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Meet the 2023 Melbourne Fashion Week Student Award winner, Rubee Hay

"It's hard as a new designer to feel justified in making, but I think thoughtfulness and intention are what’s important."

by The AFC

6 November 2023

Taking place at Melbourne's iconic Waterfall Lane, the Student Collections Runway at Melbourne Fashion Week athered Melbourne’s notable up-and-coming designers from the state’s top fashion schools, including Box Hill InstituteHolmesglen InstituteKangan InstituteRMIT School of Fashion and Textiles and Whitehouse Institute of Design Australia

The AFC had the privilege of attending the presentation, and our Project Director, Danielle Kent, participated in the judging panel, selecting the top five finalists and ultimately resulting in two winners, which is a first for this award.

Congratulations to Alexandra Groves and Rubee Hay, students from RMIT School of Fashion and Textiles.

Here, we spoke with one of the two 2023 winners, Rubee Hay about the concept behind her collection ‘Broken body, silly little girl’ and where the future of fashion is heading. 

Q1: Tell us about the concept behind your collection ‘Broken body, silly little girl’. 

‘Broken body, silly little girl’ is an introspection on notions of vulnerability and protection, and their necessary coexistence. It ponders a duality; an ‘I’ and a ‘Me’. ‘I’  am protecting ‘me’. A little girl, broken and cold, dresses herself and protects herself;  shields herself from the wind and from the world, aware of her own fragility.  

Drawing from depictions of isolated women in art and literature, namely ‘The  Apprenticeship or The Book of Pleasures’ by Clarice Lispector, the collection balances a melancholy and hopefulness; a sensitivity within a harsh, hard world.  

Central to the work is the notion of the self-portrait and theories of symbolic interactionism, placing importance on how narrative and communication can influence the way we touch, wear, and care for our garments.  

Q2: How do your garments align with this concept? 

The garments in the collection focus on tailoring and draping, creating a delicate balance between being slightly too small and a touch too big. They acknowledge and serve the wearer, emphasizing the relationship between body, garment, and self. This exploration delves into how garments communicate through their interaction with the body, influence posture, and allow for body exposure, concealment, and manipulation. By emphasizing craftsmanship, technique, and a sentimental commitment to quality, longevity, and slow fashion, the collection nurtures an enduring narrative between the wearer and the garments

Q3: Were there particular materials or techniques used in your collection to symbolise vulnerability and  protection?

It was important to me to steer away from traditional ideas of ‘protection’, which I  think can focus on harshness and hardness. What I am trying to show is more the feeling of being protected, warmth, comfort, and safety. Because of this, I  focused a lot on wool and silk fabrications, there’s a fluidity and softness to natural protein fibers which means they interact with the body in a really special way. 

My practice has a very strong emphasis on construction, with a particular focus on tailoring and draping, which I think was imperative to communicating the body through my garments and acknowledging and honouring the wearer. In terms of technique, I was very conscious of not wanting to add to the fabrics,  only take away. The pulled thread work on the kilt and the hand-cut pinstripe on the pencil skirt, the underneath is where the concept gets translated so I wanted to show that. 

Q4: As a student entering the industry, how important is sustainability within your design process? 

It's hard as a new designer to feel justified in making, but I think thoughtfulness and intention are what’s important. I always want to make with intention, making sure every possible detail of a garment is considered acknowledged, and treated with importance. My practice approaches sustainability through the lens of symbolic interactionism, placing importance on the intangible attributes and personal significance that garments can hold. Narrative and communication are vital elements of my practice,  as I believe the way that we speak about our garments can influence the way we touch, wear, and care for them.  

Sustainability to me is more of a mindset; it's about consuming and creating with a deeper consideration. We live in a culture of rapid, mindless consumption, so I think the key is to challenge that. By approaching design and fashion with an introspective and analytical mindset, we can promote thoughtful consumption and positively influence the longevity of our garments within our wardrobes. 

Within a fast fashion consumerist culture; to nurture the cloth that dresses us, protects us, and creates us, is a fundamental act of resistance.  

Photographer : Ella Maximillion (they/them)
Talent: Jackie Zhou (they/he)

Connect with Rubee

With special thanks to Melbourne Fashion Week.

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