Former General Manager at Honest by, now creative consultant, researcher and university lecturer.
How do your personal values shape your work?
I'm still working out how to answer this. My personal values are very strong and shape not only my work but also my essence. Without them I wouldn't be this passionate about my work, and without my work I wouldn't have been able to develop my values to where they are today.
How would you describe your relationship with fashion/clothing?
As a long-term committed one! I love the act of getting dressed—successfully styling an outfit in the morning is the best feeling. Clothing has the power to make me feel confident on days that I need a boost. I have a solid relationship with the garments in my wardrobe and I thoroughly enjoy mending and altering pieces whenever they start to fall apart. I also love mending my partner’s clothes; I really enjoy extending the life of a garment that someone might have given up on. It's really satisfying and so personal.
The Slow Fashion movement means…
So many things to me. It's hard, when I first learnt about slow fashion and sustainability in fashion I thought I had an opinion—a solid one—that really summed up how I felt about the industry. But now upon reflection, I realise I'm still learning every day from my clients and from my students.
Being constantly posed questions about my opinion has made me realise it's okay to say 'I don't know' or 'I'm still learning' because, let's face it, notions of sustainability in fashion are expansive and complex, and there are so many different perspectives and ways to critique what is happening. Slow fashion— let's just start with slowing down, not just with fashion consumption but all consumption. Breathe in, breathe out and just trust.
“I really enjoy extending the life of a garment that someone might have given up on. It's really satisfying and so personal.”
What is your personal uniform?
I have a few different 'uniforms' on rotation at any given time. Mostly though, it alternates between slim-fit black jeans with boots, a shirt, and a dark jumper; and loose-fit blue jeans with sneakers, a white top—a shirt or t-shirt—and a white or grey jumper. I'm a lover of basic pieces and muted colours.
Who / what do you look to for style cues and why?
I guess I'm naturally influenced by my environment. My amazing students inspire me and the research work I do constantly has me engaging with incredible practitioner work—this causes me to reflect on my decisions, and sometimes this is related to my own style.
How have your attitudes toward fashion changed as you've aged?
Dramatically. Growing up I idolised my grandma. She was this charming Sicilian powerhouse of a woman—she did absolutely everything and made it all look so easy. My dad didn’t buy a suit until after she passed away because she made them all for him. When she immigrated to Australia she worked on Flinders Lane as a seamstress, and when I knew her she was constantly sewing. She had a sewing room built onto their house so she could have a space for all of her machines and fabrics. She was amazing, and I naturally wanted to be around her and watch her all the time.
I'm not sure if it had as much to do with my love for sewing as it had to do with my love for all things Nonna but as it turns out, all the time I spent with her translated into learning and lessons. She taught me so much about patience, and technique. She made all her own clothes and all of our clothes as kids. When I got older, I started designing my own outfits for special occasions and she would take me to buy a pattern and fabric and we would make it together.
I guess you could say that the work I do now is a way for me to keep her in my life. As I grow, I notice myself naturally returning to this way of making; slow and considered, and for the people I love. She valued all of her possessions and treated them with respect, and I see myself doing the same. And it makes me smile.
"Being constantly posed questions about my opinion has made me realise it's okay to say 'I don't know' or 'I'm still learning' because, let's face it, notions of sustainability in fashion are expansive and complex, and there are so many different perspectives and ways to critique what is happening."
Is there a garment that has had a special place in your life or is linked to a treasured moment?
I have more than one. Most of the garments in my wardrobe have some significant story attached to them. Whether they were bought overseas when I was ridiculously poor and managed to find money for them, whether they are 'diamond' pieces I have found secondhand and feel stupidly proud of, or whether they have been gifted to me by special people, they are all emotionally entangled with a story.
I have one shirt, however, that is very special. I bought it when I was living in Antwerp, from the Dries Van Noten sample stock sale. It's a men’s white shirt that was originally coated, but now the coating has worn off. Whenever I put it on I feel amazing. There's nothing special about the cut of the shirt, but it reminds me of so many things. For that it acts like a talisman, and I will care for it as long as it lets me.
Who has impacted your life the most and how so?
My grandma—see my previous response. Also my former employer at Honest by, Bruno. He really became my mentor and teacher in a way. He taught me so much about the industry and the importance of remembering what being a human means: to be loving and respectful of one another and one’s environment. When this is practiced by those surrounding you, it has an impact. He helped guide me to where I am today, and has been nothing but supportive and encouraging.
What tends to keep you up at night?
Oh wow, so many things and sometimes absolutely nothing. I guess it depends on the day I've had. When it's been a long one I don't have too much trouble drifting off pretty quickly, but on other nights I can find myself thinking about the future, wondering where I will be, what I will be doing, and fantasising about living in the country with a veggie patch in my backyard. I dream about stepping out of the city, being able to grow my own food, and just slowing down a bit. That's the goal for now.
Photography Claire Summers
Production Sigrid McCarthy
Kate wearing Dries Van Noten shirt, as noted in Q&A
Get in touch with Kate at s-inc