We’ve just lived through one of the hottest summers on record. So it makes sense the latest Phoebe Paradise collection, Hot Mess, glistens with the sweat of summer days and the fun of summer nights. Big bold suns, drunken pool parties and swimmers tumbling through cool waters all feature as vibrant prints across the collection.
It’s the work of Phoebe Sheehy, a Brisbane artist and designer who made a name for herself with early collections that captured everything ugly and beautiful about the Queensland capital: T-shirts screen printed with rats of the Valley, mangroves littered with beer cans, old Queenslander houses and beautiful native botanicals.
Sheehy is celebrating the release of Hot Mess with a pop-up shop at West End’s Junky Comics this weekend. While her clothes are stocked in a few key stores around the country (such as Violent Green in the CBD), most of the label’s sales are made online. That keeps costs down, but Sheehy says she’s excited about meeting the people who wear her designs.
“I have a fair few customers who buy a bunch of stuff every time I do a new collection, but I don’t really know anything about them,” she says. “I want to change that. I think doing the pop-up will be a great way to meet and talk to the people who’ve been supporting my business the whole time.”
Sheehy wants to make the space as exciting and fun as her prints. “This will be a bit of a takeover,” she says, “I’ll be painting the walls and making props and really making it my space. I want this to be the first in a series of pop-ups around Brisbane that are also installations, showcasing my art and designs.”
Hot Mess may technically be an autumn-winter collection, but this is a Brisbane label – Sheehy knows it’ll be quite a while before anything approaching winter clothing is appropriate. “In Queensland, summer lasts for six months of the year,” she says. “So we want stuff that works for that heat and can be layered for winter. It all has to be cross-seasonal.
“When I first started the label I had in mind that I’d do a winter collection, summer collection, spring capsule and try to follow the fashion calendar. But because everything I do is pretty DIY, catching up to that has been pretty much impossible. So we’ve said, ‘Fuck the calendar’ and just done whatever we want throughout the year.”
The Hot Mess collection features a longer take on a swing dress from earlier seasons, a heavier denim version of the wrap skirt and other pieces perfect for layering. There’s also a series of printed silk robes, wearable over clothes or as a dress. “It’s a real lounge lizard vibe,” Sheehy says. “Like a femme-fatale waiting for news of her husband’s death.”
Sheehy’s particular, bold, trashy-cool aesthetic is cohesive across not only single collections but all the clothes she’s released. That comes not from planning or grand ambitions, but from playing around and a healthy amount of pressure. “Everything’s an experiment – because I’ve been trying to do at least two fully formed collections a year, I don’t have much time to actually think about how it’s going to fit together,” Sheehy says. “The common themes come out because they’re the themes I always work with – living in Brisbane, doing trashy things. It all comes out naturally in my style.”