Having a creative idea appears regularly for those in any creative industry, but how often does someone take that idea, move through and take action on the next 100 steps for them to then share that idea with the world? These six creatives, are minds and makers that have done exactly this.
Lucy Jones of Fruitopia, the youtube learnt skill to crochet and create for friends with a dream aesthetic of summer Australian-a
"The fact that the world doesn’t need any more stuff is something that weighs on me as a maker, but I do think there is a place for handmade crafts — they can bring people together, teach us to value our belongings and restore a sense of hope when things feel heavy.
I would love to live in a world where the fashion industry is replaced by a global community of crafters. "
Adrian Voss of @by.toni who began collecting used flannel blankets from charity stores and repurposed and redesigned them into very good jackets, hats and shorts.
"We need to know that the people who made the items we buy, worked in safe conditions and were properly paid. Rather than supporting big commercial companies, customers want to identify with the product.
To me this transparency is important. I also want to know the story of things. I love that items have had a previous life. A blanket becomes a coat, a tablecloth shape shifts into a shirt. Transformation is essential!."
Rachel Rutt is the textile artist behind sustainable knitwear label RUTT Australia, Rachel understands fashion and understands sustainability and has successfully built a brand that creates fresh styles without sacrificing importance on minimimally processed product.
"Traditional hand making processes for me have always been a personal outlet. One that I enjoyed naturally. However, having a career in commercial fashion did show me that the knowledge of the artisanal skills I was learning and refining were all the more precious. That there was a true place for them. There is a sort of void without them. Fast fashion is fast because it doesn’t nourish. It can’t. So it perpetuates the idea that you need more of it to feel fulfilled. Like white bread. "
Emily Martin @emsah is an Australian designer who understands fashion design beyond it’s function as a necessity, who believes in it’s ability to transform moods and tap into emotions. Emily’s pieces have been hand crafted in her New York studio using hand painting, bleaching, shirring, dying and screen printing.
" It was an artistic decision, but also born out of necessity. I tried to have a sample made for a shirt I designed, but it was too technically complex. Most makers I approached refused. One quoted me an obscene amount. I turned to my machine and made it myself. Painting, bleaching and dyeing by hand also produces something you can’t find in commercial processes. I embrace accidents and unexpected results. This is the essence to each unique piece."
Phoebe Cutler and Seamus Phelan of @flowersofmarmionst are two friends who shared a love for floral design and spaces, during COVID they decided that from their experiences creating for friends, they would develop a brand with floristry together.
"We had always spoken of creating something together since the very early days of meeting, it only made sense to combine our past experiences and shared interests- this was always leaning to something in floral design. Fast forward to lockdown 2020 where we lived together and had ample time to create something, we started going to the flower markets before this and creating arrangements for friends then during lockdown we created the brand and ironed out logistics. It is exciting, lockdown kind of forced it to become something sooner - one positive take away from the year that it was."
Here we speak to the hand-makers that are shining bright from Sydney, Australia.
What-Else: What is your first memory of creating something on your own and feeling happy with it?
Lucy Jones, @fruitopiafruitopia: I made my first crochet bag in maybe 2010 for a friend’s birthday present. It was a lilac and lime green backpack and was very ‘me’ at that time — purple-haired and permanently at GOODGOD. Looking back now, I think it was fucking hideous!
Adrian Voss, @shop.toni: My earliest creative memories revolve around my mother, a solo parent and interior designer with impeccable taste. Her beauty and the transforming nature of design was such a big influence on me. As a little boy, I would sit next to her and look through all her fabric books, riveted by the colours, textures and patterns. She would give me the fabric scraps from the upholsterer and I would sew little zip purses. To this day, my mom still uses them for her make up.
Rachel Rutt, @rutt_au: I don’t think that the idea of being happy with an outcome ever occurred to me specifically until recently. A very important figure in my childhood used to take me foraging and show me how to make things out of found objects like vines or shells. Beautiful things. But she never emphasised criticism of the creation once it was completed. Her ideas were compelled often by the process itself. But even now, I see objects I make less as triumphs or failures and more as gateways to the next process.
