Feeling unfulfilled with the two dimensionality of graphic design, Jolet Ucchino decided to change career paths and start a clothing label. “The reality that I would have to sit in front of a computer eight hours or more a day, working mostly for corporate clients, really didn’t appeal to me anymore,” she says. “I wanted to do something that was more hands on and gave me the freedom to be more creative.”

Despite changing directions, Jolet’s graphic design background has helped to define her eponymous label, which shows an appreciation of simplicity and balance. “I tend to see a collection as one body of work,” says the Melbourne designer. “Each garment is an element of the whole...I came to admire simplicity, subtlety and attention to detail in design.”

A Box Hill TAFE clothing production graduate, Jolet (pronounced “Yolette”) has also spent time at Akira Isogawa, Rich and Claude Maus before launching her label in 2009. “It was (at Rich and Claude Maus) that I really learnt the ins and outs of running a fashion business,” she says. “I did everything; from reception to graphic design, in-house fit modelling, patternmaking, cutting, wholesaling – the list goes on.”

At Akira, Jolet was encouraged to embrace a considered approach, where she hand-dyed silks in tea baths and spent hours perfecting a toile. “At the time, Akira had collaborated with Bonds, embellishing Bonds singlets with beautiful appliqués or embroideries and sold them in his stores for about $400,” she says. “I hand appliquéd one of the singlets with about 200 small, circular silk cut outs. It took hours.”

For autumn/winter 2011, Jolet offers a collection of stripped-back looks that feature considered detailing and a dominating print. The wintry print, a photograph Jolet took while travelling through Europe, reflects the intangible feeling of melancholy that she says inspired the range. “Even just looking at the photograph takes me back to that place and time,” she says. “It’s so beautiful that it saddens me because it feels like such a distant memory, gone forever.”

Emily Dickinson’s poem Certain Slant of Light also served as inspiration. “The poem is sombre and heavy but equally romantic and beautiful,” Jolet says. “That’s how winter melancholy feels to me.”

Jolet launched the collection at this year’s L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, as part of Penthouse Mouse’s independent runway show. “Penthouse Mouse was the perfect platform for launching the collection,” says the designer. “The label has gained a lot of media exposure and positive interest from it. Penthouse Mouse has become well known for collaborating with the best emerging and established independent labels.”

A keen supporter of Australia’s clothing industry, Jolet maintains that her pieces are manufactured within the country. “A lot of people who have worked in the industry for many years will recall a time when Melbourne was full of knitwear factories,” she says. “Now they’ve almost all shut down, and designers have no choice than to manufacture knitwear offshore.”

By keeping the production local, Jolet says it also allows her to observe the production process and easily communicate with manufacturers, helping to ensure quality and avoid misunderstandings. “I’ve established relationships with local makers who make it their priority to produce high-quality garments and are happy to take on new designers who have smaller production quantities.”

Stocked at esteemed boutique Alice Euphemia – who is recognised for unearthing up-and-coming talent – Jolet is being noticed by the right people. “Melbourne embraces unknown, new designers,” she says. “We have boutiques that stock only independent Australian-made products. That’s a huge advantage for anyone wanting to start a label.”

With her label on the rise, Jolet hopes to open a small store within the next year.

jolet.com.au