When the models hit the runway at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival next month for the launch of my S/S collection, freesoul, it will be the culmination of a 10-month process that has taken me literally around the world.
I first showed my label on the runway at the RAQ awards in 1996 and while I have streamlined the collection development process over the past two decades, the months leading up to MBFF always bring the sense of vulnerability and self-doubt that inevitably comes with being exposed on a creative level.
At this time every year, I reflect on my purpose as a designer: am I challenging myself? Am I doing my clients justice with this collection? Am I being innovative while staying true to my roots, my brand? It’s facing a fear of rejection or criticism; it leaves you open and exposed, but it makes you stronger.
Creativity doesn’t thrive in the comfort zone! I do my best work when I'm on the precipice - I have clarity and ideas seem to flow.
Which is why, in the midst of the 2014 collection’s development, I went skydiving. The skydive was a birthday gift I received last year; something on my bucket list that I had put off, waiting for the right moment. As the plane climbed high above the beautiful northern NSW landscape, I didn’t experience any of the nerves or tension that I expected to feel, just pure adrenaline. Completely surrendering to the free fall, I felt suprisingly safe.
It was a truly exhilarating experience, and it was interesting to notice how clear and creative I felt returning to the workroom the following Monday to put the finishing touches on the collection samples.
The collection development process began in my West End workroom in October 2013. Following a successful collaboration with acclaimed Brisbane artist Jacqui Conias in 2013, I wanted to interlace a limited edition range of bespoke prints into the 2014 collection, featuring digital reproductions of emerging artist Claudia Husband’s hypnotic prints. I was thrilled to have Claudia on board and we began looking at ways to integrate symbolism and her existing prints into fabric patterns earlier this year.
I set off on a global resourcing and ‘trend-gathering’ trip to Europe, while working with the world’s oldest lace mill – Sophie Hallette – to create a bespoke lace design exclusively for Tengdahl’s S/S collection. Three months later, I fulfilled a life long dream to have an Indian sabbatical, venturing off for four weeks of meditation, exploration and meetings with local artisans, learning about their ancient craft traditions and collecting beautiful hand loomed embroidery in vibrant colours.
Back in my workroom, and filled with experiences, observations and inspirations gathered on my travels, the collection’s direction began to crystallise. Its aesthetic is rich, sensual, exotic and a tapestry of cultures and design elements. It’s bold but earthy and more exuberant than my past two collections. And I love it!
Meanwhile, Claudia returned with some beautiful textile print concepts, which we finalised and sent off to our Australian fabric manufacturer to have strike-offs created. Our talented pattern maker and seamstress Heather began to meticulously lift traditional embellishments and embroidery from the artisan fabrics I had collected on my travels, transferring them onto the luxury European fabrics that had arrived along with our new bespoke Sophie Hallette lace (which I have been wearing in our concept designs for a few months now and absolutely adore)! These elements combined to form the freesoul collection.
As we near the date for our S/S photo shoot and MBFF model fittings, the collection is nearly completed and, once again, I am enchanted by the process that brought these designs from vague imaginings to beautiful, wearable pieces something which almost seems to happen of its own volition, as though I am both a bystander and active participant in its evolution.
Above: Julie briefs the face of her S/S14 collection, Samantha Cannon, on the collection ahead of the freesoul campaign shoot
The response to my MBFF collections in recent years has been incredible, and I must admit to feeling the pressure of a high bar this year! But I am so proud of the creative integrity and melting-pot of local talents that have gone into creating it. And in that respect, it is already a success. Breathe…