Image supplied: Designers Lydia Pearson and Pamela Easton. Photo Russell Shakespeare
Don’t miss The Designers’ Guide: Easton Pearson Archive
Iconic Brisbane fashion house Easton Pearson is being honoured with an exhibition of their archives at the Museum of Brisbane, opening on the 23rd of November. We caught up with designers Pamela Easton and Lydia Pearson to chat about their passion for ethical fashion and creating your own style.
What was your thought process when you set out to design a piece? What did you set out to achieve with each new design?
PE: I guess every new season was a continuation of the previous season. Our collections were never very broad departures from what we’d done before. So, there was always a continuity in theme.
LP: Even though there was a continual theme, we did have a narrative often when we started a new collection. So, we might have a story or an art exhibition or something completely ephemeral that we would focus on and it would give us a little hook to hang everything on. And once we had that little story going, we would then fit the things in around it. So there are lots of constraints when you’re designing a collection – how many skirts, how many pants, have you got things that’ll fit a larger customer, have you got things that are suitable for the Japanese market, is it going to be okay in Europe in the middle of winter? It got to be very like a jigsaw puzzle, didn’t it?
LP: So a lot of the joy and spontaneity of designing the actual structure of the collection disappeared quite quickly as our market grew. But designing the actual surface embellishment and the colours and the patterns for the collection was much freer and much more our personal expression.
Was sustainability always a goal, or is this something you became more aware of while working in the industry?
PE: It was subconsciously a goal.
LP: It was never overt, was it?
PE: No, it was just our ethic. And sustainability and really taking care of our workers, here and overseas as well. People have become so much more aware of those things.
LP: We realised quite early in the piece that it was costing us a lot to make our collections, much more than it was for the big stores. Fast fashion hadn’t started, really, when we began, but there were big chain stores. And we kept saying, “How can they sell those things for that much money? They’ve paid freight, they’ve paid mark up, they’ve paid their workers something, they’ve bought the fabric. We can’t even buy the fabric for that much money. How can that be?” And then we just started not apologising for that fact that our clothes were expensive. Because we weren’t making a big profit on them.
PE: But we knew that we were doing it ethically and properly.
LP: And because we knew firsthand almost all the people we worked with, right down to the printer, to the man who made the screens, because we were on the ground. It actually mattered to us. You couldn’t not worry about how people were treated.
You mentioned that fast fashion was not so common when you were starting out. How do you find the industry has changed in terms of ethical manufacture and slow versus fast fashion?
PE: I think the industry is much more aware now, and the end consumer is very aware. And that’s a great thing. There’s been a lot of publicity when there have been certain terrible disasters around the world, like when that factory in Bangladesh collapsed and all the workers were actually locked inside. All of these things really raise awareness – that was a tragedy.
But it was kind of a catalyst.
LP: It was a catalyst, and you know, now there are lots of bloggers and journalists who are writing and working very brilliantly. And at QUT, where I’m teaching, there’s a whole unit on sustainability and fashion which every student has to do. And to learn about that at a young age when you’re forming your own moral ground, I think, is very powerful. So, all the students I see going through are highly aware.
Do you have a favourite piece or a piece that’s close to your heart?
LP: What about this whole room?
PE: This whole room! It completely exemplifies the spirit of Easton Pearson.
How would you respond to being listed as “at the forefront of contemporary design movements”?
LP: (Laughs) Well, I’d be honoured. I don’t know if I’d agree.
PE: I’m with Lydia on that.
Very humble! Do you have any advice for fashion-forward people who want to create their own style?
LP: Don’t spend your life following the collections from Europe on Instagram.
PE: Be individual and express yourself.
LP: Understand that if something is a huge trend right now, it’s going to look old quite quickly. I think that’s the biggest thing: if you’ve got a limited budget, don’t buy hugely trend-driven clothes.
Check out The Designers’ Guide: Easton Pearson Archive at the Museum of Brisbane, Level 3, City Hall, King George Square, to be inspired by over 28 years of design and passion.
Tickets to The Designers’ Guide: Easton Pearson Archive (23 Nov 18 – 22 Apr 19) are now on sale. Prices are $12 / $9 for concessions / Children U12 free. Book at museumofbrisbane.com.au
Interview: Hanna Sloan