worn is a label built on collaboration, art and happiness

Speaking to designer Catherine Conlan about chasing joy and finding fashion.

by Wendy Syfret
08 September 2016, 6:15am

Sydney label Worn is in its infancy, but during that brief time on earth, designer Catherine Conlan has made a big impression. Firmly embedded in the city's fashion and social scene, Catherine has embraced collaboration and friendship as part of her business ethos. Her designs are seen on, inspired by and created in collaboration with some of the city's most engaging young creatives. Her current collection HOUSE was a joint venture with acclaimed artist Lucy O'Doherty: together, they've explored their own connection to Australian suburbia, and the lingering nostalgia they carry for it into their city lives. We spoke to Catherine about the art of collaboration.

Let's start by talking about your distinctive prints, were they commissioned or did Lucy approach you with them?
I have been a fan of Lucy's work for a couple of years now, I started collecting her artwork as soon as I could. The work she creates is exactly how I want art to make me feel, so with this project in mind I approached her with the idea of basing my second collection on a specific theme. Lucy began working on the series of four works, HOUSE, which she created for me. 

They're so central to the designs, did you find yourself having to rework your pieces to feature them?
I already had in mind the general silhouettes and shapes I was wanting to pattern make, so I started making mock ups pretty early on. When Lucy finished painting the series, that's when I started placing the prints in and playing with proportion a bit more. I had to rework the art work by extending certain aspects of the paintings, such as the sky, carpets, walls and larger pastel coloured spaces so when it was printed on fabric there were larger pieces to play with. I definitely thought about the way the artwork would be positioned on the garment and had to change certain aspects, for sure.

The images seem inspired by Australian suburbia, is that something you're drawn to?
Yes, for sure. Both Lucy and I share a very similar interest to Australian homes and the things that fill these spaces. I grew up in a small beach town up north, where the houses and surrounding towns are the perfect picture of Australian suburbia.  

Is it difficult as a designer to have another's work so meshed with yours? I suppose it could be seen as handing over a portion of control, but also focus.
I'm the type of person that definitely likes being in control, so it can be a little daunting to share my world with somebody else. But I admire and trust Lucy, so this was such a lovely thing to share together. We were on the same page right from the start. I guess the process was also very separate in a way as Lucy painted the four original art works for the range then handed them over and I took it from there. 

The images we're running on i-D were something you worked on with stylist Kurt Johnson and model/musician Rachel Rutt. You seem very embedded in the Sydney style scene, do you feel you need to embrace the social side of fashion to make your best work?
To make my best work I feel I need to be inspired and happy! Being part of a 'scene' is a support network, so it's great, like minded people supporting similar interests. I don't really have a particular scene in mind as far as Worn goes, it's in the early stages still. My designs are always based on capsule collections, not following the seasonal routine, as it takes quite a bit of time to develop and create. They are pieces you are meant to wear now and also in 50 years time. 

Do you have an ultimate goal for the label? Something that you lie awake thinking about?
I want it to be something I can do for the rest of my life. I love making things, I always have. I always want to be doing it. If I can be designing and making art my whole life I will be sleeping well.

Who do you look up to?
Probably Michael Leunig, I love his work so much. He has been doing what he loves for so long and doing it well, that's something I aspire to.

Who would you love to dress?
I'd definitely like to undress Kurt.



Text Wendy Syfret
Photography George Popov
Art direction Kurt Johnson
Model Rachel Rutt @ Chic

fashion interviews
rachel rutt
kurt johnson
catherine conlan
lucy o'doherty