It’s designers like 2011 fashion graduate Alice Sutton, 23, who give me hope for the future of the Australian fashion industry. Not only are her designs beautiful and wearable; her work is driven by a passion for sustainability.
And for lovers of history and nature, there’s another hook in this yarn. Each garment is woven around a story that’s been inspired by her travels. As Sutton explains: “Our pieces have meaning for the wearer… it’s not just fast fashion to wear for a season, it’s a piece that you would want to wear throughout your whole life.”
This marriage of beautiful design and sustainability has caught the eye of industry observers and Sutton has been chosen to present her collection “Until We Arrive” as one of eight designers to compete this Sunday at Sydney’s trade fashion event Fashion Exposed for the coveted Debut award.
“When I thought about submitting for fashion Debut, I thought my point of difference is that I often explore a place – usually somewhere in Canberra – that
has a lot of history. That’s where my collection comes from. I started looking at insects, the Bogong moth and its journey to and from Canberra, and then start looking at its texture and life cycle. The collection all stemmed from that.”
Alice currently works out of an incubator studio for emerging designers at the Canberra Institute of Technology. “The CIT were amazing. They really push sustainable design and its a massive part of the course. I think it’s a way they have tried to set themselves apart from other fashion courses.”
As we chat by phone, I can hear the joy in Sutton’s voice as she explains her practice of zero waste pattern-making.
“There’s no fabric wasted, no pieces are put into
the waste bin. As you know, processing fabric has a huge environmental impact, so to put it back into landfill just seems so wrong.
the waste bin. As you know, processing fabric has a huge environmental impact, so to put it back into landfill just seems so wrong.”
That she cuts unusual shapes to ensure everything within the fabric roll is used is a testament to her skill. “I’m currently working with a factory in Melbourne and they think I’m the wackiest person ever because of how I do my pattern-making. I guess it’s just a much more contemporary method.”
Sutton would like her designs to be made in Australia to keep control over the process. “Then you know people are being treated in the right way,” she says.
Apart from winning on Sunday, what are her hopes for the future? “I’d love to stay in Canberra. I really enjoy designing here, even though I have to travel to Sydney a lot. I’d eventually like to have my own studio and shopfront, even maybe a coffee shop so people can see you while you’re working.”
Photographer: Kent Marcus
Model: Katie van den Bos
Hair and Makeup: Hayley Boyle