“Ultimately, I want to spend my time producing beautifully finished dresses that make the wearer feel transported to another time or place.”
For many of us, the costume chest (or box or crate) is a permanent part of our childhood memories. A ship filled with endless possibilities, you could spend days rummaging through its magical contents – pirate eye patches, old football shirts, cowboy hats and puffy synthetic dresses in shades of baby pink, butter yellow and lavender. .
For the creator of Melbourne Amy Lawrance, the wonders of the childhood costume chest continued into adulthood. During her years studying fashion design, Amy created pieces inspired by the sartorial spirit – carefully pleated petticoats, iridescent jackets and a 60s mod finger puppet wardrobe (obviously).
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Creating her first collection amid Melbourne’s multiple lockdowns, Amy recently made her IRL designer debut. Today, she shares the process behind her custom wearable costume collection.
Tell us about you. What is your background in fashion?
My name is Amy and I have lived in Naarm/Melbourne for 12 years. I started my education at the Kangan Institute of Tafe in Richmond and followed that with four years in a Bachelor of Fashion Design (Honours) at RMIT. So, needless to say, I really like studying. It’s probably by studying fashion design for as long as I have that my love for the craft of sewing grew.
I think I was first drawn to the visuals and creativity associated with fashion design. But now it’s my appreciation for the often overlooked craftsmanship needed to produce a beautiful garment. It came to the fore during my last two years of studies and it is something that I seek to explore through my work.
How did the label start? Tell us about the process and the challenges.
The “label” can probably be most accurately described as a collection of slowly growing dresses designed, modeled and made by a single pair of hands. I’m not sure if I consider what I’m doing a commercially viable label at this point, it’s more of a slowly evolving creative project.
During my senior year of college, which was spent almost entirely at home (due to lockdowns), it became pretty obvious to me that dresses are what I love to design and make the most. The idea of creating a dress that is special and well-made enough to be kept for a lifetime – and even passed down from generation to generation – is always at the forefront when I design and manufacture.
All of my garments involve intricate hand sewing techniques and require a lot of time and intense focus to produce – which is probably the most obvious challenge I face. That being said, I think the time and care that goes into the manufacturing process is what makes the garment special, so I wouldn’t change it.
What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time? How has that evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the brand now?
This project was initially a response to being cooped up at home during Melbourne’s many lockdowns last year. I decided to use the time to produce a collection of beautifully made dresses. There is something that I find really therapeutic in working with textiles. It’s the process of patiently assembling a piece of clothing through meditative hand sewing techniques…I think the pieces I make are quite introspective in that sense.
Along with this celebration of slow, thoughtful craftsmanship, I really wanted to tap into the idea of escapism through dress. Design elements were taken from 60s sci-fi movies, style icons of the same era (including the likes of Jackie Onassis) and imbued with my passion for disguises. I ultimately want to spend my time producing beautifully finished dresses that make the wearer feel transported to another time or place (don’t know if that’s too ambitious?).
How would you describe your creations to someone who has never seen them before?
Hand-assembled silk sculptures that hang from the body in a floating way and make you feel special.
What are you most proud of in your work on your label?
I’m most proud of having had people tell me that my pieces look even better in the flesh – because they can only fully appreciate the detail when they handle the clothes. I’m very attached to the idea that a garment should be as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside, so it’s something I constantly strive for.
Who do you think is the most exciting in Australian fashion right now?
I’m very excited about the work of a number of up-and-coming Melbourne labels at the moment. It’s really exciting and encouraging to see people I studied with start their own label because I can understand how difficult it is.
A few that come to mind are: Veils of Cirrus, Be Right Back, Quiet Ander, Emily Watson, Lambert and Home Sted (Hom Sted is actually a label I work on with my very talented friend Kirsten Olsen!).
Who’s in your wardrobe right now?
My closet is filled with lots of second-hand pieces found in op shops or on Depop. Some parts I bought Depop recently were a Dries van Noten printed silk evening shirt and a Comme Des Garçon wool cardigan with a really cute fringed shag collar. I couldn’t have afforded either first hand!
How can we buy one of your parts?
I don’t currently have a website, so an email or Instagram post is your best bet. You can also make an appointment to see my pieces in person. I make everything to order, which means we can discuss alternative colors and fabrications – depending on what you’re looking for!
To learn more about Amy Lawrance, visit here.