“Once you start a fashion brand in Australia, this is where creativity can be lost,” says Christina Exie.
Chatting in the wake of the launch of her ready-to-wear collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, the Australia’s Project Runway winner and RMIT design graduate toes a fine line between avant-garde design aesthetics and wearability, her designs bridging the gap between high concept and commercial viability.
“It becomes a risk to make an innovative product, because the majority of the Australian market doesn't buy it,” she says.
The compromise between innovation and commercial success is nothing new in Australian fashion. Designers have long fought the realities of a market that is not always willing to invest in the new and innovative.
Exie says Project Runway taught her not to be afraid of commercial design, but also to balance her concept with the production of a commercially viable product. “I have always made avant-garde pieces that receive a lot of press but not many sales,” she says. “The lesson I have learnt is to balance the commercial with the avant-garde aspect of my designs and create a collection that is interesting but also wearable.
“If a product isn't wearable, it will only be seen in a museum or magazine, not on a person who has actually bought it,” she adds.
Rather than scanning the sartorial horizon for current-season trends and working them into one appropriately-peplummed garment, Exie treats her design work as art and seeks to produce innovative and original fashion that is marketable on an international scale.
Fashion design is always seasonal and often trend-based, but working from a conceptual basis allows for more novelty in design – an outcome evident in Exie’s latest collection.
Indeed, Bass draws inspiration from cymatics, the study of visible sound. In particular, it looks at the manner in which sound frequencies can influence the actions of particles, causing them to scatter in geometric patterns.
“If you have salt on a drum and you blast the sound on any frequency, the salt will split and it will affect the aesthetic of the particles,” says Exie. “I was inspired by this geometry and the resulting absent space.”
The geometric fractal patterns that are caused by this sound-to-particle phenomenon are intricate and dynamic, much like Exie’s designs.
Bass continues some of the themes explored in her previous collection, Icon, which featured heavy draping that was at once fluid and structured. Embroidered motifs and architectural pieces in neutral hues with bold splashes of red gave the collection a distinctly Japanese, Kabuki-theatre aesthetic.
Asked whether she feels her design-work has an Asian-inspired bent, Exie says she feels entranced by Japanese culture, but likes the idea of developing and creating an entirely new fantasyland.
“I’m really inspired by sci-fi and the concept behind films like The Matrix,” she says.
“I want to create a world, somewhere people can escape to.”
Credits for images 15 to 22:
Photographer: Anthony Tosello
Model: Elena Novello - Independent
Make up/hair: Trudi Boyd
Stylist: Kate Carnegie