Emily Martin, @emsah: Sewing mini organza bags and baking dog-shaped shortbread to go inside. It was Christmas and I was 9. I felt so excited to give my Grandparents something I created <3
Phoebe Cutler, @flowersofmarmionst: I grew up making stuff all the time with my mum so I have a fondness of craft and making things with my hands . The first thing I can remember creating was probably making fairy gardens and houses - definitely has stuck in my sub conscious and led to my love of flowers in spaces .
What is your hand-made skill and what is the origin story of it for you?
Lucy Jones, @fruitopiafruitopia: I crochet and there’s no cool story behind why I started really. I’ve always been into crafting and DIY and I looked up some YouTube videos on how to crochet a few years ago. I started making things for my friends and that’s how Fruitopia was born.
Adrian Voss, @shop.toni: From a very early age I was hands on making. I attended a Rudolf Steiner school where learning to sew and knit are considered life skills! By 10 yrs of age I was given my first sewing machine. Just stitching fabrics together was so empowering! As well as the fabric off-cuts from my mother’s clients, I used my grandmother’s old towels and made simple things like pillow and pencil cases. It makes me happy to see that in my current project, I have circled back to those early childhood experiences and am once again using old blankets, tea towels and other preloved fabrics.
Rachel Rutt, @rutt_au: I specialise in artisanal textiles within the scope of weaving and knitting. It started with knitting, which is a very domestic craft. I think the relationship between two people sharing a craft merges two stories in one. My origin story is just a twig growing off the branch of another person’s experience. One long wonky line connecting a variety of people who may or may not have had anything else in common. I quite like that.
Emily Martin, @emsah: I love making thingsss ~ Constructing garments and accessories. I started making my own clothes and trinkets at a young age. It gave me the freedom to express myself and invent something original. Now I experiment with sewing techniques and creating textiles for EMSAH - it’s therapeutic. I’m always looking to learn new skills - next up is glass blowing!
Seamus Phelan, @flowersofmarmionst: We had always spoken of creating something together since the very early days of meeting, it only made sense to combine our past experiences and shared interests- this was always leaning to something in floral design. Fast forward to lockdown 2020 where we lived together and had ample time to create something, we started going to the flower markets before this and creating arrangements for friends then during lockdown we created the brand and ironed out logistics. It is exciting, lockdown kind of forced it to become something sooner - one positive take away from the year that it was.
Did the decision to return to traditional hand-making methods in your practice come from your experiences in commercial fashion?
Lucy Jones, @fruitopiafruitopia: Yes and no. I feel like there’s a part of me that needs to create, which is what drew me to working in fashion in the first place. But after working in the industry for a few years, and becoming an adult at the same time, I began *Kylie Jenner voice* realising stuff. Like how badly young creatives are exploited, the lack of ethics of some people at the top and the fact that it’s probably the most hyper-capitalist business in the world.
There’s nothing wrong with making things, it’s a form of human expression and we’ve been doing it forever, but not at this insane scale. There are enough clothes in circulation (or in a garbage dump somewhere) that we could probably hit pause on production today and never have to make anything new again.
The fact that the world doesn’t need any more stuff is something that weighs on me as a maker, but I do think there is a place for handmade crafts — they can bring people together, teach us to value our belongings and restore a sense of hope when things feel heavy.
I would love to live in a world where the fashion industry is replaced by a global community of crafters.
Adrian Voss, @adrianjvoss @shop.toni: I always wanted to work for commercial fashion companies. Something about that felt so exotic to me! I grew up shopping at second hand stores and small boutiques so as a teenager was attracted to High Street commercial fashion. After 12 years as a senior designer for a range of international brands, I was ready to return to making things by hand again. For me the joy of Clothing is when it is individual, expressive and fun. Having the opportunity to just make what I want feels great. I don’t miss the pressure of deadlines or trying to chase the latest trends.
