Lisa Enright

Lisa Enright owns and runs Atomic Martini, a vintage boutique in the Brisbane suburb of Clayfield. Enright’s background is as an archivist, and she has recently begun a PhD thesis examining the impact of mid-century Australian fashion designs on the overseas market.

You’re originally from Melbourne and now run your own vintage boutique in the Brisbane suburb of Clayfield. Share a little about how you came to Queensland and what you’ve observed of our vintage style.

My journey to Queensland is a long and convoluted one! But in a nut-shell it was the result of a lot of disparate things happening in my career, in my personal life and in my head all coming together at the one time. And here I am!

And, oddly enough, it turns out that this is a pretty exciting time for a “vintage” gal to be in Queensland. You see, Melbourne and Sydney have had a vintage culture for a long time. There are well-established regions where vintage buying and wearing is the norm and for most fashion conscious consumers it is a normal part of their wardrobe design.

In Queensland, however, vintage has only recently become a “normal” part of fashion shopping. It has only recently begun to gain acceptance by the mainstream fashion world in Queensland as more than just a “trend” and is only now being looked upon as a staple in the wardrobe design of many people.

The great thing about this is that Queensland is only now developing its own “vintage” style and it is extremely exciting to have found myself right in the middle of that.

Vintage brings the past into the present. How do you see past trends informing contemporary design?

“There is nothing new under the sun”. When you look back over the past 100 years of fashion is it clear that ‘styles’ and ‘trends’ are cyclic. This is particularly the case over the past 20-30 years where contemporary designers have referenced, rehashed and sometimes simply copied directly from fashion archives. All you have to do is walk through a shopping centre in any major town and you will see store windows with clothing mimicking designs from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.

It is interesting to note that although designers and chain-store retailers are manufacturing clothing that references styles and cuts from the past, this is the time when wearing ‘original’ vintage clothing is becoming more popular. The key to this, I believe, lies in the creation of modern fashion items as disposable commodities. The purchase of items of clothing up until the latter part of the 20th century was a much more “considered” activity than it is now. Items were purchased with longevity in mind and as such were produced utilizing fabrics, cuts and tailoring techniques that would withstand wear and time.

Although modern clothing items may reference styles from the past, they are designed, manufactured and purchased with short term (maybe a season or two) wear in mind. The disposable nature of modern fashion trends and the availability of inexpensive fabrics and manufacturing means that the tailoring, fit, fabric and detailing that made items of clothing desirable in the past is sacrificed for cost.

It is heartening, therefore, to also see that smaller bespoke fashion manufacturers are finding a niche in the market in Queensland and across Australia. I see this is a positive trend in the revival of a more sustainable fashion industry.

Tell us how you came to be interested in fashion…

I bought a red David Keys cardigan in a vintage store in Melbourne – the rest, as they say, is history…

Where do you look for inspiration on matters of style?

I look to real people. I look at clothing catalogues and personal archive photographs to see how real people wore clothing in the past. Personal photographs are a great way to see how women and men in their real day-to-day lives interpreted trends.

I love to look at old films and see the glamour – but that is fantasy and rarely able to be reproduced into a look that I can pull off!

It is great to be looking through photos on the internet and come across a picture of a groups of gals sitting in the park in the 1940s and think “hey, I have a pair of 70s trousers that look like that and a 50s cardi like that one – ooohhh – what a fantastic look!”. And there I have tomorrow’s outfit!

What is your most treasured dress-related object or memory?

I have many beautiful items in my collection that I love to wear, use and look at but I would have to say that my most treasured item is a little black and white checked baby-doll dress with a yellow velvet ribbon around the empire line that my mum bought for me when I was about 3 years old. It is classic 1960s little girl chic and I have a photograph of me with my two brothers where I am wearing it with little white socks with a lace trim and black patent leather Mary Jane shoes. My mum has hung on to it and it is in pristine condition (I must have only been allowed to wear it that once as I was pretty hard on clothes as a kid!). It is my mum’s favourite dress and she gave it to me a couple of years ago – I just love it!

Is there such a thing as a distinct Queensland style?

COLOUR!

Whether it is the climate, the quality of the Queensland light, the sub-tropical rain or something else – Queensland loves COLOUR!

As part of researching the items that come into my shop and learning more about Queensland designers, manufacturers and stores it is clear to see that Queenslanders have a long standing love affair with colour.

The brighter, the better! The bolder, the better!

It is a key part of clothing, accessory and even homeware design and continues to be essential to the way Queenslanders live and dress.

Lisa Enright’s beloved childhood dress, 1960s
Lisa Enright’s beloved childhood dress, 1960sLisa Enright
Lisa Enright's collection of vintage handbags
Lisa Enright's collection of vintage handbagsLisa Enright
Vintage menswear at Atomic Martini
Vintage menswear at Atomic MartiniNadia Buick

Published in , on September 10, 2013.