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Naarm designer Amy Lawrance is creating wearable dress-ups

PHOTOGRAPHY BY Zoe Kostopoulos FOR AMY LAWRANCE

WORDS BY IZZY WIGHT

“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 dress-up chest (or box, or crate) is a permanent fixture in our childhood memories. A vessel filled with endless possibilities, you could spend days rummaging through its magical contents – pirate eyepatches, old football jerseys, cowboy hats and puffy synthetic dresses in shades of baby pink, butter yellow and lavender.

For Melbourne designer Amy Lawrance, the wonders of the childhood costume chest followed into adulthood. During her years studying fashion design, Amy crafted pieces inspired by the spirit of dressing up – carefully pleated petticoats, iridescent jackets and a ’60S mod finger puppet wardrobe (obviously).


Looking for more ways to procrastinate? We’re with you. Come on over to our Fashion section. 


Creating her first collection in the middle of Melbourne’s multiple lockdowns, Amy has recently made her IRL designer debut. Today, she shares the process behind her made-to-order collection of wearable dress-ups.

Tell us about you. What’s your fashion background?

 

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A post shared by Amy Lawrance (@amychristinalawrance)


My name is Amy and I’ve lived in Naarm/Melbourne for the last 12 years. I began my studies at 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 enjoy studying. It’s probably through studying fashion design for as long as I have that my love of the craft of dressmaking has grown.

I think I was initially drawn to the visuals and creativity associated with fashion design. But now, it’s my appreciation of the often-overlooked craftsmanship required to produce a beautiful item of clothing. It came to the fore in my last couple of years of study and it’s something I seek to explore through my work.

How did the label get started? Talk us through the process and the challenges.

The ‘label’ can probably be more accurately described as a slowly growing collection of dresses designed, patterned and constructed by the one set of hands. I’m not too sure if I consider what I’m doing as a commercially viable label at this point, it’s more of a slowly-evolving creative project.

In my last year of uni, which was spent almost entirely at home (due to lockdowns), it became pretty obvious to me that dresses are what I love designing and making most. The idea of making a dress that is special and well made enough to hold onto for a lifetime – and even pass down generationally – is always at the forefront when I’m designing and making.

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 involved in the making process is what makes the clothing special, so I wouldn’t change it.

What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time? How has this evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the brand now?

 

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A post shared by Amy Lawrance (@amychristinalawrance)


This project was initially a response to being cooped up at home during Melbourne’s numerous lockdowns last year. I decided I’d use the time to produce a collection of beautifully-made dresses. There’s something I find really therapeutic about working with textiles. It’s the process of patiently assembling a garment through meditative hand-sewing techniques… I think the pieces I make are pretty introspective in that sense.

In addition to this celebration of the slow, thoughtful craftsmanship, I really wanted to tap into the idea of escapism through dress. Design cues were taken from sci-fi movies of the ’60s, style icons of the same era (including the likes of Jackie Onassis) and imbued with my love of playing dress-ups. I ultimately want to spend my time producing beautifully-finished dresses that make the wearer feel transported to another time or place (I’m not sure if that’s too ambitious?).

How would you describe your designs to someone who’s never seen them before?

Hand-assembled silk sculptures that buoyantly hang from the body and make you feel special.

What are you most proud of in your work on your label?

 

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A post shared by Amy Lawrance (@amychristinalawrance)

I’m proudest that I’ve had people tell me my pieces look even better in the flesh – because they’re only able to fully appreciate the details when they handle the garments. I’m very into the idea of a garment being as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside, so this is something I am constantly striving for.

Who do you think is most exciting in Australian fashion right now?

I’m most excited about the work of a number of up-and-coming Melbourne labels right now. It’s really exciting and heartening to see people I studied with starting up their own labels because I can appreciate how much of a tough slog it is.

A few that come to mind are: Veils of Cirrus, Be Right Back, Quiet Ander, Emily Watson, Lambert and Hom Sted (Hom Sted is actually a label that I’m working on with my very talented friend Kirsten Olsen!).

Who is in your wardrobe right now?

 

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A post shared by Amy Lawrance (@amychristinalawrance)


My wardrobe is filled with lots of second-hand pieces picked up at op shops or on Depop. A couple of pieces I bought from Depop recently were a Dries van Noten printed silk party shirt and a Comme Des Garçon wool cardigan with a really cute fringe shag collar. I wouldn’t have been able to afford either first-hand!

How can we buy one of your pieces?

I don’t currently have a website, so an email or Instagram message is your best bet. You can also make an appointment to view my pieces in person. I make everything to order, meaning we can discuss alternate colours and fabrications – depending on what you’re looking for!

For more of Amy Lawrance, head here.

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