Over the weekend Australian label Gorman opened its very first New Zealand store on Auckland's Nuffield Street. Last week, I had the opportunity to interview designer Lisa Gorman about her range, label history and thoughts on design and print. I also tried on some of my favorite samples from the collection that is currently in stores. Although known for it's unique patterns, I found myself most drawn to the autumnal colours, motif prints and scarves.
Gorman has such a recognisable aesthetic -- has that been something that was there from the very start or has it evolved with the business?I guess it's a lot easier to maintain a brand's aesthetic over 13 years when you're designing for yourself. It seems to come out naturally without having to over analyse it or explain it because it is basically my personal aesthetic, not something that is concocted purely for commercial purposes from trend reports or intense sales data. In saying this, as the brand has grown I have had more opportunity to customise my clothing so it's exactly what I want. In the beginning, the limitations of small runs and stock fabrics can mean that you need to get creative in a way that allows the brand to kick off. You can't get exactly what you want easily when you're small, but once the brand reaches a certain size it's easier to have your own colours, prints and fabrics produced just as you like. This has allowed the aesthetic to become more defined I think. I'm a true believer in sticking to your style, sometimes you're in fashion and some seasons you're not, but jumping around all over the place doesn't give your customers faith.
Do you think people have more of a conscience these days with regards to their wardrobes?
If you're talking about environmentally, then I believe some people do, a lot of people don't, but it's increasing. If you're talking about style, then yes I believe a lot more people are conscious of the way they are dressing because they now have so much choice, and many are obsessed about individuality and can express this instantly through their choice of clothing and the way they style themselves.
Fabric and colour are a huge part of the Gorman aesthetic - in what way do these inform the garments and the collections?
Colour and print are at the very beginning of the design process of each of my collections. I love these elements of design and they are signature to the brand. Often the shapes are quite clean, uncomplicated and easy to wear, but the detail generally lays in the fabrication and colour.
Are all your prints designed in house?
What inspires them?
Anything from vintage, homewares, art, an image I find somewhere. A friend once found a scarf with horses on it on the street out the front of my house that i've reworked and used. So it can come from far and wide!
Are there any particular art movements or cultures you like to reference?
I like doing collaborations with local and international artists. I find that working with an artist on prints designed specifically for clothing can add another really nice dimension to the collection. I'm working on a collab with Australian artist Rhys Lee (who's just been nominated for the Archibald by the way!) and have recently worked with Rachel Castle from sydney and have a new one from Alexander Girards (ie, mid century textile design genius!) grandson, Kori Girard, coming up later this year as well. Other than collaborations, I love geometric pattern. Triangles and dots are the best.
Your label started off very small and independent is that right? Have you always sewn?
Yes, since I was 5. I have 3 younger sisters and I was head of the Barbie Sweat Shop team for many years. I had very little regard for ever zig zagging the seams or even bothering with hems, I was too impatient for all of that, I just wanted to see the finished garment on the Barbie asap.
I read that you started in Bridal design -- has that influenced the Gorman range at all?
It definitely influenced me to start my own label, because I'm not formally trained but learnt what I needed to know to start off with from Mariana Hardwick. I learnt a lot about volume, draping, fabrications, and detail finishing. My collections are not directly influenced but the fact I ever started the business is.
I always make a point of visiting a Gorman store when I'm over in Australia. Do you think there is something uniquely Australian about your ranges and how they are received? Or does life over their influence the design of your collections?
I'm very influenced by life in Melbourne. I suppose my collections are uniquely Australian to a certain extent because I design for the girls around me, not for girls in the Northern Hemisphere for example. My business is, by the most part, based in Australia. New Zealand is my first OS store but I've wholesaled in New Zealand for many years. From a brand perspective, I hope that gorman will be received much the same way in New Zealand as it is in Australia.
Why did you decide to enter the New Zealand market?
As above. I wholesaled there for years and built up the brand to a small level, but to really have proper representation the best way to roll is to open a store. Online sales have been good to New Zealand over the past few months which is another indication that it should be a good spot for a store.
What designers do you admire both locally and overseas?
I like designers that are not just about fashion, like Marcel Wonders who made the Knot Chair. I like Victor and Rolf which is so completely the opposite of anything I do but I like them. I like new Australian kids Song for the Mute. I like Jenny Bannisters work from the 80''s. -You are Melbourne based. What do you love most about the city? The intense amount of creative stuff there is here. The weather. The food.
All clothes are current season Gorman (except shoes, sunglasses and beanie).
Photographs by Oliver Rose