Bella Redman-Brown’s graduate collection is inspired by dance, armour and Japanese dyeing

Finding refuge in armour.

Once again, Fashion Journal is the supporting partner of Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival’s National Graduate Showcase.

The 12 finalists for 2020 have been announced, and they’ve given us an insight into the process behind the collections they’ll be showing.

Next up: Bella Redman-Brown and her graduate collection Armour for Dancing.

Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Hi, my name’s Bella Redman-Brown. I’m a recent RMIT fashion graduate, currently working in Melbourne for sustainable fashion houses ESS Laboratory and Nobody Denim.

Tell us about your collection.

This collection explores the desire for protection at the moment one seeks the freedom to self-express. I chose to use a juxtaposition of material and historical techniques to express this idea. The title of the collection, Armour for Dancing, refers to our tendency to find refuge in the armour of historical knowledge. The dance is the recontextualising of this same knowledge, so we as designers are free to express and breath new life into techniques and archetypes of the past. 

When did you know you wanted to get into fashion design?

From a young age, I insisted on dressing myself, then I started to dress my sister and mother. No one in my family had much to do with fashion, but my parents were both supportive of the arts and encouraged me to express myself. I always had an innate fascination with clothing and how people express themselves, so I guess I always knew I wanted to be in fashion. 

How do you describe your design style?

Contemporary womenswear guided by an emotional, intuitive practice.

What were the major points of inspiration for your graduate collection?

For this collection and in general, I take inspiration from a wide range of historical and cultural phenomena. For this collection, I took inspiration from shibori dyeing techniques and medieval European materials, as well as contemporary artists such as Louise Bourgeois for silhouette and conceptual inspiration. 

What is it about theatre and performance art that interests you?

I think good art or fashion entertains and provokes dialogue, which can be used to enrich the work and elevate it from the every day. Theatre and performance offer interesting archetypal characters and connect in a similarly unconscious way, like how fashion connects with its consumers.   

Tell us about your time in Japan and the influence it has had on your work.

I find Japan’s rich history and textile industry endlessly inspiring and humbling to experience. While in Japan I learnt from craftspeople; dyeing and fashion techniques and processes. While in Melbourne I’ve worked for Japanese avant-garde label ESS Laboratory and learnt about the power of combining cultural and symbolic expressions from different cultures into fashion. 

Tell us about the experience of putting together your graduate collection.

It was very challenging managing all the aspects of creating a fashion collection, from conceptualising to making to image creation, you have to be a master of so many areas. Overall, I found this a very positive experience in which I learnt so much. Yet I don’t think the final outputs show my true style, which I am still developing. 

What part does sustainability play in your design practice?

A huge part, [but] I don’t often talk about my work in relation to sustainability as I think it is a complex issue. Often, young designers can be limited by trying to be sustainable rather than understanding that no matter how much fabric you waste or do not waste, it won’t ever compare to the environmental issue of fast fashion. So, rather than constrict my design process or use gimmick greenwashing strategies, I make sure I am a conscious consumer, and when I have a label I plan to implement sustainable and ethical processes.  

What’s next for you?

Continuing to work for Australian ethical avant-garde brands as a studio assistant and online media manager, while developing my own line of clothing and creative content. Then moving overseas to London in 15 months or so to see what’s doing there. 

Find more of Bella’s work here.

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