Among the plethora of young and emerging designers reshaping Sydney’s fashion scene, designer Amie Elizabeth is a notable name to keep an eye on. Earlier this year, she unveiled her plauditory 2021 Graduate collection, dubbed “CYBERSELF_” which is comprised of a handful of stunning pieces.
Speaking on the collection, Amie states, “My graduate collection is inspired by the relationship between digital media and identity and this really shaped how I approached working with materials and fabrics.” She continues, “I created digital collages combining technological references, glitch patterns, and distortions and had these printed onto mesh and organza.” Patterns and designs are printed on materials like mesh and organza, meanwhile, hand-beaded garments appear throughout the collection. “I’ve always been fascinated with the way online spaces allow us to construct and communicate the version of self we wish to present to others,” Amie tells us.
To get to know the designer, we spoke with Amie Elizabeth to talk about how youth informs her work, recognizing the power that fashion holds, and her 2021 Graduate collection among other topics. Read on for our full conversation.
How did you first fall in love with fashion, and when did you start thinking maybe this could be a job for you?
Sewing and creating clothing has been a part of my life for pretty much as long as I can remember. I was a rhythmic gymnast for over a decade and my mum designed, sewed and decorated all of the leotards I competed in. Gymnastics has shaped my interest in the relationship between fabric, the body and movement and its influence can be seen in my work today through my fascination with colour, stretch and embellishment. Seeing the labour and love my mum would pour into these pieces, I strive to inject the same energy into my own work and it’s my hope that a similar care and attention to detail is felt by whoever wears my pieces.
In terms of realising that this was a career I wanted to pursue, there was no pivotal moment I can pinpoint but rather a very natural progression. I’m extremely fortunate to have parents who have supported my creative pursuits from the start so I never really considered any other career. I loved sketching and designing looks when I was younger and they definitely encouraged me to pursue my interests and develop my skills. It was my mum who taught me how to sew and to this day, I still go to her for advice and guidance regarding my work. So there was never really any option for me other than fashion.
Was there a specific moment the power of fashion clicked for you?
I don’t know if there was any specific moment or profound epiphany but over the years, I’ve become a lot more aware of how wearing different garments make me feel and how certain pieces can quite literally, shape how I go about my day and experience the world. To me this is what the power of fashion is all about; the ability of pieces of clothing to completely shape how we feel, based on how we interact with them and integrate them to become a part of our embodied selves.
Could you talk us through your references for your 2021 Graduate collection? What sort of materials or fabrics did you mainly work with for this capsule?
My graduate collection is inspired by the relationship between digital media and identity and this really shaped how I approached working with materials and fabrics. I created digital collages combining technological references, glitch patterns, and distortions and had these printed onto mesh and organza. I chose these fabrics as I loved how their transparency afforded an almost filter like effect, changing the way the physical body is viewed beneath these technological, collaged prints.
I also worked with reflective fabrications as I was drawn to their innate interactivity. Brought to life by a phone or a camera, I loved how interacting with these pieces with technology brought out new details and reshaped the garments in (quite literally) a new light.
Beading also played a large role in my collection, as I spent many hours hand beading pieces to be used in the way fabric usually is. The transparency of the clear beads evoked the sense of looking through a ‘screen’ and created an almost static like effect that tied the whole concept together.
Is there significance behind the name Cyberself?
The name Cyberself was inspired by my research into the relationship between digital media, identity, and the body and my personal fascination with how we interact with our virtualised selves. Having grown up immersed in the world of avatar games and fashion blogs, I’ve always been fascinated with the way online spaces allow us to construct and communicate the version of self we wish to present to others. Hence, I chose the name as it encapsulates this constant dialogue and blurring between our digital and physical selves.
Can you talk me through any key or fave pieces from the new range?
My favourite pieces from my collection are definitely the digitally printed mesh pieces. I love how the ambiguity of the silhouettes allows for experimentation, as there is no prescribed way to wear them. They can be worn across the body however the wearer sees fit and it has been super exciting to see just some of the multitude of ways in which they can be styled. This experimental approach was born out of time spent playing around with old toiles, as I discovered how I could subvert these garments over and over again to create infinite combinations. These endless possibilities and combinations reminded me of the experience of creating an online avatar or persona, where you have the freedom to constantly reimagine yourself. I also love how they can be used to build up opacity on the body, and seeing the prints ‘glitch’ as they are layered upon one another, changing how the prints are viewed.
Though your work is rooted in the present, I love how your affinity for design often results in forward-looking garments. Fashion, and culture more generally, however, seem to be in a cycle of referencing the past. Do you ever feel like fashion is stuck?
Yes and no! The industry is notoriously derivative and we often see the same good idea churned out countless times in a way that feels unoriginal, uninspired and often lazy. I think this manner of engaging with past ideas and references can definitely feel us leaving very stuck, as it feels as if nothing is being done to challenge or reinvent what has been done before.
On the other hand, in a time where we are obsessed with innovation and novelty, there is definitely something comforting about turning back and being inspired by existing work. Even though my collection champions a futuristic, digital aesthetic, I was heavily inspired by 90s Mugler and the hyper-sexual cyborg figure he created with subversive tailoring, lingerie and innovative materials. More broadly, my work stemmed out of research into retro-futurism; an exploration of the tension between the past and present and the impact of technology on humankind’s trajectory. The idea of blending retro styles with futuristic technology and scientific progress was super intriguing to me and definitely pushed me to consider how I could reimagine the sci-fi digital aesthetic in a new light through print and beading.
To me, that’s what fashion is all about to me; engaging with existing ideas, silhouettes and aesthetics and reimagining them in a new light that makes people rethink what is ‘known’. So perhaps it is not the act of looking back into the past that is creating this feeling of being stuck, but rather the unoriginality with which it is often done.
As a young designer growing up in a seemingly boundless generation, in what way does your youth work towards your advantage as an artist?
Being a part of a generation of creatives who are committed to reshaping and reimagining the industry is super liberating for me and my work. I love being a part of a generation that is actively trying to break down conventions surrounding ‘appropriate’ and ‘good’ design. Notions of subversion, experimentation and resistance have long been intertwined with fashion, but I am most inspired by the optimism and defiance shown by my fellow creatives. I’m surrounded by creatives who are committed to breaking down barriers. I love being part of a generation that is equal parts optimistic and defiant, rejecting the constraints of the fashion industry and reimagining it as a more experimental, inclusive and exciting space. It has encouraged me to take more risks with my work, to think critically and to use the freedom and experimentation afforded by technology to push my ideas.
With that being said, what makes a design a “good” design in your eyes?
Whilst the idea of good design is highly subjective, for me, successful design is work that evokes a visceral reaction or ‘aha!’ moment when you view or wear it. I love pieces that subvert and reimagine familiar tropes, so they are still recognisable yet unexpected. Pieces that deconstruct existing ideas and demand a reconsideration of what is known or acceptable are for me, examples of good design.
What do you hope for the future of your career as a designer?
Honestly, I just hope for longevity in the field that I love. Design can be an incredibly arduous and taxing field and creative burnout is so real, so as cliche as it is, I just hope that I can continue doing what I love for as long as I can without losing my passion for design.
Photographer: Chris Polak
Models: Yao Yao Shen, Mahalia Larkin
HMUA: Ana Costa
Assist: Wesley Mark