Return To OZ

Australian designers may well be geographically removed from the world’s fashion capitals, but when it comes to constructing quality designs and captivating couture, they’re right on trend. SOMA highlights the designers breathing new life into the global fashion body.

Disce Mori > Dead animals and diamonds are an unlikely mix. That is, of course, unless you’re looking at them through the eyes of Melbourne-based artist, jewelry designer and the mastermind behind the Disce Mori label, Julia deVille. Celebrated in Australia for creating works of beauty from pieces otherwise seen as debris (dead rats, run over birds), deVille elicits life and loveliness from the most unlikely of sources. Marrying objects that appear to be polar opposites–such as ornate gold with the wing of a deceased bird–deVille redefines the way that animals, accessories and art are viewed.

After relocating to Melbourne from her native New Zealand in 2002, deVille tried her hand at shoe and leather accessories design, eventually forming the label Abattoir. Seeking something more involved and in-depth, she took on further study with a degree in advanced gold and silversmithing, while at the same time exploring the art of taxidermy under the watchful eye of retired taxidermist Rudy Mineur. Seven years later, deVille has carved out an international reputation for producing intriguing work that captivates and fascinates in equal measure. Proving her dedication to the art form, deVille has donated her body to the Institute for Plastination so that she, too, will be dissected and displayed after death.

Arnsdorf > Jade Sarita Arnott is a petite woman with a delicate facial structure and swan-like neck reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn. Yet for all that Sarita Arnott lacks in size and volume, she makes up for in creativity, artistic vision and technical acumen. Marrying a background in visual arts with a forward-thinking eye for style, this Melbourne-born, New York-based designer repeatedly draws gasps from the fashion collective for pieces that stun, excite and trigger imaginations. Launching in 2007, Arnsdorf has grown from a student concept into a fully realized and internationally respected label that is stocked across the globe. Her beautifully crafted pieces celebrate a woman’s shape with a subtle sexiness, while her choice in luxurious fabric highlights the intricacy in her designs. From the perfect-fit jean and sweet and lovely frocks, to the seductively sheer silk shirts and sophisticated wool suits, Sarita Arnott creates wardrobe staples that become savored mementos and cherished garments. The name Arnsdorf is taken from the designer’s original family name, changed by her German grandfather upon arrival into Australia. Like her choice to revert to a name from history, Sarita Arnott creates lines and silhouettes from a bygone era, fusing them effortlessly with tomorrow’s color palette and modern detailing to create something remarkable.

Tina Kalivas > There’s a risk-taking element to Tina Kalivas’ work that sets her apart from her peers. In a world awash with standard cuts and palettes of repetitive and overused tones, she creates work that is bold, bright and bursting with energy. Born into a Greek family, raised in Australia and educated in part by a costume house in North London, Kalivas is neither a stranger to travel nor to the clashing of cultural identities. Keen to empower women and inject a depth into her designs, Kalivas has taken to capturing traditional elements from foreign lands and merging them with modern tailoring techniques. With the aid of artist Jonathan Zawada, Kalivas creates embellishments and shapes in tribal fabrics that, when added to silk and raw materials, make for exquisite and intricate apparel. Her 2009 A/W collection reflected the beauty and intensity Kalivas saw in the seemingly barren Afghani desert. To ensure that her vision remained true, Kalivas sought out and worked with a group of Afghan refugees in Sydney’s outer West. In 2010 she took the American Indian Totem for inspiration and created a collection of wearable art, continuing her reputation for encouraging cultural curiosity and artistic appreciation through fashion.

Karla Spetic > Born and raised in Dubrovnik, Croatia, Sydney-based designer Karla Spetic fled to Australia as a refugee with her family in 1993. The complexity and emotion attached to her childhood is evident in Spetic’s designs that possess both a childlike innocence and a maturity rarely witnessed in one so young.

After graduating from the East Sydney Fashion Design Studio in 2005, Spetic set about creating her own line, launching the self-titled brand the following year. In 2008 Spetic debuted her label with a collection at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week. It was an instant success, with editors and stylists around the country praising its sense of style, bold patterns and clashing of techniques. Two years after she sent her first collection down the catwalk, the label has grown in strength and popularity, cementing Spetic as one of the most talented and skilled designers Australia has to offer. From bright and short cable-knit skirts and statement wool coats, to detailed swimwear and patterned silk frocks that would make Miuccia Prada squeal in delight, Spetic has become a name synonymous with beautifully structured pieces that are as comfortable as they are fashion forward.

– Fiona Killackey