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Starting a fashion label in Australia: the low-down with The Design Residency's Lorraine Lock

 The Design Residency mentee: Casea

The Design Residency mentee: Casea

The Design Residency is an incubator and creative space located in Darlinghurst, run by industry veteran Lorraine Lock. Her program gives recent fashion design graduates and experienced creatives the knowledge and tools they need to take the skills they learnt in design school, and translate them into realised businesses within 6-12 months.
We chat to Lorraine about how and why she started the Design Residency, and what her advice would be for any young designer wanting to take the leap of starting their own label.

What made you launch TDR?
My experience over 15 years at Fashion Week (MBFWA) combined with guest lecturing stints at the Fashion Design Studio at TAFE - arguably two of Australia’s most influential bodies when it comes to fashion in this country - introduced me to a lot of designers.

I knew that there was no clear pathway for graduates stepping out of school and into the fashion industry. I saw the loneliness, frustration and confusion that new designers were experiencing. Having said that, TDR is not just for graduates. I work with people coming back to design after doing other things, or designers who are stuck and need to move forward with a bit of life-coaching from someone who knows the industry.

My background is marketing and branding and sometimes they just need to be whipped into shape on that front. It’s exciting to help people figure out who they are and which direction they need to go in.

What is the most exciting moment for TDR so far?
Moving into our new studio space (thanks City of Sydney!), opening a popup shop (that was initially planned for 3 months and ran for almost 2 years), watching my first batch of designers on the runway, after mentoring them for 6 months - and seeing success come in all different shapes and forms to the designers that I have mentored.

What is the most unexpected thing to come out of running TDR?
The breadth of talent that is here in Australia, untapped. Watching the universe open doors for me and this idea that I had.

What is the first thing you teach a young designer?
Oh wow, everyone is so different and at a different place in their knowledge, experience and expectations. Although I like them to develop a set of skills and have their brand at a certain level, the journey is different for all of them. Some people have a fear of cold-calling, so haven't approached any stores or online outlets. Some (actually LOTS of) designers disregard budgeting. So I try to figure out where their weakness or their blind spot or inexperience is and start from there.

I guess I would, in the first few weeks, help with realistic expectations. And then we start to reveal the true story of their brand. I also work on developing their specific timeline when it comes to designing, production, pr, sales and costing. Young designers very quickly need to figure out how to multi-task and how to prioritise!

The other thing I believe is 80% done is better than 100% dreaming of it. In other words “just do it” don’t overthink it or you can get in your own way.

What would you tell your younger self at the beginning of the TDR experience?
What I tell everyone… make a plan and go for it!

Who are some of the most successful mentees you have had?
Inder Dhillon was the first designer I worked with one-on-one and our collaboration gave me the idea to set up the Residency. I had taught Inder at TAFE (she was an exceptional student) and after she graduated she was asked to be in the Innovators show at MBFWA, so she approached me to work on the marketing aspect of her brand launch. Working with her sparked the idea.

Yousef Akbar was the first designer that went thought The Design Residency program for around 6 months. He’s onto his 3rd collection now. Has had amazing red carpet and press and this year had his first solo runway show to rave reviews! that made me very happy. He’s in Milan right now.

Clara Ho was a trained architect who wanted to design men’s jewellery. When she came to me we made a plan for her brand but after a few weeks that plan went out the window - in a good way! Burton Metal Depository, ended up on the runway at fashion week and soon after she was in the pop-up shop which led to a conversation with Giuseppe Santamaria, a blogger (MenInThisTown) and now they have a shop called FineFellow in Darlinghurst that is the most fabulous stylish men’s destination. Clara is the first to admit the journey was a surprise but her design career ended up unfolding in a perfect way.

Grace Wood is a designer that "felts" wool and when I started working with her she was mostly into homewares. She’s really an amazing ambassador for wool - grew up on a farm, can shear, felts the wool and dyes it too. She’s a maker. Through The Design Residency she met another designer Sean Tran and they started to experiment and collaborate. Their first fashion foray for Shhorn was nominated for the Australian Woolmark Prize which is practically unheard of. Im expecting more good things to come from them in the future.

What is the best social media tool a young designer should invest in at the moment?
Its all about CONTENT! original content is so important. so get yourself a camera or a photographer friend and create a tribe around you to help you create. then figure out where your customer is and go to them (probably instagram) And don't underestimate the power of your own online store.

Best spot in Sydney is.. anything in the 2011 postcode! that’s my home base: restaurants, markets, book browsing, people watching and hanging out with friends in the "hood".

On Sundays I like to…  dream big. Sunday is creativity day and when the best ideas bubble to the surface. In winter, I take the dog to Centennial Park, its 2 hrs of unconditional happiness for him.

The Design Residency is an official partner of New Form and will be presenting two of their young designers at the next edition of New Form at the Design Residency Hub.
Designers include: Casea the Label and Carley Rose the Label.

New Form is a curated market and hangout space for lovers of fashion and culture, taking place Sunday 8 October 2017, at 3 Gladstone Street, Enmore.

More on The Design Residency:

Caitlin Clark