tom gunn is a collaboration – can you tell us how you came to work together, and what the working process is like for the two of you?
We met while working for another footwear company 10 years ago. We started at that company within a week of each other and instantly hit it off as we had a similar design aesthetic and loved everything leather and footwear. While we were working there we used to daydream about starting our own brand together and about 5 years in we decided to just do it. In terms of working process, we design everything together; there is often a bit of scribbling all over each others work and fighting about colours and design lines but it’s always a fun process. It’s the best part of our job but is a very small part of running a brand. We often start with our leather board and colours, and a few inspiration pics and go from there. Then it’s the waiting for samples which always seems to take forever!
What are the challenges of having a Queensland based footwear and accessories label? Are people surprised to learn your location?
It’s one of those funny things—Sydney people assume you’re from Melbourne and Melbourne people always assume you’re from Sydney. Nobody ever guesses Brisbane and they always seem surprised when we tell them. In terms of challenges, it is harder—we just don’t have the supplier base in Brisbane that there is down south. This has never held us back though and you just have to be very organised in putting your range together. Most companies have reps here in Brisbane or occasionally you just have to get on a plane to visit some suppliers. At the end of the day Brisbane is a beautiful place to live and we wanted to stay and be part of the budding fashion community here.
Tell us how you came to be interested in fashion…
I’ve always loved fashion and knew I wanted to be a shoe designer from a really young age. When the guidance councillor was taking us through what we wanted to do in our career I said shoe designer. She was a little perplexed but pointed me towards Fashion at TAFE, which was the only option to study fashion at that time. At the end of my studies I applied for a Scholarship that TAFE ran to study fashion in Italy. The year I applied they had decided to make the placement at a footwear school in Milan, Italy—which was my dream. I was fortunate to win the scholarship and that’s how I got into footwear.
Gaby had always been passionate about fashion and finished studying it at TAFE about 3 years before I did. She was lucky enough to win an award through TAFE to send her over to Europe to work in the fashion industry. She had been working in Ireland when she decided she wanted to focus on shoes. She came back to Australia to start working in the footwear industry and this is when we met.
Where do you look for inspiration on matters of style?
We’ve been extremely lucky in that we get to travel a lot for our work. This has had a great impact on our idea of style. Women in New York, Milan and Paris all have extremely different ways of dressing but all beautiful in their own respect. It’s always amazing to see what women from city to city are wearing differently or in similar ways. I think it’s now an amazing thing that the fashion blog has made this available to everyone. You can have a snapshot of fashion throughout different cities by simply clicking through various blogs.
What is your most treasured dress-related object or memory?
Shannon: The beautiful Chloe gown I bought for my wedding dress. We found out closer to the wedding I was pregnant and I didn’t get to wear it, as I outgrew it. I finally had a black tie event 2 years later that I got to wear it to (luckily it was blush pink, not white and still fit)!
Gabrielle: The feeling of wearing my beautiful custom wedding dress made by one of my close friends George Wu and wearing one-off tom gunn heels made for me by our Italian workshop. I felt pretty special!
Give us three words, people or places you associate with Queensland fashion…
Colourful. Fun. tom gunn.
Is there such a thing as a distinct Queensland style?
Yes, Brisbane is so different climatically and we have such a bright city that it has to have it’s own distinct style. I think Brisbane women are far more adventurous with colour as it suits our city, and we always seem to opt for light breezy outfits that let you survive the heat here. We both love dressing for this climate—but at the same time, we both have far too many cold weather outfits that we only get to pull out when in New York or Melbourne. I don’t know what it is about a great knit or a coat—but we’re both suckers for them.
Published in Issue 11, on March 25, 2014.