Proving Queensland fashion isn't just about bronzed skin and board shorts, QUT grad Sally Jane Edwards is representing a new take on menswear within the new generation of young designers. We got the low down about how her collection is reinventing masculine sensibilities into something less strict and more fashion forward and how she is making pink the new black for men.
We love the images you shot for us backstage at your show.
They were shot by Becky Strong. We've been good friends for years and have collaborated on aspects of both of my collections. She came along to the photo shoot for my undergrad collection Boys and Girls Are Choice and made a great video for the collection too.
What's your new collection Men in Uniform about?
The project started with a fascination about masculinity and how it could be communicated through dress. Military uniforms could be seen as a pinnacle of perceived hyper-masculinity so I wanted to explore how that could be challenged or subverted in a contemporary fashion context. I was drawn to the masculine and utilitarian aspects of the combat uniform, in both the silhouettes and the fabrication. During the design process, this broadened to include a range of utilitarian garments drawn from various uniforms: a boiler suit, an aviator jacket, cargo pants, navy corp. jeans and a raincoat / mac style jacket. The collection aims to be commercial and critical, while at the same time using humour and a high fashion/camp sensibility to poke fun at the seriousness that can be associated with hegemonic masculinity.
I love menswear. Traditionally menswear is something that has a lot of rules and restrictions and I like how that allows you to challenge and subvert these conventions. That's something I really aim to do as a menswear designer.
The colour palette isn't what most people predict when the words "men and uniform" are used. What made you chose the pastel pale pinks and deep reds and oranges?
Early on in the project, I was intuitively drawn to a specific shade of washed out pink and a bright red; because of the way they both complemented and contrasted each other. When I began to explore that intuitive decision I realised that I was using colours traditionally associated with femininity as an intentional juxtaposition with a hyper-masculine subject matter—the military uniform. Finding the colours for the final fabrics became a more organic process. Interestingly, this was due to these harder wearing fabrics not being available in the colours required. This in itself seemed like confirmation of a disconnect between the utilitarian fabrics and colours that could be perceived as feminine.
You also used some left of field fabrics. We love that baby pink PVC coat.
The baby pink PVC was actually one of the first fabrics I found for the collection and I just became obsessed with it. I love its duplicitous nature. I began outsourcing for leathers, wools, shearling and denim. These fabrics are all well known for their durable qualities and are often used for garments that are made for long-lasting practical uses but also have a place in a high fashion menswear context. The combination of luxurious fabrics and awkward cuts is in contrast to the hyper-masculine connotations of the uniform tropes, and aims to create an unnerving humour throughout the collection.
Your collection presentation was unique, what made you show it in the location and way that you did?
I wanted to exhibit the collection in a runway style, but there weren't a great deal of spaces in Brisbane that were open to hosting something like this. I put out a call to some friends to find a space and one of the curators of A-CH Gallery, Kate McKenzie, approached me with the idea of doing the show there. We split the show across three levels using the upstairs, the foyer and the laneway outside which created a sort of multi-level viewing experience. There are rarely any fashion events in Brisbane that are open to the public in a free, gallery-type setting, so it was a fun to be able to present it in a fun and accessible way. It was a first for A-CH too!
What're your thoughts on the whole "grad collection" bubble? Are you designing with the notion of launching you career or introducing your aesthetic to the fashion world, or something else?
I feel like grad collections give you a creative freedom, as you're not necessarily designing with a commercial result in mind. It's possibly the one chance in your career to really establish who you are as a designer and take risks because it's what you show to potential employers to really communicate what you are about as a designer. That being said, if you have the intention of launching your career straight out of university then you have to find that balance between commerciality and creativity to get people interested and invested in you as a designer.
How was your experience at QUT?
QUT was great for me. The faculty there is filled with really creative and supportive teachers who come from varied backgrounds in industry and academia. The course seems to go from strength to strength. Brisbane, as a whole, does not have nearly the same creative scene for fashion as other cities in Australia but there are some really amazing and inspiring people in our little scene. Keep an eye on this year's QUT fashion graduates… trust me.