Melbourne label Lucinda Babi is transforming fabric remnants into atypical garments


Words by Amanda Gunn

Taking inspiration from British pubs and fish and chips.

Like many graduates, fashion design student Lucinda Houghton struggled to navigate post-uni life. Having moved to Melbourne from the UK to study, when she finished her degree she was many miles from home and had a lot at stake.

Fortunately, her love of design was unshakeable and provided her with the clarity she needed. Taking a leap of faith, Lucinda and her design school alumni and good friend Gautam Kapoor found a studio in Collingwood to start their own respective labels. 

Discover more local designers in our Fashion section. 

With the support of Gautam and a lot of experimentation with fabric scraps and miscellaneous finds, Lucinda began her label, Lucinda Babi. The bright green suit and striking pink dress that features in her latest collection are inspired by Northern England’s working-class culture, from the local pub to fish and chip shop.

Lucinda works memories of her home and British heritage into her pieces by reinventing traditional suiting silhouettes and using unexpected fabrications. Hand-making all of her pieces to order, Lucinda doesn’t produce any waste and hopes to continue this practice as her brand grows.

Also working part-time as a pattern maker for other designers, I was fortunate enough to steal a moment of Lucinda’s limited free time. We spoke about what it’s like being a made-to-order label, her British heritage and the small unisex project she’s currently working on.

Hi Lucinda, can you tell me a bit about yourself and your brand? 

I am originally from the UK but have lived in Melbourne for the last nine years. I started the label after I completed the Bachelor of Fashion Design (Honours) at RMIT and run it alone, working part-time from my studio in Collingwood. I also work as a machinist in a saddlery and freelance as a pattern maker and machinist for other designers and run my brand in between.


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A post shared by Lucinda Babi (@lucindababi)

How did you start up Lucinda Babi? 

After my degree ended I was feeling a little lost but still had the urge to keep making things, so I ended up getting a studio with a uni friend so that we had somewhere to work on projects. After a lot of experimenting and perseverance, we both started our labels (his label is GKA), with the constant support of one another, and we still share a studio today! 

You have previously worked as a photographer, illustrator and editor. Do you think this has influenced your creative processes in fashion? 

I think it gives me a bit more perspective on different aspects of the industry and helps me to think about imagery and not just garments when I’m designing pieces. It also means I’ve been able to shoot a couple of my collections myself, and have a bit more control in that regard, although this can be a stressful process! 

Can you talk me through the inspiration behind your latest collection? 

The research for the collection started with me looking at my heritage through a nostalgic lens. I explored imagery of the working-class culture of Northern England in which I was raised –mainly photographs of the pub, fish and chip shops etc, which have always reminded me of home. I also started mixing in suiting and certain equestrian silhouettes that are distinctly British to me and used a lot of heritage fabrics like tartan and wool, as well as playful oversized details to represent a more nostalgic feeling of childhood.


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A post shared by Lucinda Babi (@lucindababi)

Your designs feature atypical silhouettes, unusual fabric combinations and explore our relationship with materials. What importance does the fabric have in your designs and how do you source the materials? 

The fabric is crucial in each design and can make or break whether the piece not only ends up looking as it was envisioned but also functions properly for the wearer. Often the fabric is the starting point for designs if I’m especially drawn to a certain textile, and the design process is working out how to use it. I source fabrics from all over, primarily my fabric printer here in Melbourne, and local fabric stores, but I also love using remnant fabrics and lots of secondhand and op shop finds that become one-off pieces.

You focus on creating clothing made-to-order. As your brand continues to grow do you think you will be able to maintain this? 

At the moment this is a manageable process and works well for me. It helps to reduce time in some ways as I’m only producing what’s needed. I would ideally love to keep everything made this way in future, which may involve employing more staff to keep up with orders, but I’m also open to changing up my production as long as I can retain ethical standards. 

You focus on sustainable materials and processes. How do you differentiate from other sustainable labels? 

I try to keep everything made-to-order so that I’m not producing excess stock or wasting fabric, and also keep everything made in Melbourne. I would also say I differ in an aesthetic sense, trying to create visually appealing and desirable pieces which go beyond the expected look of a typical ‘sustainable’ garment, and which I hope will be treasured and held onto by the wearer. 


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A post shared by Lucinda Babi (@lucindababi)

You explore gender boundaries through your clothing – are we going to see men’s or unisex clothing down the track? 

Yes, I would 100 per cent love to expand in this way. I’m actually working on a small project at the moment which will hopefully be completely unisex.

What’s next for Lucinda Babi?  

Ideally, I’ll be continuing to steadily grow the business and making some new pieces soon. I have a small project on the go at the moment which is exciting and have just started the design process for a new body of work, which I’m loving the mood of so far. So there will be lots of experimentation in the next few months and then hopefully there’ll be a new collection this year!

To explore Lucinda’s latest collection, head here

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