Rachel Rutt, @rutt_au: No. Traditional hand making processes for me have always been a personal outlet. One that I enjoyed naturally. However, having a career in commercial fashion did show me that the knowledge of the artisanal skills I was learning and refining were all the more precious. That there was a true place for them. There is a sort of void without them. Fast fashion is fast because it doesn’t nourish. It can’t. So it perpetuates the idea that you need more of it to feel fulfilled. Like white bread.
Emily Martin, @emsah: It was an artistic decision, but also born out of necessity. I tried to have a sample made for a shirt I designed, but it was too technically complex. Most makers I approached refused. One quoted me an obscene amount. I turned to my machine and made it myself. Painting, bleaching and dyeing by hand also produces something you can’t find in commercial processes. I embrace accidents and unexpected results. This is the essence to each unique piece
Phoebe Cutler, @flowersofmarmionst: For me I think that working in retail and fashion definitely makes you appreciate the slower things in life .Using your hands and doing a craft that requires only hands was super cathartic and healing which for me I hadn’t experienced in commercial fashion.
What were your biggest takeaways from your time in commercial fashion? What did you learn? What did you want to unlearn?
Lucy Jones, @fruitopiafruitopia: I learnt fashion is a place where outsiders and freaks can create community. I’ve never felt more at home than I did working in fashion and it’s where I met all of my closest friends. I learnt true creativity is really rare. I learnt the joy of creating something beautiful and meaningful — an image that someone will rip out of a magazine and Blu Tack to their wall or a sentence that sticks with someone
I wanted to un-learn the tokenistic bullshit, the competitiveness, the greed, the superficiality and the feeling of never being/having/doing enough.
Adrian Voss, @shop.toni: Working in big commercial fashion companies is its own universe. There were aspects I enjoyed, working in creative teams can be extremely interesting. A lot of different personalities and opinions but there are also the constraints of hierarchies, power plays and the incessant drive to be commercial.
I learnt a lot of great skills and the experience clarified my vision for how, in complete contrast, I now want to engage with the fashion world.
My design process is non-binary, small-scale and built on a foundation of sustainable practice. I like all aspects of the process; sourcing fabrics, designing and engaging with clients one-on-one.
Rachel Rutt, @rutt_au: To strive to communicate well; to be bold. That mental health is very important. To ask questions and ask for help. To examine more deeply an origin and establish connections. It taught me a lot about art and culture that I hadn’t been exposed to before. I wouldn’t say I want to un-learn anything, but I would like to re-learn some forms of naivety. I would like to experience some of it again for the first time and utilise more of the above lessons.
Emily Martin, @emsah: Commercial fashion is fast paced. I’m hyperconscious of the over-production, mass-consumption and unnecessary waste in the industry. For EMSAH, I make pieces to-order and work to stay in tune with the ebbs and flows of demand. I use recycled materials made from post-consumer waste as much as possible, to minimise the footprint on the environment. Textile technologies have come a long way! I was thrilled to find a material that recycles 18 plastic bottles into each yard of fabric.
Seamus Phelan, @flowersofmarmionst: I really only touched the surface of commercial fashion from working in a photography studio, there I was retouching and assisting on fashion shoots for a few years, though I really learnt that attention to detail is vital and that a tonne of work goes into the minor things that people don’t necessarily realise or think about, ultimately these things create the bigger picture. I really try to stick to this mentality with FoMS, from arranging the flowers to the branding.
I don’t want to necessarily unlearn anything from this time although there is a lot that I left behind. One thing I took away from this time is that status doesn’t matter and if someone isn’t particularly a nice person you don’t have to work with them.
What are the main steps to establishing your own -self and ideas in the making of your own brand?
