Melbourne label Gorman has emerged as one of the fashion industry’s strongest performers of the past two decades. Established by Lisa Gorman in 1999, the label’s designs are instantly recognisable for their bold use of colour, pattern and geometry and have developed a cult following among women who love the brand’s statement style and comfort-driven tailoring.
For the past 10 years, Gorman has championed Australian artists through her immensely popular collaborations with talented creatives in art, illustration and design – from street artist-turned-Archibald painter Rhys Lee, to larger-than-life artist and bohemian icon Mirka Mora. An exhibition in March at Heide featured garments and accessories from Gorman’s artist-collaboration collections, alongside the original artworks that inspired them.
Broadsheet speaks to eight of the collaborating artists about their experiences working with the label, and the ways in which Lisa Gorman’s work has changed their trajectories.
The career boost
For many artists, the collaboration marked a career-defining moment, helping them connect with a broader audience as well as change perceptions about their work. Such is the case for Rachel Castle, Miranda Skoczek and Megan Grant.
Rachel Castle – founder of homewares brand Castle
I remember writing an email to Lisa, a total stranger, five years ago, saying simply, “I love Gorman! Could we, should we, pretty please do a collaboration?” I figured it would end up in her junk mail but, true to the awesome woman she is, I got a swift reply of, “Yes”. It was a defining career moment for me and my little brand. The collaboration process was seamless and insightful. Lisa had enough energy for 10 people, and I understood immediately why her brand has been so successful and become so iconic – she just loves the process and her products and her customers, and I am thrilled to be part of the 10-year celebration.
Miranda Skoczek – visual artist
Until the collaboration, my work was always viewed within the white cube of the gallery, static and two-dimensional. Seeing my images adorning women was a thrill – they were given life. It has introduced my practice to an audience that may have never otherwise come into contact with it, which I very much like. The art world can be somewhat impenetrable at times, fashion is far more accessible.
Megan Grant – artist and illustrator
The way my art was interpreted with fresh eyes onto a variety of beautiful fabrics in ways I had not imagined made the whole experience [of working with Gorman] a genuine collaboration in the truest sense. It was thrilling to see the pieces from the collection for the first time, to touch them and see them out in the public, worn by all kinds of women.
Collaborating with Gorman has enabled my work to reach an enormous audience – a diverse group of people, many of whom engage with art and design in places other than traditional gallery settings. I've taken away so much from the experience in terms of confidence and inspiration, and also a heightened awareness of the ever-growing potential for exchange and collaboration between Australian creatives.
For other designers and artists who have worked with Gorman – including Ellie Malin and Liz Payne, the experience has presented an opportunity to grow their work, learn from a larger brand and experience the excitement of seeing Gorman customers parade their wares.
Ellie Malin – print media artist
The collaboration was in the early days of my career – I was working out what it is I wanted to say through art, developing techniques and processes. The collaboration broadened my network. Suddenly I could connect with people who were interested in what I was doing and have a greater reach with a community who has watched me grow as an artist. I remember walking down Gertrude Street [in Fitzroy, Melbourne] after a long day in the studio. I was just contemplating things, as I do, and as I looked up there was someone casually walking past wearing a piece from the collaboration. I must have stared too long. But to this day I get heart flutters whenever I see someone wearing my art.
Liz Payne – Sydney-based multimedia artist
I had first heard of Lisa from the exciting work Gorman clothing is known for: bright patterns in kaleidoscopic colours and merging the art and fashion worlds by doing collaborations with artists. You can see how much passion goes into every little detail. I’ve always been interested in the idea of wearable art, hand-painting, stitching or beading custom jackets and shoes. So seeing my artwork merged with the iconic shapes and styles of Gorman was a dream. The prints were incredibly life-like and detailed, and the integrity of [my] original artworks was still evident – the varying textures, the colours and the intricate beading and cottons seemed to pop right off the fabric. Seeing people walking down the street wearing pieces from my Gorman collaboration was – and still is – surreal. My original artworks can take months to complete, so to have more people being able to enjoy a part of it is incredible.
Another upside to Gorman’s collaborations for a number of artists has been forging a stronger connection with their local communities – and seeing their own prints come to life in their own corners of the country. Such is the case for Dana Kinter, Elke Kramer and Claire Johnson.
Dana Kinter – Adelaide artist
I first spoke with Lisa on a Sunday afternoon when, to my surprise and delight, she called to talk about doing the winter 2017 collaboration with Gorman. I have always been a huge fan of the Gorman brand and was blown away by the interest. The hardest part was keeping it a secret for six months, until the launch. The support and encouragement I got from my home base in Adelaide was enormous. All the girls at my florist bought matching jackets as a staff uniform. It seemed like the whole of Adelaide was wearing one of the designs.
Elke Kramer – jewellery and accessory designer
Gorman has a huge cult following and is revered across Australia, and since my brand is very niche, it has opened us up and allowed us to connect to a broader audience. I loved the launch event we had in Newtown three years ago. It was a great chance to meet the retail staff at the store as well as local customers. As I live nearby in Camperdown, it felt like I was really creating a connection with the community I love.
Claire Johnson – ceramicist and artist
Seeing my work transformed into garments was something I had envisaged for the longest time but never imagined would actually come to fruition. I felt incredibly humbled [to be asked]. A standout memory for me was the night we launched the collaboration in Sydney. I had previously worked for Gorman as a casual shop assistant for five years and it was so beautiful seeing some of my old customers wearing work I had drawn and painted. I met some of my closest friends while working at Gorman and sharing that moment with them was something special.
Broadsheet is a proud media partner of Heide Museum of Modern Art.