This week we caught up with Claire Goldsworthy, Founder and Editor The Fashion Advocate, a blog devoted to likeminded individuals who are designing for positive social and environmental change…
AFC MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
MEET | HILLS & WEST
Founder & Creative Director
This week we caught up with Aisha Hillary-Morgan, Founder and Creative Director of luxury accessories brand Hills & West…
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR OWN INDUSTRY BACKGROUND AND WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO ‘FASHION’?
In a few words; branding, marketing, tech, startups, fashion and now a fabulous combination of them all. I have been lucky to have a pretty colourful background in a diverse range of industries and countries, working for some pioneering people and companies. In October of 2014, I decided to change track from my 20 or so years working for other people and set up on my own. This was the beginning of Hills & West, my all Australian-made, lifestyle bag and accessory label.
My love for fashion started at a very young age, always doing dress ups and styling my friends. It was always a passion on the side while I build my career in marketing and tech. However every year, to temper my creative hunger and to help me to continue to grow, I would always try and learn a new skill. I have been doing this for as long as I can remember, and activities have included; meditation, DJing, fashion drawing, Dragon Boat racing and French. In 2014 I decided I would gift myself a luxury handbag-making course in Milan, between my Singapore and London work trips. I was instantly hooked. I loved the artisan techniques, their passion, the history and craftsmanship and all I wanted to do was come back home and make Australian luxury pieces, at attainable prices. My new path had been carved.
After I resigned from my global role in tech, people kept asking if I was scared and nervous to go into the unknown. I had not really thought about nerves as I was more of a jump first and think later kind of person. I had created and grown so many businesses for other people, so why not do it for myself. I knew that I had the passion, confidence and support network to help me through any challenge. This has been the dream and is what drives me everyday.
HOW DID HILLS & WEST COME TO BE? WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE BRAND?
I drew inspiration from my experience as a frequent flyer for work. I always had to go from the plane to the boardroom, to dinner, to the plane again… and many variations of the same dance. My ‘seedling’ vision for Hills & West was to create a product for professional women that were sophisticated, stylish, versatile and practical.
Today, Hills & West is a minimal accessory brand that aspires to declutter and simplify, always of the highest quality and with a versatile twist. The collections are catered to the busy lifestyles of the modern man and woman and are available online, and in collaboration with other designers and boutiques, at an accessible price point for quality handmade pieces in Australia.
As I build on my collections, I am inspired by my customers who always say, wouldn’t it be great if Hills & West did a…. this is where the shopper, weekender and my cowhide pillows came from. Always looking at how can I simplify and beautify our everyday.
WHAT DREW YOU TO LEATHER & ACCESSORIES? TELL US ABOUT YOUR DESIGN AND MANUFACTURING PROCESS…
I have to start with the fact that I have been a vegetarian since I was 16 years old. People are always a little shocked when I say that however I have always been supportive of sustainable fashion and against fast fashion and wastage. I am however a huge lover of clothing, bags and accessories. So I always think about how can I be as sustainable as possible and make pieces that are durable, timeless and transeasonal, with an as ethical production process as possible. I think of my pieces more as functional, beautiful pieces that people are proud to wear, share the story behind the piece and keep them for a longtime.
When I was researching where to learn the art of handbag craftsmanship, Arsutoria kept popping up. Arsutoria is an established and renowned school specialising in design courses for leather makers of shoes and bags. I was toying between NY and Milan, and I am so glad that my work at the time took me to Europe at the perfect time.
The course set the foundations and taught me a lot about the traditional techniques in Italy. It gave me such an appreciation for the craft of making bags and this passion for handmade traditional techniques is a big factor when finding artisans to work with in Australia. With Australian made products, there is an element of quality care and craftsmanship that cannot be beaten. I love to be hands on in the making process and often spend hours looking at different hides and materials for my pieces. Curiosity fosters creativity; I love brainstorming ideas and am often getting input of others. Whether they’re my husband, friends, other Australian designers, artisans or my teacher from Milan, who I keep in touch with regularly for guidance.
THERE IS THE COMMON THOUGHT THAT THE INDUSTRY IS ‘DEAD’ IN AUSTRALIA… WHY WAS AUSTRALIAN MADE AN IMPORTANT FACTOR FOR YOU? HOW HAVE YOU FOUND THE PROCESS OF MAKING LOCALLY AND WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND TO BE SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES/ OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOU IN THIS SPACE?
