Annabel Robinson did a walk of shame on Collins Street for her grad collection show

Words by Ruby Staley

Annabel Robinson believes there’s nothing shameful about a walk of shame.

For the young designer’s grad runway, models clad in her final pieces walked down the business district of Collins Street, early in the morning, looking slightly dishevelled.

The concept was that they were on a walk of shame after a night out,” said Robinson. “The models would sit in the middle of the road and roll a ciggie and businessmen would just stare at them. Other people would just try to step around them.” 

But her guerrilla runway wasn’t solely about shock factor. In fact, Robinson wanted to subvert the stigma that surrounds sex and hook-up culture, especially for young women.

The whole thing was a fourth-wave-feminist-reclaiming thing, saying one night stands and walks of shame are not a bad thing,” says Robinson.  “It was all about reclaiming female sexuality.”

From there, Robinson branched out and began creating bespoke pieces under her own label: Bumble Success Story.

Jokingly named after actually meeting her boyfriend on Bumble, Robinson deploys this playful attitude to her pieces.

Her ‘Bee Mine’ embroidery and “kinda cute” detailing on her pieces play into this loved-up meets-satirical aesthetic. Her naively hand-drawn T-shirts only further this idea in a strangely nostalgic and deeply personal way.

“I wore a T-shirt I’d drawn a face on when I was a kid and tonnes of people at uni asked, ‘Oo, can I have one?’,” she explains. “Then I copied the same crude hearts, butterflies, stars and started drawing them on other stuff.”

Rather than relying on screen-printing techniques, Robinson prefers the way her drawings ensure each piece is different from the next.

“I love print but sometimes it’s hard to think ahead and get a digital print so this was an easy way to just draw what I was feeling in the moment,” says Robinson.

In terms of inspiration, Robinson describes just making what she feels like wearing herself at that point in time. This ad-hoc approach keeps her designs on a unique cycle of spontaneity.

“If I see a fabric I like, I’ll manipulate it and make something for myself,” said Robinson.

Utilising what she calls “pretty-accessible” silhouettes, her garments take on a casual yet trendy aesthetic that lends themselves to be styled up or down depending on the wearer. Like all pieces for the modern sartorialist, their versatility and layering capacity is key.

After snapping images of said bespoke pieces, Robinson would post them to Facebook selling sites that sell secondhand and vintage clothes. Although these retail platforms kickstarted Bumble Success Story, social media wasn’t the only way the young designer marketed her brand.

“If I wear my clothes out or to a party, people ask and show interest,” said Robinson. “Through this, I gauged what people liked, and what people didn’t.”

Even though she uses design, production and retailing methods that aren’t the current industry norms, Robinson wouldn’t consider her brand as ‘underground’.

“I’m not cool enough to be underground, but I’m still way too small to consider myself as mainstream,” says Robinson. “I guess like any small label [I am] underground, though. It just depends on who wears your clothes.”

It’s tempting to define her outfits as ‘grungy’, but that would not do the attitude of her designs justice and would lump her unfairly within cliche. There is a particular kind of Gen Z appeal to her label that is beyond Instagram-curated indifference and a melange of styling references from different decades. Robinson is playing with the Internet, staging a very physical street performance and amplifying it online. As the greatest artists do, she is playing with the media available to her.

Frustrated with the lack of opportunities for young fashion designers in Melbourne, she’s recently packed up her life for an internship at Ashley Williams in London.

“With music and art, you can show every weekend. But small fashion shows aren’t really ever on.”

But, before she made the big move, Robinson wanted to do something different to get people in Melbourne excited about young fashion. So, she teamed up with friend and fellow designer, Karla Laidlaw, and together they hosted Super Over Night Market.

“We celebrated lots of artists, designers, a tattoo artist, jeweller makers and other young creatives at the show,” said Robinson.

Due to the London move, Robinson has had to put production for Bumble Success Story on hold for a moment. But she says that “once I get my machine, I’ll pick up where I left off and continue to make stuff for the brand”.


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