this designer creates bags from vintage playboys and found fabrics
Using a combination of glitter, stickers and upcycling Sisi Ludbey creates an accessories wonderland.
The design scene is experiencing a DIY revolution in the face of the digital age, making things that feel more authentic and personal than ever. Australian designer Sisi Ludbey is just one person at the heart of the movement. Her label Hello Sisi is enigmatic, experimental and expressive; mixing seductive pop-culture with playful visual imagery she finds along the way. Sisi has recently collaborated with Melbourne-based artists collective POLY which is a platform for open-minded creatives to explore, record and celebrate creativity.
Sisi's recent work features recycled materials and hand-picked vintage Playboy covers, as well as patchwork designs which energetically incorporate neon smiley faces, flowers, psychedelic patterns as well as photocopied images and textures. While she’s currently working on a new project — creating her own Hello Sisi fabric and individualised keychains — Sisi spoke with us about her work process and the accidental encounter that started it all.
How did Hello Sisi first come about and when did is start growing from a hobby into a business?
Hello Sisi first started when I walked into Coco Store a year ago and the owner Ellie asked where I got my bag from. From there she started stocking them and it became my side project. Before this, I was working in hospitality full-time and was feeling super uninspired, so I would come home and sew lolly packets, receipts, Nike shoe boxes — anything I could find really — into little mini bags. I would try and make one every couple of days and it made me feel a lot happier and creative.
Your use of shiny plastic as well as the vintage pop culture imagery like Playboy covers and old Prada and Louis Vuitton prints feels reminiscent of the 90s or early-2000s. What draws you to that era?
Clueless is one of my favourite movies. I remember watching that opening scene for the first time where Cher picks out her clothes from her touch screen, the plaid two piece she decides on is so bright and fun. I have always been drawn to the ‘90s because of the bold colours, patterns and more-is-more approach to design. The monogram LV and Playboy covers are so iconic so it’s fun to put my own spin on it. It's also a nice way to bring a nostalgic feeling into my designs. I like to use a lot of cute cartoon fabrics that are timeless like Mickey Mouse. There is so much history behind these characters but they will also always play such a huge role in design and fashion in the future.
Most of your bags are composed of found materials and objects. Is this an aesthetic choice or does this have an environmental meaning to you as well?
It's definitely both. Every Wednesday I go vintage shopping for fabrics and look for other recycled items. It's important to me that the upcycled element to my bags remains. It's cool to see an item that might have been thrown away given a second life. Even if it is as little as a lolly wrapper, it’s important for everyone to do their part and try and recycle where and when they can.
Is it just accessories that interests you? Or do you think you’d ever design clothes with your own Hello Sisi patterns?
At the moment it is just the bags, but I have always wanted to design my own clothes. I'm not too sure if it would be a complete collection. I think I would like to pick the pieces that I find myself wearing everyday and start making my own. I like the idea of choosing fewer things and doing them really well. I wear overalls everyday — so my next design project I think will be overalls.
Do you feel like young designers, particularly in Australia are getting more of a chance in the fashion industry now more than ever with the current status of social media facilitating exposure and sales?
Yes, for sure! I think that with the help of Instagram we are all able to put out our ideas and products so quickly. It’s also really cool to see so many young people not only creating amazing things but supporting each other too.
What is it like for you to manage a small business, do you have many support mechanisms around you?
Hello Sisi became my full time job a little while ago so I’m still getting used to managing it. It’s been a lot of fun so far. When I started making bags full time I moved into a studio space with the girls who run Sister Studios. Having them has been the biggest support and I am lucky to have them.
You’ve just started collaborating with the artist’s collective, POLY, including having a stall with them at the recent Community Service Fair. Would you say it is important to work with creative groups instead of developing a label solo?
Poly was my first collaboration and working with Gab and Jye on this was so fun. It’s really important support and collaborate with other creatives. It enables you to get a fresh take on an idea and expands concepts. Poly and Hello Sisi have different aesthetics but we were able to work together and create a product that represented us both.
What are you currently working on and what can we keep a look-out for in the future from Hello Sisi?
At the moment I’m working on designing my own fabrics and creating keychains. My website will also be up very soon! I’m not too sure what’s in store for the future but I’m sure there will be a lot of love hearts, smiley faces and pink!