRY. The online store is dedicated to classic, chic, timeless pieces that can be mixed and matched in order to create your own unique look.

Sandy, the creative mind behind the boutique, explains that HELLO PARRY is all about the personal style of the individual. For girls who “love to mix and match a few designer pieces (hand bag and accessories) with clothes that are at an affordable price point”. After being asked frequently about what she was wearing Sandy realised “there was a gap in the market for high-street fashion at a price point that won’t break the bank”. It was then that HELLO PARRY was created to provide this stylish niche to not only WA but also national and international customers.

When it comes to the inspiration for HELLO PARRY, almost anything goes. “I’m inspired by lots of things every day. From checking out the styles on the streets, flicking through Instagram Feeds and fashion blogs, to collaborating and sharing ideas with other creative minds”.

Along with a number of other Perth designers HELLO PARRY was shown at the WA Born Event as part of the 2015 Telstra Perth Fashion Festival (TPFF) Cultural Program on the 4th of September. As this was their first group show at TPFF, Sandy was looking forward to not only supporting a great cause but also working alongside other WA creatives. On the night, HELLO PARRY showcased their range from bold statement pieces to everyday basics with edge to add to your style.

Despite their distance from the eastern states, Sandy says that the Perth fashion industry is a close-knit community, where designers, artists and creatives are eager to collaborate and help each other out. Although, above all Sandy believes that being unique is vital in establishing yourself as a new designer. By standing out and trying to be different from the crowd, observing, researching and being prepared to work hard – “It’s not as glamorous as you may imagine. Be prepared to work hard”.

Photography by Jiawa Liu

HMUA by Sandy Lai

Styled by Sandy Lai

By Steph Const

Designer Feature: Palm Swimwear

logo-retina preview-palm-swim-summer(1)

The PALM swimwear woman is one who appreciates fine, timeless and minimal designs. She is a traveler who doesn’t go anywhere without her classic cut bikinis, and evokes an elegant unique look by the pool or beach side.

PALM is an independent swimwear label, created in Western Australia who is devoted to providing carefully constructed swimwear from high-luxe Italian lycras. By using these sustainable fabrics, PALM reflects a passion for the basics – “clean lines, simple palettes and classic style”. Above all, PALM brings customers comfort, shape retention and the highest standard of quality wearable swimwear.

Kat, designer and label founder, has always had an appetite for art and fashion. “Everything from people, places, music and memories” inspired Kat to study Fashion Design and the Arts. After working in the industry for some time she then started designing for herself, and later moved to Bali with her partner to begin working together on bringing her sketches to life. Kat also explains that “Of course being a swimwear brand, I (Kat) am heavily inspired by the ocean and ‘that feeling’ of summer and travel”.

When designing Kat says that she is always trying to visualise what the garment would like on herself, then combines this with what she find inspiring on the runway at the time. Kat explains that PALM is no ‘fast-fashion’ movement and still retains its level of uniqueness along with classic timeless designs. She also believes “it is important to support independent brands which tends to be much more personal, honest, unique and well designed”.

Being a West Australian label can face some challenges, although Kat found that remaining anonymous was more difficult than she had realised – “Word got around so now I just go with it”. It was an intimidating experience for Kat at first as she found herself not only in a highly competitive industry, but also found exposing herself to some of her biggest critics (family and friends) difficult. Now, as seen through the success of PALM Swimwear, Kat can now see how lucky she is to have that drive and support behind her.

So where to from here? And what is next for PALM Swimwear? “We will be expanding from swimwear to resort wear. We are currently travelling in India and we will be working with silks and handwork to create exclusive edition pieces. We also aim to collaborate with other emerging designers. For instance we are working with WA graphic artist Janice Law to create a series of exclusive prints, which we are very excited to release within the next year.” – So exciting!!

Photography by Michelle Van Dijk

HMUA by Kat O’Hara

Styled by Kathleen Furey

By Steph Const 

Website www.palmswimwear.com