When starting Hills & West, it was really important to me to do things locally. With only 9% of fashion being Australian made, I wanted to help reinvigorate this craft locally and proudly introduce Hills & West as handmade in Australia, to the rest of the world. We have the ability to create the highest quality pieces here, ethically and sustainably, so why not try. I am an avid supporter of buying local and homegrown products, and I wanted to innovatively craft pieces with local artisans intertwining my learnings from bag making in Italy and my brand building experience from my previous life.
There are of course challenges with crafting in Australia. Labour is more costly and materials not produced in Australia that need to be imported have a heft price tag (especially when you are sourcing sustainable).
Also, I wanted to connect directly to customers online, minimising markups through wholesale, however the price point can be challenging as people can’t touch, smell and see the pieces. Especially when you are funding a brand on your own and competing with luxury brands with huge budgets and awareness.
I am fortunate that I can do a lot of my creative, marketing and digital work on my own. I am also so lucky I have a wonderful group of Hills & West lovers and ambassadors who continuously spruik my pieces and give me lots of wonderful referrals.
Collaborations have also been a wonderful part of Hills & West’s growth. By working with other Australian emerging designers, we have been able to get in front of a lot more people with an appreciation for independent and Australian made.
WHAT DOES ‘AUSTRALIAN’ FASHION/STYLE/DESIGN MEAN TO YOU?
Being Australian made celebrates so many things that are truly wonderful and unique about Australia. We are unique, love self expression, battlers and are incredibly resourceful. We may be small in population but are vocal in our ideals and creativity.
Australian fashion/design has already made a big impact globally and I am super proud to be Australian made and supporting local artisans in a profession that has been slowing down in Australia.
RECOMMEND 5! WHO/WHAT/WHERE ARE YOUR LOCAL TEXTILE & FASHION GO TO’S?
1. Lustr – fabulous fashion initiative, started by founders Angela, Lilliana and Jeremy, supporting independent designers. The give emerging designers a voice and a way to connect with locally inspired and motivated customers. You can read my interview with them here.
2. 6 on 771/2 George – I had to share this, my latest collaboration with five wonderful Australian labels in The Rocks including Cedar & Onyx (classic luxury for women of all sizes), Everyday Cashmere (cashmere, silk, and cashmere essentials), Boehm Intimates (lingerie of delicate lace and luxe), Extraordinary Ordinary Day (the holy grail of handmade shoes) and Susan Driver (handmade jewellery). If you are interested check it out until September 16.
3. Semipermanent – founded by fellow Sydney sider Murray Bell and Andrew Johnstone in 2003 is a global creative and design-thinking platform. Over the last 15 years, they have established a community of over 400,000 people and a network of over 800 speakers and artists, across our operation around the globe. I go here to be inspired, challenged and boost my creative juices.
4. Some of my fave home grown labels include that I love to wear and watch in the order they come to mind; Manning Cartel, Dion Lee, Michael Lo Sordo, Alice McCall, Sir the Label, Christopher Esber, Nice Martin, macgraw, Anna Quan, Camilla and Marc, and the list goes on….
5. Lastly but not less importantly Australian Fashion Council of course for fashion news, tips, resources, events and brining emerging designers to the forefront.
Bonus, it’s not local but it is a fantastic resource for what is going on in fashion globally. Great interviews, resources and insights - Business of Fashion.
WANT MORE ?
Drop by their 6 on 771/2 George pop-up before it closes on Sunday 16th September!
Say hello to Aisha at email@example.com.
A big thank you to designer Bianca Spender, Kate Bielenberg (Cue), Melinda Tually (Ndless) and Angela Bell (ECA) for taking part in an engaging conversation on ethical practice and local manufacturing at our Sydney Afternoon Session earlier this week! For those who couldn't make it along to the session, here is a quick recap...
Hey Fashion, Design and Textile Students - this one is especially for you! Our friends at The Woolmark Company are inviting you to their 2016 Naturally Inspiring Seminar. Join leading industry experts for a complimentary insight into Merino wool's provenance, benefits, possibilities and place in contemporary fashion and textiles...
Unless living in an internet free bubble - you may have noticed that the 18th-24th of April was Fashion Revolution Week? The global, annual movement is held on the anniversary of the tragic Rana Plaza collapse and seeks to raise awareness of our industry’s most pressing issues. Fashion Revolution was born to unite the global fashion industry to make a change, promote ethical sourcing and encourage traceability. As a round up, here are a few of our favorite moments from our TFIA Members!
We'd like to bring to your attention TFIA Member's the Academy of Design Australia and their recent event with VAMFF's Cultural Program: Electronica! The project saw 13 designers from the Academy, work closely with the IEEE-Women in Engineering group to create designs that showcased a range of lighting effects, transforming the look of the garments and event space alike. The amazing display demonstrated an exciting collaboration between fashion design and engineering...
