Sydney-based industry experts, Lorraine Lock and Amanda Talbot, are aware creativity alone does not ensure a successful artistic career. So the pair have launched a new studio initiative; The Design Residency. Here, Lock and Talbot hope to nurture and coach a selection of young emerging Australian designers from incredible ideas through to fully realised commercial concepts.
“The idea is to help designers who have an idea for a brand, or who have maybe just started a brand,” explains Lock. “Creative talent doesn’t always come with the knowledge of, or disposition for, business. We take people’s ideas and brands and make them a commercially viable proposition by the end of their residency here with us.”
Disappointed with the lack of new and interesting Australian design being represented in both local and international markets, Lock and Talbot wanted to make a difference and to set up a platform to help talent that was either already on their radar, or talent that they would soon unearth. The aim is to help artists with the business-related elements of building a brand: sales, marketing, PR and communications
Between them, Lock and Talbot have lasting and strong combined experience and an enviable network of industry and media contacts – an ideal springboard for any aspiring creative. Lock is the co-founder of Australian Fashion Week, and Talbot is an author and an interior stylist. Most recently she worked on the re-envisioning of The Beach Palace Hotel as Coogee Pavilion for hospitality group Merivale. “Amanda and I have been around for a little while, so we know a lot of people,” says Lock.
The Design Residency, started in a small Potts Point studio earlier this year, and has since moved into a larger abandoned nightclub space in Darlinghurst with the help of the City of Sydney’s Creative City Sydney program. The residency program accommodates designers working across textiles, fashion, jewellery or product design. Residencies run in six-month cycles, with the option to stay on for a whole 12. “We’ve taken people at the very beginning, or at the concept stage and we’ve taken people that have just done their first range, but have no idea where to go,” Lock says. “We have some people who are into their second and third range, but they’re not getting anywhere – they’re treading water.”
Lock and Talbot’s program is intensive and personal, with only a handful of designers in residence at a time. “A lot of it is about training them,” Talbot says. “We might go back and forth for four weeks designing a press kit with them, for example, but the idea is that when they leave they can then continue on their own.”
Currently, The Design Residency is home base for about seven up-and-coming designers. On the roster is Shilo Engelbrecht, Yousef Akbar and Stash Textiles. Engelbrecht transfers bright, fluid brush strokes from her painting to home wares such as tablecloths, napkins and linen. While she is based in Europe, Engelbrecht meets regularly with Lock and Talbot via Skype. “[Shilo] is a true creative. She just wants to be painting, but business wise – she just never stopped and looked at her books,” Talbot says. “One of the first things we said to her was, ‘OK, no painting. Let’s go through your books; let’s see what’s going on. It was a bit confronting for her. But she could start to see what steps she needed to take to properly grow her business.”
Two successful showings hosted in the space have placed the work of resident designers in the view of serious buyers, stylists and fashion media. Stash Textiles – the vivid insect-printed fabrics of Varina Krook, caught the eye of Liberty London, and Sky Ferreira was shot in Yousef Akbar’s clothing for ID magazine. Jewellery designer Helen Poyser will soon join the residency, as well as Claire Ishioka – a hair and make up artist with impressive experience working with celebrities and on film, but with no website or online presence.
“It’s interesting with watching these creatives,” says Lock. “They seem to have certain blockages that prevent them from growing. That’s what we see our job as: to push them where they need it.”