banoffee’s pageant collection is about rebellion, revolution and inclusivity
The musician hopes "that when people look at this collection they see fun and possibility, not the diet they’d have to go on to fit it, or a skin colour, gender or price tag."
Photos by Freya Esders
Ever since her breakthrough track Ninja caught the attention - and heart - of the internet in 2013, Melbourne's Banoffee has been one of the country's most luminous young musicians. Otherwise known as Martha Brown, through her songs, videos and collaborations she's created a world frequented by friends and fans. After slipping into our lives through sights and sounds, it's not surprising she felt herself drawn to the tactility of fashion.
Though the fashion industry had always embraced Martha, when she looked around she was perturbed by the way a community wasn't always accessible to others. Teaming up with longtime friends Kate and Amanda from Pageant, she sought to create a clothing line that celebrated diversity across body types, genders and personal expression.
Considering it's a project between friends, inspired by the people in their lives, i-D invited the team to hangout with photographer Freya Esders to capture the power of seeing your pals as the ultimate muses. After the shoot, we chatted to Martha about her motivations and expectations around fashion.
So you've always had a great take on fashion and worked closely with brands. Why try designing?
I feel like fashion is the logical next step for me. I've always wanted to keep the Banoffee project as a sphere of different creative avenues. For a couple of years I really delved into my videos - now I want to make something you can touch and put on. I used to wear big heels, big nails and impractical outfits when I was a teenager, but the more I grew the more I wanted to be able to sprint, perform, fight and dance in my clothes. I found it hard to find things I liked that fit those requirements. This collection ticks some of those boxes for me.
Were there elements of fashion you were looking to challenge or divert?
I found the industry very disheartening to be honest. There are always exceptions - like you guys and Pageant of course - but it was a cruel awakening. I was told I was expecting too much from the industry: I had expectations around baseline representation on the runway and in the press. I wanted women of all shapes and sizes, gender and racial diversity and to include trans and non-binary models in my work. Not to make a statement, just to represent reality. I'm learning that I have to shine a light on the great things about fashion instead of just ranting about the parts I don't like. There are labels out there making incredible clothing that welcome those who've felt shunned - it's those things I'm trying to focus on.
How did you bring that commitment into this line?
My line isn't perfect, I know with every inclusion there are people still left out. I hope that when people look at this collection they see fun and possibility, not the diet they'd have to go on to fit it, or a skin colour, gender or price tag.
Is that why the collection was unisex?
Yes definitely. My experience is that gendered clothing began as a way of weakening women. Back in the old shitty days women were made to believe they should wear clothes that slowed them down. It disempowered them, made them unable to work, ride a horse, play sport and fight back. If you were attacked in a Banoffee x Pageant piece, I hope you could at least fucking run in your outfit - or better - kick the living shit out of whoever is doing you wrong.
Why was Pageant the brand to do this with?
I've always loved Pageant because they're more about exploring an idea and seeing it through than making a piece everyone would pay dollars for. They're complete badasses, they work hard and follow their gut. The Pageant girls are the rock of this project; if I had gone out on my own it would be poorly designed, fit badly and it wouldn't have the oomph it does. Together they're this super power-house that turns everything to gold.
So this collection is really about the people around you.
I'm inspired by people my own age working like dogs to do things differently. I'm the youngest of three girls and my sisters are big influences: neither of them ever settled for second best.
Tell us about your pals in this shoot and how they informed the designs.
They are all people I respect immensely. HABITS are crazy good musicians but also super shy, intelligent forgiving humans. They're fantastic role models as people defying gender, musical genres and are completely non-committal when it comes to style - apart from the fact they always look incredible. Having them be involved was a gift. Mary Grigoris is a powerhouse, a one-woman show working in event planning and creation. She's working on the ground of the most exciting projects coming out of Melbourne right now. She's learning, creating and celebrating herself and those around her by doing what she does.
Sarah Schofield is one half of ASSK Paris, a rad label that originated in Melbourne and made its way around the world, and also a great human. She and her partner Agatha inspired me a lot whilst making this collection; their clothes are super wild, fierce and inclusive. I've always longed to have an ASSK item on my body. All of these people had an influence on the work by living out their true identities, changing when they want to, working with what's around them and not apologising for whatever that creates.
Text Wendy Syfret
Photography Freya Esders