Fresh, young talent Stephanie Leung has recently produced an exciting body of work called Revitalise for her Fall/Winter collection. Stephanie, now an intern at Alice McCall – and a recent textiles and graphics graduate from the College of Fine Arts (COFA), UNSW – agreed on a short interview exclusively for KUKLA. We caught up over bruschette at Surry Hills with a mutual friend, and she was as bubbly and energetic as ever as she answered my questions.
Describe the concept behind Revitalise.
‘Revitalise’ explores the concept of renewing and ‘bringing to life’ organisms that are considered grotesque and unappealing to the general public. It aims to redefine our understanding and visual interpretations of beauty. Our eyes are already mechanically trained to identify with what is already perceived to be beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, and so we seem to inadvertently avoid looking at anything considered ugly or grotesque. We develop preconceived notions of the term ‘ugly’. It’s so easy to conform to what society dictates as beautiful.
Central to the vision of this collection were certain ‘ugly’, grotesque organisms, including lichen, decaying flora and fungi. I really wanted to bring out the beautiful elements in these forms. There’s a tendency to associate ‘beauty’ with a pleasant image and in a way I wanted to revitalise that term. However that said, I didn’t want to be too philosophical by just blatantly bringing to light everything that was ugly and say ‘here, this is considered ugly but deep down it’s beautiful – therefore it’s beautiful so you should think that way too’. In a sense, the process of revitalisation [in our conceptualisations of beauty] is the premise of this collection and the most important element in bringing to life this fashion range.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I know a lot of fashion designers say that they draw inspiration from past design eras and iconic fashion designers including Chanel, Dior, Saint Laurent and the legendary McQueen. I’ll admit, these are designers that I have idolised, but I’m more inspired by my daily surroundings. For instance, this morning, I noticed some peeling paint by the side of my terrace, and you know to some people these cracks could be considered imperfections on a smooth surface or something of lesser value that was even worth considering, but to me it was a new concept, a spark that would probably evolve into something bigger, and I kept thinking how beautiful if would look as a fabrication or even a design print on a dress or top.
Sum up your design aesthetic in one sentence.
You know, I think I’m still in the process of finding my ‘signature design style’. I find that I am not committed to only one specific design aesthetic and I don’t like to be associated with a particular look, but I believe that as a fashion designer it is essential to embrace all styles. At the moment, my design aesthetic is somewhat minimal, bold and feminine, which are almost opposing elements. In a way I think they also harmonise and balance each other, sort of like ‘yin and yang’.
What is your dream job/plans and hopes after finishing at COFA?
Oh wow, that’s a big one. I guess the dream is to get a kickstart in the fashion industry, designing and doing production work for a fashion label. At the moment, I’m a fashion intern at Alice McCall, and I’ve been privileged enough to intern for other prestigious fashion designers, so hopefully that will help me with networking in this industry. I would love to have my own label one day but of course that will probably be a few more years down the track! Another dream of mine would be to travel the world. I’ve been studying for 18 years straight and I haven’t really taken the time to explore the world – I think I deserve a little R&R. Plans to travel to New York and Paris are definitely in the near future. It’s been the ultimate fashion dream of mine and I’m determined to make that a reality!
Most difficult part of the design process while putting your collection together?
Can I say the whole process? For starters, I didn’t have access to a lot of things including an overlocker. But the most challenging part of the design process would definitely be the developing the concept. Halfway through, I found the concept had become too philosophical rather than design based and that wasn’t ‘me’. The project started to become more of ‘chore’ rather than a passion and when that occurred, I had to stop and start again, as painful as it was. But I don’t regret it because that was a learning curve for me as well and that particular ‘bump in the road’ helped create the backbone for the ‘Revitalise’ concept.
What kind of woman would you say represents the ‘Revitalise’ collection?
Revitalise showcases a lot of strong, bold designs and prints. It is a couture-inspired range so it takes a really adventurous and bold woman to pull off the style, as it is range that really stands out when the wearer is confident about the look of the garment. Then again, each of the dresses differs each other significantly in style, so pretty much anyone who loves a dramatic and bold print and detailed fabrications can wear ‘Revitalise’.
Non-fashion interests? Favourite food? Favourite film?
Fashion is definitely a passion rather than a job for me so it pretty much dictates my life and my interests – is that corny? I’ve also recently gotten back into hair and make-up since the resurgence of beauty bloggers and it’s been really fun…and probably detrimental to my wallet since I’m spending a fortune on cosmetics! Aside from that, I love baking! Macarons, cupcakes, and cakes – you name it and I’ll attempt it! Oh, I’m also a beach person – I live within a close radius of Sydney’s best beaches so during summer you can always find my ‘responsibly tanning’ by the sand. Favourite food… I love a good Italian meal. Favourite film is a hard one, since I’m a bit of a movie nut. I think I find that I gravitate towards period films like Pride and Prejudice, The King’s Speech etc. I love fashion films too. And the LOTR (Lord of the Rings) series. Yes, I’m a Tolkein nerd!
Steph’s work has also been featured here on the Longina Phillips Design Studio website.