Next gen designers: Stephanie Henly

Cream of the crop.

The Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival is underway and you should be making room in your schedule for fashion festivities.

We’re proud to return as the Supporting Partner of the National Graduate Showcase, presented by AMP Capital. 

You know it’s a runway worth seeing when it features a lineup of Australia’s best up-and-coming graduate designers, like Stephanie Henly of RMIT. 

We caught up with the graduate to find out a little more about her collection, before it hits the runway at the Royal Exhibition Building on March 19. You can pick up a ticket here.

Congratulations on receiving the 2016 MSFW Emerging Student Designer Award. How was showcasing your collection at a fashion week?

Showcasing at MSFW was the highlight of my design career, let alone being awarded the Emerging Student Designer Award. The entire selection process took months of assessment, which made the MSFW parade a surreal and finalising moment. I was gratified to share the experience and stress with my fellow RMIT students. We all knew how each other felt when we saw countless hours, days and months worth of work walk down the runway in front of a supportive audience.

In a sense, your graduate collection, Long-stitch, has reinvented hand-embroidery. Can you talk us through the idea behind the collection? 

My collection developed from my passion for the preservation of hand-craft through innovation. My slow and laborious techniques oppose that of mass manufacturing, to create unique garments that cannot be machine replicated. With this ethos in mind, my collection was designed to use embroidery as a function and form, as opposed to a traditional decoration. 

You collaborated with Pakistani artisans on an experimental cape for Long-stitch. What was that process like?

I was lucky to be given the opportunity to collaborate with artisans in Pakistan through connections at RMIT. Translating my innovated techniques into CAD (Computer Automated Design) illustrations, technical drawings and mathematic equations to achieve the results was difficult when everything was done by little-to-no verbal communication and basic English translation. It was fantastic to hear feedback that the artisans were initially perplexed by the non-traditional method of application, however, they problem-solved by using makeshift looms and tack boards.

You’ve come back from Sydney after being selected as a finalist at the Australian Fashion Foundation Awards. How did it feel to be in the same room as Dion Lee? 

This was another fashion experience that was a pinch-myself moment. It was a whirlwind two weeks. First, finding out about the selection and flying my entire collection to Sydney. Then, on the same day, standing in the same room as my fashion idols from Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Instyle Magazine and panel judges with connections to Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein. And, definitely not forgetting to mention my Australian designer idol, Dion Lee. It was an overwhelming yet surreal experience. 

You’re often spotted wearing your own designs. Have you always created your own garments? 

I have been sewing my own clothes since the age of six, initially assisting my grandma to make my Christmas Day dress. I still have the purple floral number to this day! My passion grew and from the early age of 14 years old, I knew garment design would be my career path. 

Your collection features a take on a fur jacket. What are your thoughts on real versus faux?

I’ve always been fascinated by the texture and aesthetic of fur. The statement red ‘fur’ embroidered jacket stemmed from a hand-tufted jacket I developed and made while I was studying in Sweden. The jacket uses thermochromic technology to change colour in different temperatures, challenging the notions of how and why we wear fur. This form of textile technology made the wearer want to wear this faux fur jacket due to the innovation. This was my intention – using my innovated embroidery technique to create a desire for faux fur.

What’s next for you?

I’m always looking forward and planning my next move. I’m currently interning at Factory X through the MSFW prize. A mentorship through Textile and Fashion Industries Australia is guiding me to develop a capsule collection for a pop-up store granted by the City of Melbourne and TFIA. I intend to develop a range of accessories and developed designs from my collection within a more commercial-yet-couture context. 



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