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How Australian label All Is a Gentle Spring creates extravagance for the everyday

IMAGES VIA ALL IS A GENTLE SPRING

WORDS BY IZZY WIGHT

“I want the clothes to be erotic – to push and squeeze people in the right ways.”

I’ve always wanted to be more mysterious, but have found myself held back by a complete lack of boundaries, a tendency to overshare when uncomfortable and a Libra moon. Evidently, a cool aloofness is hard to master. It’s about giving intriguing glimpses, prompting fervent questions and letting onlookers create their own fantasies.

When the Australian-based label All Is a Gentle Spring surfaced in late 2018, the curated mystique behind the blush-laden faces, experimental basics and 18th-century style corsets was a surefire conversation starter.


To find a growing list of genderless Australian labels, head here.


Debuting with a label-free, non-seasonal and genderless collection, founder Isabelle Hellyer utilised classic Victorian-era theatrics and ’80s-style sportswear to create her version of ‘sexy’ clothing – figure-hugging, indulgent extravagance for all.

Coming off the back of her modern renaissance fair and ‘poppupe shope’ retail residency, I chatted to Isabelle about the elusive appeal of All Is a Gentle Spring.

Hi Isabelle, thanks so much for talking to us. Can you tell us a little about your background and the journey to creating All Is a Gentle Spring?

Thank you. I shared the first collection late in 2018, and there was about a year of work behind the scenes before that. I was working [in] an editing job when I started imagining the label. Initially, I had only sampled one style, which I was really just making for myself. That became the Pastoral Corset.

It was through talking to friends that I realised I could expand the project. I’m lucky that I had those encouraging conversations. The more I worked on All Is a Gentle Spring, the more I saw it could be a lifeline for me: a way to live doing something I loved and had ownership over.

You’ve developed such a unique aesthetic, a kind of gritty Victorian-esque elegance. What is the driving inspiration behind what you create?

Appreciated. I’m interested in sensuality, I want to make sexy clothes. I want the clothes to be erotic – to push and squeeze people in the right ways. History is important too. I like the idea of moving through all of time and stopping at the moments that really affect me. The clothes collapse time in the same way hundreds of Chrome tabs do. That historical fixation isn’t new.

Even as a kid, I remember drawing big dresses, ball gowns with ultra-wide panniers, iced like cakes. So I’m indulging that, in a way. DJ Lucas says the best songs write themselves, they’re already there. That’s been true for me, too. The best clothes I’ve made have been the ones that I’ve always wanted, you know?


You recently held your first-ever real-world event at The Castle Retail Residency to debut your collection Wishing Well. After three years of online exclusivity, what was your first brick-and-mortar experience like?

Really fun. The whole point of All Is a Gentle Spring is to do transformative things. Theatrical and gaudy projects excite me. Arena tours, theme parks, hotels, and restaurants – any place that really takes you somewhere unreal, that’s what I’m trying to do too. Madonna’s tours are the pinnacle of this for me, always divided into thematic chapters. The Blond Ambition Tour was divided into distinct chapters – Metropolis, Religious, Dick Tracy, Art Deco and Encore.

Have you seen the set from the Religious chapter? The Pope called it something like “the most Satanic show of all time”. Maybe that’s apocryphal, but c’mon, how flattering! The set design for The Crystal Maze, a brilliantly campy ’90s game show, is also God tier. Richard O’Brien is the GOAT. That set was also divided into richly themed sections like industrial, underwater and medieval – you get the gist. All that is to say, I wanted to achieve something similar with The Castle Retail Residency, to have a crack at that arena-level camp. And we pulled it off.

With many thanks to Hadi (my right-hand at All Is a Gentle Spring HQ), Brigette of Midheaven Eats, the lovely Flowers of Marmion Street duo, Louis of Ossesso Studio and more. All hands on deck. We filled a hundred-year-old former radio factory with castle walls, a wishing well, candelabras, bouquets, foot-tall mushrooms, rusty anvils, burnt butter rum cakes, and wheels of cheese like a Severin Roesen still life. The function of the event was to try and build a world like Blond Ambition or The Crystal Maze – selling clothes was secondary.

Your brand is non-seasonal, fluid and experimental – what role does sustainability play in your production?

I think All Is a Gentle Spring is part of an encouraging wave of young designers who, by virtue of working on a human scale, are more sustainable than the high street fashion giants people sneer at so much lately. A good quality garment can live a long life and that’s what I deliver – our stretch wear is made by the same people who’ve made gymnastic gear for Australian Olympic teams. I always try to design something people will keep, something that’s either timeless or very amenable. I want people to hold onto it ’cause it’s special, or wear it for days on end.

All Is a Gentle Spring isn’t strictly an upcycling brand, but I’m working on a small capsule that’s entirely made with post-consumer textiles: curtains, table runners and the like. Upcycling is difficult to scale up, because it’s almost impossible to guarantee supply. So this is an experiment, to see if there’s an efficient and viable way to meet demand through pure upcycling.

They’re all woven fabrics – no stretch – which is pretty unlike All Is a Gentle Spring. When I think of sexy clothes, I usually think of second-skin stretch wear, but I wanted to try and hug the body with cotton and linen instead. The silhouettes are informed by beachwear from the ’50s and early ’60s, before Spandex and Lycra really caught on. Gina Lolobrigida and Claudia Cardinale are references.


As a brand, your marketing has remained pretty minimal. Was that a conscious decision to allow your designs to gain traction organically?

We take each day as it comes. Traditional marketing, like print advertisements and billboards, is still preventatively expensive. I think it’s a little dirty to install a Facebook pixel on your website in order to follow people around the internet after they leave your site. But that’s the internet today. It forces people to do ugly, machine-like things.

Digital marketing, like anything requiring so many acronyms – ROAS, KPI – is suspiciously unnatural. I looked at some boots a few weeks ago and now I can’t go anywhere online without being reminded that those boots are now 33 per cent off. I don’t doubt that those marketing campaigns work, but it’s nice to know we’re getting by without them. Of course, I’d still kill for an Angelyne-style billboard on the Sunset Strip.


What do you see for the future of All Is A Gentle Spring in the Australian fashion landscape?

I’m gonna keep doing my thing. Put my head down and keep working. I realised all my teenage dreams and now I’ve got a new, bigger, more impossible dream to try and make come true. I will say, the Australian fashion landscape is regrettably fragmented: there’s not much dialogue between Melbourne and Sydney, let alone the east coast and the west coast (shoutout to Garbage Tv), between department stores and small designers, between big and small, old and new. I’d like to see if I can move that needle a little bit.

Follow All Is a Gentle Spring here and shop the collection here.

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