Designer Domenic Roylance’s graduate collection is an ode to yiayias everywhere

Photography by Tim Lo

A celebration of Cypriot yiayias.

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: Domenic Roylance and his graduate collection To be buried in this.

Please introduce yourself to our readers.

I am Domenic Roylance, born in a small town in rural Queensland. I moved to Sydney when I was 21 and recently graduated from UTS.

Tell us about your collection.

For my honours collection at UTS, I followed my muse, the yiayia (the Greek word for grandmother) to her home country. I travelled to Cyprus and interviewed several yiayias about their lives and culture. I learned about the island’s history and ancient art, the folklore, the clothes, the food. I took thousands of pictures. My cultural and social exploration morphed into a bricolage of found items, images, sketches and written observations that informed the creation of this collection. Essentially, the collection is a celebration of the Cypriot yiayias.

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

I started to become aware of fashion and design when I was a teenager. I was really obsessed then with the idea of creating fantasy worlds. But it wasn’t until my first year at university, when I was studying fine art, that one of my teachers encouraged me to apply for a fashion degree. I kept on making portraits of all the clothing I had amassed, and I think my teacher could tell that’s what I really wanted to get into.

How would you describe your design style?

I like to portray and evoke joy through my clothing. Often, there’s a lot going on in our lives, and I see fashion as one medium for optimism and telling a positive story. So far, I’ve expressed this through volume and textures. But I would want people to make up their own opinions of my designs. I am still evolving as a designer, so it’s probably too early for me to pin down my exact design style.

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

Taking photographs and speaking to the yiayias helped me to capture and document moments that I could reflect on later and relate to my design practice. Particularly the everyday environments and objects, like the silk flowers and vintage landscape paintings I saw in yiayias’ homes. Those can be seen in the prints I used, and the sculpted roses in my collection.

How did travelling to Cyprus impact your process and final designs?

While in Cyprus I visited the village of Lefkara and sourced traditional hand-made doilies, which found themselves in my final designs. Travelling to Cyprus and being able to have access to that tradition was essential to my final designs. But it was also the simple aspect of being there, being able to live and be inspired by its culture and lifestyles. I really enjoyed the experience and I carried that feeling with me when I returned to Sydney, and conveyed it in my collection.

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

It was a lot of hard work. I had to learn new techniques like knitting, as I used wool for many of the pieces. I had to coordinate with other professionals to develop my fabrics and complete the quilting, while the embroideries were made by artisans in India based on my designs. Because some pieces are large, when I was sewing them together it was physically challenging. I was literally sweating trying to get them through the machine! So I had to be dedicated and focused. But it’s why I signed up for this, to create something that I can be proud of.

What part does sustainability play in your design practice?

At the moment I don’t produce a lot of final pieces, but I do produce several toiles. So I try to repurpose and tear apart the toiles so that I can re-use them in new ways. But I think of sustainability through a different lens as well: I would love for the pieces I create to not be disposable — the idea of holding onto the clothing because it has value for as long as you live, and then passing it on, is a manifestation of sustainability.

What’s next for you?

I recently received the Australian Fashion Foundation’s scholarship award, which involves a placement in a fashion company in New York for six months. So I will be moving overseas and learning a lot. I’m very excited!

Find more of Domenic’s work here.

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