Eucalyptus cinerea – also known as Argyle apple, mealy stringybark or silver dollar – is a tree endemic to Australia with sage-green leaves. But when fashion designer Eloise Panetta uses them to dye her silks, they produce a vibrant peachy-orange. If she uses dried leaves, the result is a vivid, earthy red.
“The dyeing process uses just the organic botanicals – dried and fresh foliage, flower petals, berries – and I bundle them up with the silk and place it over a bed of steaming water. It’s a beautiful, unpredictable process; the magic happens over a few hours and sometimes doesn’t turn out anywhere near what I’d expect,” she tells Broadsheet.
Every week Panetta visits the Sydney Flower Market to look for her botanicals, which she brings back to her studio in The Rocks to start the dyeing process. It’s a time- and labour-intensive process, so her silks are dyed in small batches.
The end result is tie-dye-esque patterns of waves, splotches, curves and flecks. Sometimes the solid shapes of flowers, leaves and petals are recognisable, but often the overall design is more abstract. Because of the unpredictable nature of the process, no two pieces are exactly the same.
Panetta uses the dyed silks – in neutral and soft, blushing floral hues – in a range of hair accessories (think scrunchies, headbands and ribbons), scarves, compact mirrors, pillowcases and dainty drawstring purses.
“There’s something poetic about just feeling and looking at the pieces, but learning about the process behind them is, I think, the most exciting part,” she says. “It’s just a humble range, but it really works in harmony with nature, my biggest inspiration for even starting the business. The textiles are all informed by the plants that actually dye them.”
Her products are dreamy and feminine, with a delicate sheen from the high-quality silk. She works with a Tafe student who makes the scrunchies, while all the clothing such as slips, blouses, skirts and dresses are made by Panetta herself.
Clothing is made-to-order, although a very limited stock is available at her flagship shop at The Rocks, on the same site as her studio. The neutral and pastel garments on the rack give the space a delicate feel, accented by soft lighting and rose-gold accents along mirrors and shelves.
“I’m there everyday, usually at the sewing machine making the products, so customers can see it all happening and see the transparency that’s usually so blurred between the creation of the product and its final output,” Panetta says.
Eloise Panetta Atelier
141 George Street, The Rocks
0412 988 486
Mon & Tue appointment only
Wed to Sun 11am–5pm
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