EFWA 2018 Upcycling Challenge Interview with Andrew Carpenter of Papa Drew

Papa Drew at a Market 2018
Please share a bit about the journey that led you to embrace fashion design as a career.

As an eight year old child growing up in Central Queensland, we would visit my grandparents every Christmas in Brisbane. Every year this would result in me being dragged around with my sister, Mother and Grandmother to every imaginable dress shop they could find. Realizing that complaining about it wasn’t working, I figured the best way to get out of there was to give my recommendations on what I thought worked and didn’t. It seemed everyone was happy with my suggestions. Big Mistake, Now I was on call for my opinion more often.

As a teenager, I enjoyed being original and not wearing what everyone else was. With an op shop across the road, I would frequently buy stuff, take it home, modify it, change buttons, dye or paint it. I loved the whole creative process. Whilst most of my designs have come about because I was after something different to wear, I have created costumes for High school musicals, entered garments in Designer day wear, evening wear, children’s wear wearable art and men’s wear categories, in a range of different fashion shows.

I know you trained at Ithaca TAFE, took some additional sewing courses and worked as a tailor to add to your self-taught skills. Can you share about about the highs and lows of studying. What came easy? What was a challenge?

Through my years of study, I’ve learnt that I’m a hands on learner. I can look at a book for a long time and struggle to comprehend what I’m reading. However, if I’m shown something and am actively doing the same thing, that’s the learning I enjoy. Working in a clothing factory I’d be shown something then I’d go and do it, making modifications on the run. 

Who you are as a designer? Aesthetic? Customer? Brand? Etc.? Do you, or do you plan to, offer a new line each season, create custom work or both?

The Papa Drew label as it is today is different to the original idea. Throughout 2017 I researched the possibility of having my fabrics printed overseas; as I was only doing short runs the price was still relatively high. I did order enough to make 10 shirts in cotton poplin. I let it sit for months and months. In September 2017, at a market on Karragarra Island, my partner mentioned that we should head along to the speaker’s tent where a lady was talking about fashion. Michelle seemed insistent, so we went along. That is where I was first introduced to the concept of slow fashion.

Men’s shirts made from recycled fabric 2018.
Jane Milburn, an advocate for sustainable clothing, pointed out the effect fast fashion has on our environment, and mentioned a documentary called “The True Cost” which shows the devastating conditions created by multinational clothing giants that show no regard for the human cost in creating cheap fast fashion for demanding consumers. What a plight, I was at a loss as to how I could create any original garments without having an effect on the environment. 

A work colleague wanted something original for his sister for Christmas. He’d seen my original printed fabric and asked if I’d be able to make her a top. I immediately said no worries. Fortunately I had a fairly simple pattern, but with basic sewing skills and to be sure I got his top right, I dropped into a small op shop and grabbed some sheets and doonas to use as test material, so as not to stuff up the good one. It was this process that triggered my current thinking. They actually looked OK. 

Evening Wear 2000
Learning that there’s enough fabric in the world already has motivated me to access my fabric this way wholly for any new creations, While Papa Drew is just doing men’s’ shirts from recycled fabrics at the moment, there are plans to expand the range. 

I am so thrilled to have you a part of the EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn R Wilson and Dalija Vlahov. Have you ever upcycled used garments before? If so, how?

All the Papa Drew range is currently created from recycled materials. We have a lifelong history of making donations to the many great op shops that are around. In exchange, we receive a range of fabrics to create something new with an interesting history.

Please share a little about your approach/inspiration for creating your runway look for this international show? What can the audience expect?

On seeing the link to this competition on the Textile Beats Face Book page, I immediately wanted to be a part of it as I felt I needed to stretch myself creatively. I immediately thought of Jonathan as an ideal collaborator. I’ve photographed his work a few times and love his approach to construction. The idea behind it is extravagant. Although we’ve designed an entire collection; we created a celebratory style outfit fitting for this show. 

What would you most like the international fashion audience to know about you and what you offer (or hope to offer) the world of fashion? 

I’ve come to realize that you don’t need to buy extravagant fabric to create a quality garment. It simply needs to incorporate good design, a good fit and suit the personality of the wearer. I’d like my international audience to know that there’s enough material in the world already. Seek it out and make or have made your own original outfits. Be original.

To create original garments, encourage recycling, and constantly be aware of our impact on the planet. 

What's next for you? What are your long term dreams? 

The future of Papa Drew will involve creating original fabric prints though a variety of mediums, We will be using screen print, wood block and batik on reclaimed fabrics to create one-off garments.

Designer Daywear 2000
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