Last month the Australia China Business Council (ACBC) and the Australia China Fashion Alliance (ACFA) hosted the China Fashion & Retail Forum in Sydney at the Museum of Applied Arts and Science (Powerhouse). The full day Forum was the first major event in Australia dedicated to helping the Australian Fashion and Retail industry access the China market. Industry speakers included TFIA’s own Dave Giles-Kaye and Editor of Vogue China, Angelica Cheung.
The TFIA Training Network | Carolina Quintero
The TFIA Training Network is a one-stop shop for industry specific training needs. From individuals through to larger organisations, the TFIA Training Network offers TCF industry skill development with; accredited qualifications, customised fee for service training, vocational short courses, professional development workshops and seminars. With several amazing courses planned for the first quarter of 2016, here is your sneak peak as to what you can expect and an opportunity for you to register your interest!
First up, we'd like to introduce you to some of the industry experts who will be running the courses over the coming months.
MEET OUR TEXTILE SPECIALIST CAROLINA QUINTERO!
Following the completion of her studies in Textiles, Carolina has over 15 years’ experience in the fashion and textile industry in the areas of textile technology, innovation, product development and procurement.
Carolina began her career as buyer and moved into product development and R&D roles. She has worked at TFIA as Strategic Project Manager for the Textile & Fashion Hub and held the role of Innovation Manager at Pacific Brands' – The Work Wear Group.
Currently undertaking PhD studies at RMIT University, Carolina is working as a teacher and running her own business, providing services for the industry.
Her business, Fashion Within, offers customized consulting and training services in Fashion and Textiles technical areas to ensure improvements on the quality of the final product that will impact productivity and revenue.
- Training in technical areas: Fibers, fabrics, fashion and textile processes and finishes, product development, product specifications, labeling, etc.
- Advice on technological innovations and product development.
THE TEXTILE WORKSHOPS | WHAT TO EXPECT
Carolina will be sharing her expertise, running several textile workshops as part of the TFIA Training Network:
Textile Screen Printing | This course will provide a comprehensive understanding of the screen printing process from techniques and methods through to inks and equipment, offering you the information upon which to build and improve the quality of your fashion and textile product. Hone your skills, learn new techniques, and keep up to date with the ever expanding world of textile screen printing. It is ideal training if you want to obtain a complete understanding of the concepts and practices of screen printing and how to translate them into a more profitable product. The course is particularly useful to those wanting to outsource screen printing services and ensure efficiency.
Overview of Fashion and Textiles for Product Managers | Covering fibres, fabrics, finishes and garment manufacturing. This course acts to provide a comprehensive understanding of Fashion and Textiles to compliment and expand upon your existing knowledge.
A Free Evening Short Session for TFIA Members Only | The evening short session will be FREE to TFIA Members. The 3-4 hour session will offer an overview of the fashion and textile basics, ideal for those new to the industry or wanting to refresh their existing knowledge. Bookings will be essential and places limited so be sure to keep an eye out for our updates and register your interest!
Sound like something you'd be interested in? We will be releasing confirmed dates soon but in the mean time you can register your interest for the Textile workshops by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more updates!
Introducing Gido Theilig who be running the TFIA Training Network's Leather Workshops. With 26 years experience in the leather industry, Gido will take you through all you need to know on leather types, production and manufacturing processes and finishes. The workshops will cover the leather making process from the rawhide through to the finished product.
TFIA Student Member Spotlight | Stephanie Jones
Introducing Stephanie Jones, our youngest TFIA Member! At only 15 years old, this girl is definitely one to watch. Brimming with passion, her excitement for the industry is contagious.
"I am a girl in a hurry to crack the world of fashion, my goal is to have my name and label up in lights alongside Chanel and Jimmy Choo." Stephanie Jones
Stephanie already runs her own label called Stelle Di Notte featuring children's wear, soon set to expand into flower-girl dresses and bridal wear. Her first range, Holy Communion Dresses, and more of the Stelle Di Notte label can be seen here!
Having recently completed year 10 at Chisholm Catholic College, Stephanie is also studying The Business of Fashion Course part time at TAFE with a focus on learning how to run her own business. Her achievements to date include representing her school at the Australian Apex Teenage Fashion Awards for the last two years, the first year of which she was the youngest designer.
More recently, Stephanie also ran her own fashion parade fundraiser. The event took place in the Perth CBD, exposing her creations to a wider audience and building her presence in the local industry. So what does this young designer have planned next?
"In the future I am planning to study fashion in university, leading me internationally to places like New York which is my dream."