Lucy Jones, @fruitopiafruitopia: My process is pretty random. I’m inspired by people and stories from Australia’s past, particularly groups that lived outside the norm. I spend a lot of my spare time searching library archives and op shop bookshelves for interesting images and stories. Sometimes these searches will trigger ideas and other times I’ll think of something I want to make as I’m falling asleep at night.
I hate doing the same thing twice so I’m constantly experimenting with new ideas, making mistakes (because I also hate following patterns) and eventually creating something I’m proud of. The great thing about crochet is that you can Command+Z your mistakes so there’s a lot of freedom.
The name Fruitopia is a play on utopia. My idea of utopia is living on a commune somewhere tropical, making stuff all day, eating heaps of prawns and drinking heaps of piña coladas so that’s the general vibe I try to channel through my work.
Adrian Voss, @adrianjvoss @shop.toni: It all came from the idea that there is already enough stuff in the world! In our endless desire for the new we have over-looked so much. I love going to charity shops and finding preloved items. Australia had a tradition of producing wonderful woollen blankets. I find towels and jeans I can take apart. I enjoy interacting with clients. It feels very personal to me to take commissions and produce something individual for each person. I believe that is what makes Toni so special.
Rachel Rutt, @rutt_au: Accept that your dream means something. It’s valid because you are valid. Don’t underestimate that. Do your research. Ask for help! Write a list and fulfil it. Put some easy things in there so you can feel progress sooner. Reward yourself with positive affirmations after each small step is completed. I don’t have a lot of practical advice other than that as I am still learning so much. But the biggest thing so far is really, just do it.
Emily Martin, @emsah: EMSAH grew from a feeling, rather than an aesthetic; to be intrigued and inquisitive; the urge to touch something tactile and unusual; the feeling of something visceral against your skin. This led to an organic process of exploring textiles, textures and visual experiments. I hope to uncover new techniques as EMSAH evolves with each capsule.
Phoebe Cutler, @flowersofmarmionst: I think identity in my personal and shared projects hugely impacts on the outcome of our work. I think nostalgia plays an enormous part in floral design and definitely inspires a lot of our work from smell to colours to scale. A lot of the steps in establishing identity and brand ‘feeling’ comes from our partnership and the combination of knowledge and aesthetic.
What do you think it is about what you do that contributes something new to the relevant industry?
Lucy Jones, @fruitopiafruitopia: I’m too tiny to contribute anything to the industry! But then again, maybe that’s the point. I always want my work to be very personal — I like to collab with customers to create special one-offs — and have no desire to ever make money from crochet. This small-scale, hyper-local, intimate form of fashion is something I think we really need to value and have more of in our world.
Adrian Voss, @adrianjvoss @shop.toni: The fast fashion industry is a large contributor to global pollution. I am offering something very different. I source the majority of fabrics, threads and zippers from second hand supplies. This can be time consuming, requiring washing or un-picking but I believe in socially responsible design. I don’t see my practice as a traditional fashion label. I want to create one off pieces dedicated to the person who ordered it from Toni.
Rachel Rutt, @rutt_au: I’m not alone in my vision. I know there are others working with the same goals within the same space, pushing the same boundaries. I think that by being a part of this community, however small, however separated by space on the global front, that there is solidarity. I am one contributor in a collective space that is growing, offering deeper connections to our choices. What I can give is hopefully a little strength to the next person who is inquiring. A little insight into the true cost and value. A little joy and a little humour.
Emily Martin, @emsah: I’m intrigued by the marriage between art and fashion. Capsule 1 has a focus on spandex; a material traditionally employed throughout activewear and swimwear. By hand-painting directly onto spandex with colourful inks, I’ve produced pieces that are both highly functional, visually expressive and experimental. Through my practice, I’m interested in this process of recontextualizing traditional techniques to yield unexpected results.
