It was a break-up that inspired emerging Sydney fashion designer Madison Hislop’s collection In Love, set to debut at the 2019 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia.
Watching an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations after the demise of a romantic relationship, Hislop was captivated by the eccentric character of Miss Havisham. Jilted at the altar by her fiancé, Miss Havisham insists on wearing her wedding dress for the rest of her life. A once wealthy heiress, she lives as a recluse in a state of decay, her body withering and her once resplendent mansion crumbling.
The tragic figure resonated with Hislop in her melancholy – particularly Miss Havisham’s obsession with her wedding dress, which becomes “a symbol of the destruction of love” rather than one of romance. Hislop has always been fascinated by the emotional connection we have to what we wear. “I’m interested in the way we relate to clothing,” she says.
She set about creating a “textile-heavy” collection with Dickens’ tragic character in mind. “I wanted it to be something you felt on the body,” she says. She wanted to create a sense of power for the wearer. In the new designs, weighty felted cloth contrasts with sheer flowing fabrics, while high collars, exaggerated cuffs and low hemlines echo Miss Havisham’s Victorian origins.
Hislop designs and produces her garments herself, a creative process that begins with sketching and collaging. “I make all the textiles and then piece them into the garment,” she says. “I then fit everything to myself.” It’s a painstaking process that reflects her creative vision and passion for detail. One pair of pants took five 12-hour days to create.
Aside from Miss Havisham, Hislop finds inspiration in “strong women” like her mother. “I love designing clothes that I want to see on people,” she says. It was her mother, an expert in needlecraft, who taught Hislop to sew as a child. “The first thing I ever made was a crappy little teddy bear when I was 10,” she says. “I fell in love with the process of creating things.”
In 2018, Hislop completed a Bachelor of Design in Fashion and Textiles at UTS, a four-year course that she says was “really intense”. She completed two internships while she was studying: one at celebrated fashion house Bec & Bridge and another at Citizen Wolf, a Sydney-based sustainable clothing brand.
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia will be a career highlight for the designer, who starts a two-year masters course at New York’s Parsons School of Art and Design in August. “It will be an amazing opportunity to network and get my name out there,” she says.
It’s a long way from Sydney, where she grew up, spending most of her time near school in Darlinghurst. “We used to go to Messina to grab gelato at lunchtime,” she says. “I still love it.”
When she was studying at UTS, Hislop loved to visit Matcha-Ya, a Japanese matcha cafe on Steam Mill Lane. “They do this amazing matcha frozen latte,” she says. “I pretty much lived on them.”
She also loves the Rabbit Hole, an organic tea bar that recently relocated from Redfern to Barangaroo. “I’m a massive tea lover,” she enthuses. “They have the most amazing teas.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with City of Sydney. For more discussion about sustainable fashion in Australia and abroad, see the Fashionably Conscious Seminar on Friday 17 May at 5pm. You can buy an All Access Weekend pass to the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week - allowing you access to seminars, parties and runway shows - here.