Friday, August 24, 2018

EFWA 2018 Upcycling Challenge Interview with Kiri Steele of Kiri Steele Designs and Chapel Street Bridal

 Please share a bit about the journey that led you to embrace fashion design as a career.

My mum Gwen taught me to sew from when I was 12 years old. Before that I would ask my mum to sew up my designs. I loved Textile and Design through school and did it in my HSC along with Visual Arts. My love of creativity has always been a part of me. 

I went on to Study Fashion at East Sydney Tech and received an Associate Diploma of Arts. I then worked in various positions in the Fashion Industry in Sydney. I moved to Armidale and had my family. I started my own small label in 2005 - Kiri Steele Designs. Then last year I launched Chapel Street Bridal. I've been entering The Australian Wool Fashion Awards for 18 years on and off and have won several prizes. I will continue to create Wool Designs for The Fleece to Fashion Awards that it has now become.

I know you studied at East Sydney Tech. Talk about the highs and lows of studying. What did you find easy? What was a challenge? 

Studying for me was a while ago, so my recall on that is a little hazy these days. Coming from the Central West of NSW - a little town called Wellington - and moving to the big smoke alone was pretty daunting. But studying at East Sydney Tech was amazing and eye opening, especially being in Darlinghurst in Sydney.  I loved my time at East Sydney. Designing and doing my studies wasn't too challenging as it kept me busy. Home sickness was more of a challenge for me.

Who are you 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?

I started my own label first, doing Smart Casual Women's wear. I then graduated into specializing in dresses, some of which I created from Vintage fabric and patterns. My love of vintage started here and this is also when I starte to recycle and upcycle.. I recently started Chapel Street Bridal, designing and creating Wedding Gowns and other special occasion wear. 

All my customers these days have an interest in having something made especially for them. They appreciate custom made, more unique clothing and usually have a strong interest and support for locally made items. I will continue with these custom made designs, but will be endeavouring to create and supply unique creations for a collective of artisans and designers here in Armidale called The New England Collective.

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?

Yes, I have been creating and altering old garments and accessories plus using vintage fabrics for about 5 years now. I've created many upcycled and sustainable garments for The Australian Wool Fashion Awards - now called Fleece to Fashion Awards in Armidale - and will continue to create and recycle old garments. Wool is a favourite fabric I like to rescue as it has so much less impact on the environment. I love to re-use denim as well.

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

Who doesn't love a men's shirt. So versatile and so many gorgeous fabrics are available even in men's wear. I'm going for a fairly feminine approach with my design, totally re-creating the shirts to be as feminine, cute and funky as possible. Plus I'll try to utilize as much of the shirts as possible so as not to have to throw much of what's left into landfill.

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'm a fun, happy-go-lucky chick who loves to frock up and or dress up. I wear many of my own designs these days to encourage wearing handmade, slow clothing and buying something unique and of a good quality. Plus people are amazed if you are wearing something that has been made from something old.

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

I'll probably still be designing and sewing as long as I am able. I will always be endeavouring to create designs that are of interest to others. Of course my dream as always will be to do what I love and hope that others will love what I do too.

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