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

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.

Meet the 2023 Melbourne Fashion Week Student Award winner, Alexandra Groves

The Student Collections Runway at Melbourne Fashion Week brought together some of Melbourne's most promising up-and-coming designers from the state's leading fashion schools, which include Box Hill Institute, Holmesglen Institute, Kangan Institute, RMIT 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, Alexandra Groves, whose focus on fashioned knitwear and sustainable hand processes highlights the innovative contributions of young designers to the industry's future.

Q1:  Tell us about the concept behind your collection and how you came to use knitwear.

The motivation behind this collection stemmed from a desire to create future heirlooms. My intention was to create garments that people could cherish and that would withstand the test of time. Building on this idea I found inspiration in the couture designs of the 1950s and 1960s, in particular the work of Cristobal Balenciaga. 

What excited me about these designs was their ability to encapsulate a specific era while remaining contemporary to this day. I found it an interesting challenge to capture these elegant and timeless qualities through the lens of knitwear. I am really interested in working in this space, finding the balance between refinement and rawness in the context of knitwear. 

My background is in textile design so I actually came to fashion through knitwear. I love working with knitwear as it allows me to simultaneously create the textile and the garment. This allows me to really experiment with material exploration and development which is the focus of my work.

Q2: Could you explain the sustainable hand processes used in this collection?

My collection is made using fully fashioned knitwear. Working with this method, each piece of the garment is knit to shape meaning that there is very little waste created. For this collection I have used a lot of hand processes, working with materials and techniques which can not be reproduced by machine.

The intention behind this was to create unique, one-off pieces which can never be perfectly replicated. The inherent mistakes and irregularities that come with hand-making are embraced. I believe these imperfections add character and value and have the potential to resonate more deeply with the wearer and foster a sense of satisfaction. This approach aligns with my interest in emotionally durable design which provides a pathway towards more sustainable and meaningful relationships with fashion and material possessions, fostering a shift away from a culture of disposability and excessive consumption.

Q3: How does your collection reflect the intimate and embodied experience of wearing clothing? Can you describe any design elements that achieve this?

For this collection, I was really interested in the tactility of clothing and how this affects our experience of it. I view wearing clothing as a very personal and intimate interaction, as it is worn so close to our body.

During the textile development for these pieces, my focus was on crafting garments that not only had a luxurious appearance but also offered a luxurious feel when worn. For me, comfort plays a significant role in my choice of clothing and dress. This is one of the reasons why I have a strong inclination toward knitwear. In creating these pieces, my aim was to combine the comfort associated with knitwear with the luxury and elegance of evening wear.

This is what led me to the beaded design elements in my designs. The beads give pieces a really nice weight and drape while the knit allows it to conform to the shape of the body without restricting any movement.

Photographer : Mira Pedlar
Hair and Make Up: Kate McWilliam
Talent: Rosie Graham

Connect with Alexandra

With special thanks to Melbourne Fashion Week.

Discover the Melbourne Fashion Week Conversation Series

We are excited to support three inspiring Conversations for this year's Melbourne Fashion Week. Presented by Creative Victoria, this year's Conversations moderated by Janice Breen Burns will explore the potential of circular fashion design in Melbourne, new-age fashion tech careers and the era of transparency and connection in the fashion supply chain.

AFC Project Director, Danielle Kent will be joining Conversation One: Circular Fashion in Melbourne to talk about Seamless, Australia’s first Clothing Product Stewardship Scheme, creating a roadmap to circlarity by 2030.

MFW Conversation Series will take place on Wednesday, October 25th at Wesley Place.

9:00am - 9:45am

Motivated by the environmental impact of fashion, many in the industry are embracing the idea of circular design. Examining whether our city can make the change, this panel will compare circular economy principles to Melbourne’s fashion industry in relation to the wider global practice.

Panelists: Dr. Vaibhav Gaikwad (Head of Sustainability and Ethics, ELK), Danielle Kent (Project Director, Australian Fashion Council) and Lauren Hart McKinnon (Studio Manager, Future From Waste Lab)

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10:15am - 11:00am

Get ready to expand your horizons beyond conventional career paths in fashion – think workshops and runways. Pioneers of virtual reality, gaming, and technology will share how they’re carving new niches in the industry.

Panelists: Estelle Michaelides (Micky In The Van and Saint Stella M), Dan Tse (INJURY) and Darren Vukasinovic (Artist)

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11:30am - 12:15pm

Technology is ushering in a new era of transparency and connection in the fashion supply chain. Hear from local designers who are leveraging the emerging possibilities of the digital revolution, from authenticity tracking and tracing fiber origins to forging direct links between brands and consumers.

Panelists: Marcus Crook (HoMieREBORN), Saskia Fairfull (Founder, Metarial),
Rebekah McQuoid (Development Manager, FibreTrace) and Mark Scott (Program Manager, Woolmark)

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Save 20% by purchasing the MFW Conversations Bundle and gain access to all three discussions. View the full Melbourne Fashion Week program here.