Seamus Phelan, @flowersofmarmionst: We started FoMS to create something different, I think being two minds we are always questioning and working off of each other’s ideas, which has helped establish a unique brand and push ourselves outside of the commercial floral industry. We want to create a more accessible approach to flowers, our online shop is very pared back and simple, we don’t want to necessarily be churning out arrangements for the sake of it, we want to create something that people appreciate and ultimately shed light on the designers, photographers and artists that we work with on different types of projects.
What has been the best thing for you about establishing your own practice and idea in fashion and/or floral design?
Lucy Jones, @fruitopiafruitopia: Doing Fruitopia has reignited my passion for fashion. Lol. In all seriousness though, it has shown me that it’s possible to be part of the industry without compromising my personal values. It’s also just fun to make stuff.
Adrian Voss, @shop.toni: Seeing others appreciate my efforts and support ShopToni has been amazing for me. Having my work be so well received has given me great satisfaction and pleasure. The feedback and support of a like minded community has given me confidence. It has and is a huge learning experience, interacting with people and of course, with myself!
Rachel Rutt, @rutt_au: Feeling fulfilled that I am following my dreams and establishing the practice around it (ethics and sustainability) that I have always wanted to. Even if it makes the process a little slower at times. Knowing that I am doing what I love. (Cliche!)
Emily Martin, @emsah: Freedom of expression, then relief... EMSAH has been a long time coming. Leaving my full-time role in the commercial fashion industry to start making, reminded me that the process can be incredibly expressive and fulfilling.
Phoebe Cutler, @flowersofmarmionst: Definitely doing it together! It has really led to a thoughtful and gentle approach to floral design- especially within a partnership. I also think that floral design is a really interesting and exciting part of the creative industry with heaps of room to grow, explore and move around.
The hand-made, sustainable and traditional way of making has been more considered in luxury and more commercial practices as of recent times. Why do you think this is and what is it for you that inspires you from it?
Lucy Jones, @fruitopiafruitopia: I’m pretty cynical when it comes to luxury and commercial fashion. I would love to say that this is a sign of the industry making meaningful change. But, in reality, I think it’s more likely that it is a response to the market demand for greater brand responsibility; an attempt to stay relevant (and sell products) while the world falls apart around us.
On a less emo note, independent makers are doing really cool things with traditional techniques and these people inspire me to keep creating.
Adrian Voss, @shop.toni: Yes, hand made has become associated with haute-couture and affordable clothing has been cheaply mass-produced but I believe that we now need the awareness and understanding of our supply chains. We need to know that the people who made the items we buy, worked in safe conditions and were properly paid. Rather than supporting big commercial companies, customers want to identify with the product.
To me this transparency is important. I also want to know the story of things. I love that items have had a previous life. A blanket becomes a coat, a tablecloth shape shifts into a shirt. Transformation is essential!
Rachel Rutt, @rutt_au: People are examining their investments more deeply. We are reacquainting ourselves with our earthly connections, realising our impact on the environment. Realising our global history; the impact of colonisation. The trauma it still ravages. And we want to change. Artisanal methods communicate without words an ancient language that transcends this pain and suffering. It reimagines the future while connecting with the past. It has been there all the while, waiting, being, belonging.
Emily Martin, @emsah: Hand-making anything is telling a story. The shift to mass production can result in loss of care, consideration and uniqueness in exchange for managing cost and profit. For me, coming back to artisanal/traditional ways of making and recontextualizing these methods is a process that I use to search for better quality, deeper meaning and more honesty in my work.
Seamus Phelan, @flowersofmarmionst: Personally for me I think this is because the world recently seems as though it’s melting/collapsing/sinking and along with a lot of others, I have even more so looked towards supporting people surrounding me who are designing and using a hands on approach, I think the luxury fashion industry realises this and are starting to spotlight more considered, sustainable designers. There is also more resources and research into sustainability and ethics surrounding luxury and commercial brands and so in turn they have kind of been forced to take this approach. This is really inspiring though, it feels the industry is somewhat shifting in a more positive direction and shining a spotlight on hand-made design.