Dress Up studio visit
Who's saying what
To express your own personality is another equally valid starting point. And it's Stephanie Downey's reason for starting her label Dress Up.
"I started doing it to express ideas I had," says Stephanie, 27. The RMIT alum goes on "I wouldn't even say fashion is my main interest, I find all my inspiration from storeis and films, not fashion. I don't really watch what other people do." That said, Stephanie does have a soft spot for Dries Van Noten and Anne Sophie Beck.
Her label is stocked in Liberty in London, has been supported by Blonde Venus for four seasons and will be in Blood Orange and The New Guard in 2010.
We visit her in her spare room in an old house off a bluestone laneway in Melbourne and enter a quiet world of creams and beige. That there, is significant. It feeds into the pieces she creates.
Downey is quietly spoken, intensely deliberate. Her studio is neat as a pin and her internal life strong. She loves horror films - her second collection was inspired by Dario Argento - and has a soft spot for Woody Allen, and Cronenburg.
"I look most to the colours and feelings in films, for ideas for my collections. Interiors in an amazing film, and I of course love Annie Hall, but not Vicky Cristina so much."
Downey pulls out a book of Guy Bourdin's photography, turns to a mock death shot. "That's very Argento" she says of the fake blood. "I love that colour." Indeed it's reminiscent of an orange/red silk blouse she has hanging on her studio door.
Diaphanous silk blouses with shoulder cut outs, denim shirt ponchos and elegant sliced jumpsuits are key pieces in her coming collection. Winter is heavy on the velvet - in a very eighties Kelly Bundy cocktail dress kinda way. They would wear well with a wardrobe of Chloe, Opening Ceremony shoes, Arnsdorf - she's great friends with Jade - and Estelle Deve accessories.
Downey is among the handful of emerging young Melbourne designers who are successfully producing small numbers of pieces in Melbourne. So Dress Up is all Australian designed and made.
I ask if it's hard to keep it all Australian, given that Jenny Banister's local label had recently closed. "I've been very lucky, and most people I know are also still able to produce small quantities with really nice suppliers here. Sometimes I ask them for a cost and it may be too much per piece to be able to make it, but mainly making in Australia is fine." The only difficult part is coming up with money up front, a tough ask for a young designer, and one reason to keep the business small.
"I really don't want to become too big," she says."Of course one day I would love to be in dream stores like Oak (NYC), Opening Ceremony and Colette, but I always want to have that experience of working directly with my customers." Like a couture atelier? "Very much like that. I want to grow, but I don't want to become so big that I have to stop just expressing my ideas."
The next step on her organic growth path is to clear the decks and start thinking about next spring summer - 2010/2011.
"I just need to relax, I get my ideas when I'm relaxed," she says. The bevvie of films coming out this new year's day should help.
Photos by Nicole Reed
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