Ru Kwok and Georgia Fraser are members of a new wave of Melbourne designers with huge talent and a determined, DIY approach. Together, the friends and recent RMIT graduates create thoughtful, unexpected garments. Their first collection carries a 70s influence that's all about strong, stylish and confident women. With Grace Jones providing the soundtrack, we spoke to them about working with your best pal and sacrificing anything to achieve greatness.
We love this collection. Can you guys explain the love story behind this baby?
It began with us needing a creative outlet after we finished university-it's us trying to find a new direction after completing our graduate collections. It's a funny feeling after working so hard for four years at university and then being like, "okay, where to from here?" We wanted to create something without any influence or pressure from our teachers or the university framework.
Would you describe this as a label, brand, collaboration or collection?
It's a combination of all of these. We wanted to test our ability to collaborate on a label from designing through to producing a collection. We were best friends during uni and always spoke of starting a label together in the future. We were also very aware that close friendships don't always make great business relationships and wanted to make sure we could achieve this balance before making bigger plans for the future.
How do you combine your skills and aesthetics?
We have very different sets of skills and technical strengths. Ru's pattern-making process is unorthodox and often eventuates in unusual shapes and silhouettes whereas Georgia has a pedantic, refining eye and perfectionist attitude towards construction. Collaborating has meant we get the best of both worlds aesthetically, something unusual but still refined and well-finished. It is an ebb and flow that seems natural to us.
We took a trip to the Mill Market in Daylesford and looked for vintage 70s pieces to research finishes, shapes and fabrics authentic to the time.
You both surround yourself with a very creative circle of women, how have they influenced what you're doing?
Our friends have always been an incredible inspiration; they are all constantly striving to push themselves creatively and to be socially and culturally aware within their pursuits. They are our primary influence, motivating us to stay determined and set higher standards for ourselves, whilst also embodying the type of people we want to wear our clothing. We also took inspiration from strong women in history and by proxy fixated on the feminist activists of the 70s. We took a trip to the Mill Market in Daylesford and looked for vintage 70s pieces to research finishes, shapes and fabrics authentic to the time. This was important so that we could then manipulate details and techniques in a modern way, with our own handwriting.
What else inspired the look and feel of this collection? The garments play on femininity and masculinity.
We agreed that although we wanted functional garments, we still wanted a sense of feminine sensuality. To achieve a balance between practicality and whimsy we combined heavier-weight, durable fabrics like corduroy, leather, sports knit and utilitarian fastenings including eyelets and exposed zips, with typically feminine silhouettes and finishes.
When we needed a leather machine...we snuck back into our old university to use the machines and finished just in time before we got caught.
Those details really create a bold and consistent collection.
We put pressure on ourselves with this collection and tried not to limit our ideas to what was readily available to us. This meant that when we needed a machine to incorporate the eyeleting detail, we asked Georgia's dad to build us the machine in his factory. When we needed a leather machine-after breaking three of our own trying to sew through four layers of patent leather-so we snuck back into our old university to use the machines and finished just in time before we got caught. We weren't willing to sacrifice anything in order to achieve what we set out to do.
If this collection had a soundtrack what would it be?
Grace Jones, On Your Knees.
What's next for you?
Our friendship is the most important thing and we needed to test its strength before moving forward with a clear goal in mind. Through collaborating we've really identified the skills we need to hone in order to operate successfully as a label and we plan to re-unite in the not too distant future, hopefully with all the necessary tools to start a practice successfully and with a fully realised vision.
Text Jamie-Maree Shipton
Photography Agnieszka Chabros
Styling Jamie-Maree Shipton
Hair and Make-up Janice Wu
Models Helen and Ava at Folk Collective