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A debut collection paying homage to surrealism and ’90s riot grrrls from Sydney designer Ruby Pedder

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At just 22 years old, Ruby Pedder is blurring lines between the creative realms of art and fashion. Freshly graduated from the University of Technology Sydney in Fashion and Textile Design, Ruby’s debut collection, Handle With Care, is her aptly out-of-the-box introduction to the city’s design scene.

Handle With Care is a meticulous experiment in ‘casual couture’; a collection that’s both completely sure of itself and just a little off-kilter. Of the slightly satirical references in her womenswear looks, Ruby says “I wanted to playfully challenge the stereotypes that still exist within womenswear today – those that suggest womenswear should be flattering, form-hugging or feminine in order to be beautiful”.


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Taking cues from surrealism, ‘riot grrrl’ culture and designer royalty Vivienne Westwood, Ruby’s work is where dreamy couture is pulled a little closer to the ground. Brought to life through Sydney’s second major lockdown, the creation of Handle With Care was “challenging and very chaotic” for the young designer. Working against the odds, it was Ruby’s talent and determination that earned her a spot among the top 10 designers at the 2022 National Graduate Showcase at PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival.

Fashion Journal is excited to once again be a supporting partner of the showcase, this year presented by Samsung Galaxy, to celebrate Australia’s top-ranked emerging talent in fashion. The event will see a select number of leading fashion graduates from all over the country exhibit their visionary collections in a digital presentation, showcasing cutting-edge design and innovation.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be profiling each designer through a series of interviews. Next up is Ruby.

Hi Ruby! Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Hello, my name is Ruby Pedder and I’m an emerging designer. I’m currently based in Sydney. I recently graduated with a Bachelor of Fashion and Textile Design (Honours) from the University of Technology Sydney. Upon completion of my degree, I’ve found myself somewhere between an artist and a fashion designer.

Tell us about your collection.

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Handle With Care is a collection of art and satire inspired by rebellious surrealist attitude and the ‘riot grrrl’ movement of the 1990s. Within my collection, delicate silhouettes have been distorted and manipulated into explosive and abnormal forms.  

The collection is grounded in the historical principles of womenswear through the use of classic couture methods and handcraft art techniques. I utilised subversive shapes, prints (both digital and hand-etched) and fabrications to challenge these historical principles in order to create an eclectic, rebellious collection.

When did you know you wanted to get into fashion and textile design?

At the start of my degree, I wasn’t sure fashion design was it for me. What I did know is that I loved art and thoroughly enjoyed learning new textile techniques from my Nan. I also thought of fashion as a means to practically apply my love for art within a world of tangible and commercial opportunities. 

It wasn’t until my second year – when I was writing and exploring the influence of various subcultures in fashion history – that I discovered Vivienne Westwood. I was completely inspired. She gave me hope for what fashion could be – limitlessness in opportunity and a celebration of artistic talent.   

What were the major points of inspiration for your collection, and you more broadly as a designer?

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There were three sources of inspiration for my collection. First, my collection took inspiration from the surrealists and their revolution against a society ruled by rational thought. They pushed limits and inspired new ways of being through art. I wanted to extend this into my fashion; to create clothing that inspires people to live more freely, truthfully and most of all, happily. 

Secondly, the ‘riot grrrls’ of the 1990s were a huge influence on this collection. Specifically, their rebellious and subversive approach to fashion as a means to communicate their defiance towards their treatment within the punk scene… they powerfully developed a community and instigated change.

I also love couture but have never owned or really experienced it. Couture is beautiful but unattainable to most, especially for young people. I wanted to explore the concept of casualising couture and bringing it into every day.

Tell us about the experience of putting your collection together.

Challenging and very chaotic. It was Sydney’s second lockdown and shops and universities were closed. It was a lonely experience; which probably contributed to my unconventional and experimental approach. I couldn’t feel the fabrics or access the university machinery, which meant I had to be resourceful, adaptable and fluid.

With fabric shopping unavailable, I was lucky to receive a sponsorship from Isko Denim London, which provided me with 30 metres of denim. This significantly influenced my collection, gifting me the challenge of merging the heavy structure of denim with the lightness of silk. 

We love that you’ve brought satire into your collection. Can you talk us through it?

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I wanted to playfully challenge the stereotypes that still exist within womenswear today – those that suggest womenswear should be flattering, form-hugging or feminine in order to be beautiful. I took inspiration from previous pioneers, who fought hard to liberate women from their defined roles and expectations when it came to dressing.

I chose to use unorthodox shapes and fabrications, entwined with traditional art forms. Ultimately, it’s not a satirical collection… but satire definitely informed my process. 

What’s your favourite piece from the collection and why?

The smocked mini dress. This was my final piece and one I originally wasn’t going to include. I’d been smocking small pieces of silk in various colours and prints for three months leading up to the due date. I had no plan for them.

Entering my final week, I had a moment of inspiration. At about two in the morning, I pulled myself out of bed and sculpted the pieces together to form this dress.  

Talk us through the inspiration behind the Cloud dress.

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Symbolically, it was about escaping expectations associated with fashion by taking solace in the clouds; away from a world of suits and white t-shirts. It’s about optimism and dreaming of what fashion could be.  

Structurally, I used materials typically associated with corsetry and ball gowns like tulle, boning and silk; garments that historically caused great grief to the body. The cloud was satirically supposed to free and liberate women from what had historically bound them, both physically and contextually… I hope it inspires people to wear clothes for themselves more.

What part does sustainability play in your design practice? 

A great consequence of approaching fashion design as an artist is that each piece is slowly, carefully and intricately created by me. This process makes it impossible to contribute to fast fashion.  

The methods I chose in this collection (primarily in the silk pleated tops and dresses) use considerable amounts of fabric. To encourage less waste, I don’t create toiles and I use most of my fabric up in one garment or another.  

On a broader note, my clothes are couture pieces and I make them with the hopes that they will never be discarded. They aren’t trend-based or seasonal. I plan to continue exploring the connection between art and fashion in my work.

I think it’s about being creative with sustainability and thoughtful in practice. There are so many accessible methods and tools to be more sustainable now, it’s just about how you implement them into your work. 

Who do you think is most exciting in Australian fashion right now?

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Jordon Gogos. He’s gifted as a solo artist, with a highly distinctive style. As a collaborator, Jordan is remarkable – bringing together people, creatives and those with the passion to create and inspire.  

What about the Australian fashion industry needs to change?

Talking to my honours cohort at the end of the year, most were excited about their plans to head overseas to continue exploring the world of fashion. There was not a great amount of hope in the opportunity to grow and learn in Australia.  

Sydney will never be Paris or Milan, nor should it try. My hope is that there can be a heightened focus on generating opportunities here. I know I bring a challenge without a solution, but perhaps through the continued celebration of emerging artists through platforms such as this, we’ll be able to promote some respected designers and in turn, grow some incredible fashion houses.  

What’s next for you?

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Akin to my design practice, I don’t like to plan too far ahead – I like to keep myself open to whatever comes my way. At the moment, I’m working on some really exciting collaborations while dabbling in the commercial world of costume design and backend fashion processes.  

For now, I’m excited to continue to meet and collaborate with fellow emerging (or established) artists and designers. I get great inspiration from the passions of others and I do believe it’s a founding way to evolve, both as a designer and as a person.

Curious to explore more of  Ruby Pedder’s designs? Head here.

This article A debut collection paying homage to surrealism and ’90s riot grrrls from Sydney designer Ruby Pedder appeared first on Fashion Journal.

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