You were recently invited to present a collection at the inaugural Ipswich Fashion Festival. Can you tell us a little about the work you showed, and also the event itself?
As I’ve been working in the fabulous world of the “Theatre Wardrobe” for a few years, I haven’t had an opportunity to produce a collection or focus on the Leigh Buchanan brand. Even though Project Runway seems like a lifetime ago people are still very interested in my collection, and even I get a thrill seeing it on the catwalk where it belongs… so I dragged a few key pieces out of the mothballs and let them sparkle once more.
As a born and bred Ipswich local, it was wonderful to see such an event being organised and I was thrilled, not only to be a part of the fabulous evening, but to see that Ipswich has a burgeoning fashion hub, which seems to be flourishing.
You have balanced working in the fashion industry with designing and creating costumes for the stage. How do the two differ, and what are some of the challenges of designing for characters in a performance, versus designing for a particular kind of fashion consumer?
I think Edith Bealle got it right when she discovered “the perfect costume for today”… our clothes are just the costumes that help us show the world which character we’re playing.
Some of the boring challenges that arise in both fashion and costume are issues such as durability; you can design a beautiful silk gown, but if the actor gets thrown around the stage day-in-day-out or it can’t be laundered, then its back to the drawing board. While working on Queensland Theatre Company’s very physical Romeo & Juliet a couple of years ago, every day of rehearsals one of the lead actors would rip the crotch out of his trousers… something I thankfully rectified before Opening Night (with extra layers of re-enforced fabric, taped seams, a lot of crossed fingers and prayer). The thing with both industries is to understand the brief, know your client, be a good listener and problem-solver-super-powers help!
Tell us how you came to be interested in fashion…
I come from a long line of fashionistas: when my Mother went to teachers college she produced beautiful water-coloured scrapbooks of the history of fashion which I never tired of leafing through as a child. My Grandmother was a hairdresser with exceptional sewing skills and always knitted my siblings and I a new jumper every Winter. An Aunt collected wedding magazines my whole childhood and we spent hours and hours, years and years pouring over them designing fabulous weddings…but really I blame Princess Diana’s beautiful silk & lace tragedy for getting me hooked on bridal couture.
Where do you look for inspiration on matters of style?
I’ve always loved the history of art and design, galleries, bygone eras of fashion and the touch of beautiful fabrics, but I literally find inspiration EVERYWHERE. When it comes to style though, I think it just comes naturally… there are those into fashion and those who are just naturally stylish. The old adage that fashions come and go and style lasts forever is totally true in my book. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fad and get sucked into the occasional trend, but I think there’s enough ‘fast fashion’ around today with the likes of Topshop lurking on every corner and I feel that because Aussie designers continue to follow overseas trends instead of creating individual aesthetics, our local industry is dying.
What is your most treasured dress-related object or memory?
My most treasured fashion piece was a beautifully cut black velvet jacket I found in a vintage boutique while living in Ireland, it took me everywhere from gala evenings at the opera with a lapel of brooches to casual days with cons, ripped jeans and a crew neck tee.
Give us three words, people or places you associate with Queensland fashion…
Just like our lifestyle: COLOURFUL, quirky, relaxed.
Is there such a thing as a distinct Queensland style?
I hope there are many…
Published in Issue 11, on March 25, 2014.