I was interviewed for Melbourne Magazine Fjord a couple of weeks ago. It just came out! Have a look...(page 56)
I have also included the interview below because although they didn't use much (hello!?) I still have a lot to say!
- Why the name ‘Urbandon’? Obviously it encompasses your name, but your designs may be seen by some as atypically urban. Tell me the meaning behind the name.
I had spent several years in a rural setting- Byron Bay- so when I returned to the city it was the birth of the new me. The urban-me. Indeed, my designs are not necessarily urban nor would I want them to be pigeon-holed like that.
It can be said so it rhymes with 'abandon' or as urban-don and either way is just fine by me.
- What drew you to design? Tell me a bit about your history.
After spending fifteen years as a painter of oil on canvas I just got bored with it and started making assemblage sculpture several years ago. That lead to making jewellery from found and reclaimed materials and then to clothes. For me it seemed like a natural progression. The process is always the same though- sketch, think, plan and then do. There is always room for errors- my favourite part of the process because mistakes challenge what you had planned and lead to asymmetrical thinking. Meaning looking at things in a unique and problem-solving ways.
- What has inspired your latest range?
It revolves around the idea of protection. Not just from the elements but other external forces like negative emotions, germs and media manipulation. I am a bit of a hermit and like retreating to my cave. It is also about dressing up and playing the dark-lord or the hero in my own fantastical world.
- Why the devotion to sustainability, the environment and sustainable fibres?
When I was creating assemblages and jewellery I adored the look and feel of found-objects and reclaimed materials. They have an in-built beauty, an in-built history. An old army tent has a story to tell and I allow it to be told. I am also a frugal person so I can only feel disgust for the waste of anything- fabrics, food, life or whatever. There are few industries that runs at 10-15%. wastage like the garment industry.
I don't like the idea of disposable anything.
We have a precious, beautiful planet and I rejoice in it, not fight against it or suck it dry.
- There is a definite element of sci-fi and costume-like overtones in your designs. Tell me about what inspires this.
I grew up on Star Wars and Star Trek and
loved dressing up as a kid and wanted to do
costume design and make-up when I grew up.
Not much has changed really because I still
love sci-fi movies and dressing up.
Subcultures like Goth, Steampunk and
S.M./Fetish appeal to me because there is
that element of fantasy, of living in
another world. Some of the most exciting
clothing designs are from science fiction
movies- think Matrix, Hellboy, Blade
Runner, Star Wars, The Fifth Element, X-Men
- How would you describe the Urbandon man?
Describing the urbandon man is pretty much
describing myself because I design for
myself first. My customers are usually
like me- working in a creative industry,
appreciation of the hand made goods,
concerned with sustainability, not
followers of fashion trends. They want
pieces that last year to year- not some
cliché look that is over by the end of the
year. Trends come and go but that is not
sustainable. That is waste. My customers
appreciate a focus on cut and material not
on this weeks colour or silly design whim.
They like clean fluid lines over bling and
show. They are also proudly masculine and
embrace their feminine side- they see this
as a balance, not a contradiction. Oh, and
more of my customers are women, not men.
They also love buying Australian goods.
- I know natural fabrics such as wool, silk and bamboo are great to craft pieces with because of their texture and shape when on the body. Why else do you have such a skew to natural fabrics for your pieces?
The feel and the variety of wool draws me in constantly. Something like boiled or felted wool can be so sculptural and angular while wool jersey flowing and soft. The durability of silk or wool is a major draw card. Because I don't follow fashion my clothes have to last so fibres like wool or linen are perfect choices. Also, I choose materials that are low maintenance- a dry clean only garment is in no way sustainable.
- You have an environmentally conscious mind. What do you have to say in response to those that criticise the use of natural fabrics from an environmental perspective?
Well if those people can ride their hand-made reclaimed-timber bike over to my place and bring some home-grown heirloom tomatoes with them and show me their zero-waste reclaimed fabric clothing while enjoying a bio-dynamic, home-grown coffee then cool- they may have a point to make.
The reality is we all have an impact upon the planet, but at what degree? Australian wool (the most sustainable natural material) is mostly processed overseas then shipped back. All that shipping! You do know that the largest fifteen cargo ships contribute the same amount of nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide as all the cars in the world? It is importation of goods and materials that is killing the planet but how can you stop globalisation?
Have you ever seen a 'green' message from governments to buy less? In mainstream media are you told to consume less? No, the message is to buy green. Whatever that means because there are huge variations in what is considered green. Organic cotton is not 'green'. Bamboo fabric is not 'green'. Even wool is not strictly 'green' due to all the methane gas released and degradation of land from sheep.
The funny thing is some people are designing watermelon coloured fashions in sustainable fabric. That cracks me up. So, a colour that is by now outdated in an environmentally friendly material? What is the point? It is just disposable fashion. What are designers going to do with all those watermelon coloured bolts, zips, buttons? There is your waste in fashion.
I would never say I am am 100% sustainable in my practices but I do what I can to reduce consumption of materials by using zero-waste/ minimal waste designs, reusing vintage and discarded fabrics and using cutting table off-cuts in other products.
- Tell me what you think of manufactured fabrics such as polyester, vinyl, pleather, nylon, rayon, spandex and acrylic.
Actually, I love them as they may end up being more sustainable than 'natural' fibres. Consider that the water consumption of cotton (organic or not) is huge. That is water that could be diverted to drinking water for local populations.
The energy used by a synthetic T-shirt in its life cycle is actually less that a cotton one. The whole life-cycle has to be taken into account. A rayon piece of clothing takes less cleaning, no ironing and will last longer than a piece of cotton clothing. Most of these synthetic materials can now be recycled as well so their life-cycle can be extended further. So, which one is more sustainable?
There is a flip side to everything and if you are serious about suitability then a little research goes a long way.
There is a green bandwagon that everyone wants to jump upon but like an electric car it is still using dirty coal energy. Where do you think that electricity comes from? (I'm talking Australia here) Electric cars are not really 'green', just like bamboo is not really a 'green' fibre. There is just a perception that they are. The reality is more fossil fuels and sodium hydroxide respectively.
Also, what you do with synthetic fibres has to be taken into consideration- an Issey Miyake polyester dress is a work of art. Who would scoff at his designs because it is synthetic fibre?
- With winter upon Australia and such a trend – in Melbourne, anyway – toward natural fur everything, what’s your take on furs and their use in contemporary design and fashion?
I personally don't like the look of fur so much. Ethical and sustainable questions aside, it does not appeal to me as a fibre to design with. Although the idea of using pests like rabbits is smart thinking. The reality is they are farmed because 'natural' pests have imperfect pelts. I wouldn’t wear a furry little animal myself- if it was a pest to native animals or not.
It is also a trend and trends are by their nature short lived. What will happen to all those animals and pelts when the trend is over?