We talk to Australian designer Allie Howard ahead of her Vancouver Fashion Week showcase.
MM: What sparked your interest in fashion/textile design?
Allie: I grew up around some incredibly talented creators and dressmakers who were always teaching me in one way or another, and I suppose it caught on. I was always sewing, knitting, drawing, and building. When I went to high school, I was given the opportunity to study textiles, and afforded an incredible teacher, who pushed and supported me to follow fashion after school. At school I did a lot of research around Alexander McQueen, and started to value fashion as more than simply dressing the body.
MM: Where do you find inspiration in your day-to-day life?
Allie: I find beauty in a lot of what happens around me, the simple things. I’ve also been lucky enough to travel to some incredible places, and I think I am influenced by all that I see and experience. The current collection is based on the phenomenon of shadows and reflections, and the beauty such things create.
MM: Are you a hunter or a gatherer?
Allie: A hunter definitely. When I’m starting to design a new collection, I always start with sourcing both online for imagery and at fabric stores to see what inspires me and what I think I can work with. Imagery gives me the ability to be create, and having an idea of what is available around me allows me to be creative.
MM: Your work is very experimental with a focus on fabric manipulation. Are you always investigating something when you create? How do you use textiles to develop an idea?
Allie: My starting point is always based around creating a series of textiles which work collectively. I think there is something really amazing about creating your own fabrication, which is what I focus on as a designer. The pieces created this year have been a series of experiments, created by reinterpreting known textile techniques, to create innovative, textural pieces. Each piece has been meticulously manipulated, combining technology and hand-craftsmanship into innovative pieces. Surface textures take on the illusion of prints, which contradict their three-dimensional nature, disillusioning the perception of their true form. The collection aims to challenge the way that people perceive the fashion garment and how it exists in relationship to image, body, and space. Throughout the collection, textiles differ, however, they all work collectively to form each individual piece in the collection.
MM: What’s more important to you when creating a piece- colour, shape, or texture?
Allie: I feel like all of them are really important in my design philosophy, and they all have to work together cohesively. In my process, it seems texture and colour come together to influence shape.
MM: Can you describe the creative process you undertook to create the ‘Grid’ collection?
Allie: My creative process always starts with imagery…sourcing, photographing, collaging and creating. This makes up the basis for my concept and leads me into a creative investigation into fabrications. Before even exploring shapes, I look to textiles, creating many variations of one idea. Each textile that I create leads onto a new idea. I then work with each of the textiles, draping and collaging to envision how they would work on the body as a garment. Once I have collaged, and created variations using the textile, I begin to create toiles in like fabrications, making slight variations and even drastic changes to my design at this point. It is at this stage that I begin to envisage the piece, and decide whether it is going to be successful. At this stage I always make a lot of changes. Adding elements, placing textiles and making decisions on colour and scale. The final process for this collection has been creating the laser cutting files, and scanning patterns. It’s interesting to document the changes and evolutions that occur in the collection throughout the process, and how quickly designs can change.
“Before even exploring shapes, I look to textiles, creating many variations of one idea.”
MM: How are you renewing/developing the collection for your runway showcase at Vancouver Fashion Week?
Allie: I love to explore one idea to its absolute limit, and to showcase at Vancouver Fashion week has given me the perfect opportunity to do this. I have begun to explore beyond what I had already created both textile and shape wise. Originally the collection was a six look collection, and in pushing it to twelve looks, I have created unique textures and shapes as an extension of what has already been created. I have tried to create some more unusual pieces, and some unexpected combinations, and show pieces.
MM: How do you find living in Sydney as a creator?
Allie: Sydney is really unique. It feels quite young and up-and-coming with creatives who are making their mark on the world with a truly unique aesthetic. With this collection, I’ve been lucky enough to not send anything offshore, and have purchased all my fabrics from Australian companies. Throughout the process, I have worked with some incredible Sydney based laser cutters, leather specialists, and seamstresses to create the collection.
MM: You have recently graduated from the University of Technology Sydney. How has your work evolved through your time studying?
Allie: UTS provided me with the ability to be creative and go wild. Throughout the four years I was studying there, I was put out of my comfort zone a lot, but I feel it’s the reason I am where I am today. While the first three years were invaluable in what I learnt, it wasn’t till about half way through my final year that I really began to develop my aesthetic. I evolved from a person who loved fashion and textiles, to an emerging designer.
MM: What are your plans now you have graduated?
Allie: I feel my next step is to continue studying, and gain more international experience. I have always been interested in the business side of fashion, and am looking at applying for Masters in Europe and New York to explore this further alongside gaining some international industry experience in an internship. I would also love to work and collaborate with some new people, even creatives from different design disciplines.
Thank you Allie for talking to Micro Macro about your experimental, textile-based design work. We’re looking forward to your showcase at Vancouver Fashion Week in March!