Lisa Gorman’s memories of the late Mirka Mora are vivid and heartfelt. She thinks back to their first meeting and the time the much-loved artist welcomed her into her home, where they drank cups of tea while surrounded by paintings, drawings and handmade dolls.
“She was just so full of life,” says Gorman, who is behind the Australian fashion label of the same name. “I remember after the first time we met I was quite struck by how her work is so her. She lived in this realm of all of these mysterious and wonderful creatures, landscapes and scenes of nature that she was creating on canvas. She definitely lived in a magical dimension.”
The playfulness of both Gorman the label and Mora’s art work seamlessly together. This perfect fit between a fashion house and an artist both so iconically Melbourne has brought about two collaborations – the first launched in 2016, and the most recent coincides with Gorman’s principal partnership with Heide Museum of Modern Art and their Mirka Mora: Pas de Deux—Drawings and Dolls exhibition.
That initial collaboration all started with a conversation between Lisa Gorman and Mirka Mora’s son, William, at his gallery in 2015. He mentioned in passing that his mother’s work would look lovely on silk and Lisa promptly agreed to help with this vision. From there, the 15-piece collection began to take shape. “Of course my mind started racing,” Gorman says. “I hadn’t imagined I would be able to collaborate with someone of her calibre at that stage, so I was thrilled to be able to work with her gorgeous paintings. They are so reputable and iconic in the Australian art scene.
“It’s definitely a highlight of my career.”
Upon completion, Mirka Mora was invited to see the first collection in its entirety and take part in a photo shoot at William Mora Galleries. Her response? “She loved it,” says Gorman. “She came out and saw the clothes hanging in the gallery. She just kept pulling out pieces one by one, admiring them, feeling the fabric, saying how beautiful the work was and how beautifully we translated it. She went through the racks and chose the dress that she wanted to wear in the photoshoot.”
“Once you know what her personality is, it’s not surprising that she was happy to get that dress on and get in front of the camera – she was not camera shy!”
Two years on and as a result of the Heide partnership, and in celebration of the artist’s 90 years, Gorman has released a second Mirka Mora limited-edition collaboration . The focus has shifted towards a smaller offering this time: five garments plus accessories featuring prints developed from four of Mora’s original artworks. “I wanted to make it more elevated, it’s a tiny collection and I felt like I owed it to Mirka to make it as beautiful as I could,” Gorman says.
There are also subtle hints of Mora’s own wardrobe throughout the collection. A full skirt reminiscent of her outfits in the ’50s, for example. “More so this time than last time her personal style influenced the pieces,” Gorman says.
“In 2016 the pieces were more ready-to-wear and this time [the collection has been] developed more in terms of its detail. Her look was very eclectic and she was creative in all aspects of her life. I think that’s why I liked her as well.”
Taking an artist’s work and turning it into clothing is a delicate process, one that Gorman is sensitive to. She ensures artists, and in this case Mora’s family, are across each step. “I started working on this second collaboration over a year ago, and Mirka had limited involvement by that stage of her life,” she says. “When I’d worked with her the first time around with William she was a lot more involved, so I got to know her process and was really respectful of the way William handles his mother’s art. He has her work and her name as his greatest interest and I respected that.”
Gorman’s affection for Heide is apparent. She frequently visits with her family and has donated the two Gorman x Mirka Mora collections to the gallery’s archives. The exhibition honouring the life and work of this extraordinary artist is one she’s looking forward to, particularly to see Mora’s hand-stitched, painted dolls a second time after that first encounter at the artist’s home.
A retrospective exhibition of Mirka Mora’s work, Pas de Deux—Drawings and Dolls is at Heide Museum of Modern Art from October 27 until March 24, 2019. The Mirka + Gorman collection is available online and the Heide Store now.
Broadsheet is a proud media partner of Heide Museum of Modern Art.