For 10 years, ceramicist and jewellery designer Erin Lightfoot has operated her eponymous label from her studio in Red Hill, Brisbane. “The studio started as a creative project in the corner of one room and has developed, piece by piece, into a family business run by my husband [Tang Oudomvilay] and I,” she says.
Lightfoot’s ceramics are stocked in close to 100 specialty boutiques across Australia, but ceramics wasn’t her first passion. Lightfoot studied fashion at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). “While print design took me down a different path, I did always hold a candle for apparel,” she says. During her studies, Lightfoot met fashion designer and educator Thuy Nguyen – the director of Fashion360, a consulting service and program providing industry skills to local fashion brands. A decade on, Nguyen and Lightfoot have united for a new project that celebrates Lightfoot’s print designs with beautiful, locally printed silk.
“Creating garments gives me the opportunity to create prints on a larger scale,” Lightfoot says. “The choice of silks was based on its natural characteristics of lustre and the beautiful translation of colours.”
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The collection is made up of five key pieces in soft crepe de chine that balance comfort and elegance. Each garment is shaped with a flattering silhouette and subtle design elements, such as scooped backs, keyhole ties and cutaway curved pockets.
“Our signature piece is the amazing kimono that can be worn as a dress or a jacket,” Lightfoot says. “It’s lined in 100 per cent black silk crepe de chine so you could potentially wear it inside out if you wanted to.” The garment is made to order, crafted from more than six metres of pure silk. Other pieces include a camisole, a blouse, relaxed pants and a dress.
Production is handled by a small number of highly skilled and trusted sewers in Brisbane. “It is a small, aging industry in Australia, and it is challenging to find sewers with a high proficiency in the art form – especially to handle soft silks,” she says. “It’s important to us that the construction is done well with all finishes refined and all checks and patterns lined up at the seams. [It’s] a slow and exacting process when dealing with slippery silk fabric. For this reason, we’ve decided to make less and make sure what we produce is very well made.”
Lightfoot says the collection features two serious and two playful prints – think s-bend curves, an abstract zebra-style print, one reminiscent of ’60s flower-power and a pink number with checks. “Motifs were borrowed from my jewellery collection and a current interest in curved shapes,” she says.
Lightfoot and Nguyen work with a supplier in Shanghai – a design decision based on a few considerations: that the silk has a quality feel and excellent drape and that the supplier was able to print small quantities. It was also important that price-per-metre was under $50.
“We found a USA-based supplier of eco silk, but the drape and colour were not optimal, and the company communication was unreliable,” says Lightfoot. “Australian production was unfortunately out-of-reach as the price was in excess of $100 per metre. Our supplier was able to provide a beautiful silk base in a very small run at $43 per metre so that we could both get the project off the ground and not produce garments in excess.”
Right now, until Saturday July 17, you can try on the pieces – and meet the designers – at a temporary pop-up store at 300 Adelaide Street, Brisbane. The silk garments will feature alongside Lightfoot’s ceramic jewellery and vases, and specifically designed silk scarves made from offcuts. The pop-up is open for a short time before the collection is made available online.
Erin Lightfoot x Fashion360 Pop-up Shop
300 Adelaide Street, Brisbane
Wed to Fri 10am–4pm