Keianne Mackey was disenchanted with the fashion industry, so she made a Barbie dress for her grad collection

Images by Sonny Vandevelde
Words by Lydia Crist


When interviewed on their collections, designers are often asked about the inspiration behind their work. But what if there wasn’t one? What if the inspiration behind a collection was just to make themselves happy?

NSW TAFE Fashion Design graduate Keianne Mackey says just that. For Keianne, her work was never about trying to teach people anything, but rather about making herself feel good.

“I’m not really setting out to do anything,” she says about her grad collection. “I’m not setting out to change the world or to make everybody feel a certain way. It just was about making me feel better and making me feel happy. And I think other people can really feel that in my stuff.”

And that’s the crux of art, right? To make the world a little bit happier.

Often described by others as having a “childlike” design identity, Keianne steered away from adopting this portrayal for years. However, for the final submission at her course, the young designer chose to embrace this side of herself.

Feeling unhappy and unsure about where her degree and future was heading, Keianne decided to let it all go, embrace the child within and just have fun.

In subverting the traditional practise surrounding creating garments, Keianne went through a trial and error process. Electing to skip the illustration phase of her designs completely, she went straight into pattern making.

Over a number of weeks, she took notes on her phone as ideas came to her and began creating pieces directly from scratch, altering and evolving her designs as she went. Keianne is a fast worker, and went from having only two garments a month out from due-date to having an entire collection on submission day.

“The adrenaline and the excitement that comes from last-minute work I absolutely live off,” she laughs. “Some of my best ideas and best work comes from it. I’ve done a lot at the last minute, I’ll change the idea and it will turn out a thousand times better than what it was supposed to be”.

Talking candidly about having struggled with happiness throughout her degree, she cites joy as the most important thing while designing her final collection.

“If I start doing something that’s not working out and I’m not feeling it, I’ll just scrap it and just do something else. Because for me, the most important part of this whole thing is just about being happy. It’s your career, it’s what you do for the rest of your life so for me it’s just about being happy.” 

And showing up all the haters.

“All these people thought I couldn’t do what I wanted to do and said I wasn’t taking it seriously. They said it wasn’t clean and well rounded, so I just had this idea, you know what, I’m just going to do this big eff you dress of whatever I want. It’s kind of irrelevant. But I don’t care it’s just going to be this big, big Barbie dress”. 

Despite its satirical messaging and slogans emblazoned across her pieces, Keianne says there is no intentional message behind the collection. She says her work is more a reflection of her mental state. The pieces are a refreshing burst of colour and happiness, she hopes the final collection will allow people to feel the happiness and growth within herself developed whilst creating the final garments.

“I want to spread the message that once you change your mentality and just let yourself be who you want to be and do what you want to do, it is life-changing.”

And she wants to spread that message by living it, not by trying to convince others too. In a crazy world of constant appraisal and need for explanation, Keianne wanted her collection to be viewed simply as a depiction of pleasure.

“It’s about bringing the fun back to fashion, a lot of people take it very, very seriously and for me, it’s all about fun.”

With no immediate post-graduation plans to enter the fashion world, she has set her sights on a small Depop account to sell more wearable pieces over summer. She’s taking it a day at a time and seeing where her path takes her.

“I don’t know how to express [the future] because it really is all coming from a place of happiness and it’s natural. I don’t do anything forced; everything is just as it is.”


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