meet the designers
Phil is a practising textile and fibre artist, and as co-instigator of Sustainable Couture, is integral to the vibrant creative energy behind the group. After living in Alice Springs for 31 years, Phil and her husband relocated to WA in mid-2018 – retirement for him, and for Phil, a sea change and reconnection with her family.
As a young girl, Phil learned hand-sewing and embroidery from her mother and other Portuguese women from the island of Madeira, where her parents lived, and so her passion for textiles was born.
Coordinating Sustainable Couture with Franca Frederiksen in 2009 fuelled Phil’s desire to see more and more recycled clothing being upcycled and repurposed to stay out of landfill. Deconstructed garments become completely new, fashionable, wearable items that delight the wearer and the viewer. Her aim is to utilise all of the fabric bits and pieces remaining, to make accessories or bags.
Phil is recognised nationally and internationally for her diverse work; her pieces are held in private collections, museums and galleries across Australia and overseas. Phil also delivers workshops to young people, Indigenous communities, and to fibre and textile artists at national forums held throughout Australia.
I am ultimately content with a swatch of fabric and needle and thread in my hand. Creating is my life; sharing technique fuels my passion for passing on knowledge. My workroom is my sanctuary and everything in it gives me joy, inspiration and a desire to create. I make because I love making – rarely do I need a reason - it IS what I do.
For all sales enquiries email Phil
Co-instigator of Sustainable Couture and three-time recipient of ‘runner-up’ Wearable Art Awards, Franca is passionate about fashioning stylish garments from recycled and sometimes surprising fabrics.
Coming from a family of talented dress-makers, including her mother and older sisters, Franca is sure that sewing is in her DNA. She was 10 years old when she made her first outfit, by herself, on her mum’s treadle sewing machine. In the 1980s, Franca started to design and make outfits under her own label, using a variety of fabrics, including gorgeous hand printed pieces by artist, Barbara Butler. She found it great fun, but it wasn’t until about 20 years later that she discovered the broad church of recycling.
An exciting moment in Franca’s creative development was doing a workshop with funky Australian designer, Linda Jackson. Described as a fashion pioneer, Linda seemed to have tossed aside the rule book. Not enough material? Add a contrast piece. Not going to see the waist? Don’t worry about adding a waistband. Don’t tack - sew across pins. Ahhh...she spoke Franca’s language and opened up a world of possibilities!
It’s great fun reimagining materials and stimulating to be involved, through Sustainable Couture and the Wearable Art Awards, with so many creative people. I love the challenge of turning the likes of blankets and tyre inner-tubes into chic fashion pieces and get lots of pleasure from seeing people wearing them, and, in turn I hope people enjoy the story behind their chosen piece!
Carmel, whose idea it was to hold the Sustainable Couture Opening Night event in an aviation museum hangar, has been a part of Sustainable Couture from its inception. Over the years, Carmel’s creative flair and imagination has seen her fabulous entries in ‘wearable art’ events take out the top awards, both in the NT and interstate, including being a showcase finalist at Wearable Art Mandurah, Western Australia in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Carmel was one of the six Sustainable Couture designers who presented their well-received 'Edge of Centre’ collection at Eco Fashion Week Australia 2018 in Fremantle. She was also a featured designer in the event’s ‘UpCycling Challenge’: to design a garment using only men’s preloved shirts. Twenty-five white shirts later, she’d created a beautiful bridal gown which drew a lot of attention when on display and was written up in That’s Life magazine.
A long-time dressmaker and passionate about the environment, Carmel prefers to reuse and repurpose, and loves working with vintage pre-loved or found natural materials that 'come with a story’. She’s never far from her sewing machine and can transform the humblest op shop finds into red-carpet show-stoppers. Carmel enjoys making her unique one-off, slow fashion collections for the annual runway events.
I love the connection with like-minded designers and the event’s overall concept and ethos to be more environmentally conscious especially when it comes to the fashion industry.
Marg, a core member of the Sustainable Couture collective, has a passion for the hand-made, which flourished during many childhood hours spent with her talented mother and grandmother, as they sewed, crocheted, embroidered and mended, creating and recreating beautiful clothes and homewares.
Drawing on this influence, and the magic of op shop finds and textile treasures passed on by family and friends, Marg continues this textile-crafting tradition, transforming textiles into one-off joyful garments, headwear and accessories, with timeless value.
An accomplished milliner, Marg has a great eye for colour, design and detail. Her handmade creations are vintage inspired, paying homage to traditional millinery techniques while bringing a contemporary, playful edge to her work. Her inspiration is the natural world and the ever-present wonder of its colour, texture and forms. She delights in finding once-loved and often neglected hats and restoring them or refashioning them to give them a sparkling new life.
I find fascination in the simplicity of stitching, and the connection this brings to generations of makers before me. I enjoy reclaiming the fabrics of yesteryear, recycling the rich stories they hold in their threads, and creating loved clothes that last. I believe that as individuals we can all take action to create a future with less waste – by living more simply and caring more for our precious planet.
Natalia is the creative designer with busy hands behind ‘Beads ‘n Pods’.
She collects used aluminium coffee capsules in a quest to transform and recycle them. Natalia’s adventure started a few years back when a neighbour handed her some clean coffee pods, saying ‘They are too pretty to bin’. So with her two young daughters, Natalia set out to have creative crafty fun and decorate the house for the festive season. Capsules became bells, flowers, candle-holders and some necklaces too, for personal embellishment.
Back then it was an eco-friendly pastime, but Natalia became more aware of the impact those coffee capsules have on the environment. Millions of them are disposed of daily, not only in Australia but also around the world. Natalia began to use them to fashion handcrafted creations – unique and innovative ‘capsule’ jewellery and accessories.
Natalia’s fabulous collection of earrings and necklaces were showcased at Eco Fashion Week Australia in 2018. Sustainable Couture designers spotted her collection ‘across the crowded room’, and invited Natalia to showcase at Sustainable Couture in 2019. She’s back again for 2020.
Discarding comes too easily and reinventing requires further effort, imagination and time. It has been for me a continuous evolution from hobby to an environmentally conscious art practice, providing the grounds to experiment, learn, play and improve through experience, observation and determination. Inspiration comes from the world surrounding us.
I am currently expanding my creations from fashion to art pieces which convert those coffee capsules into blossoming everlasting flowers, celebrating the beauty that nature so selflessly shares.
Liz has been painting and printing on silk, making garments and accessories, since the early 1980s. She was born and raised in Alice Springs and returns as often as she can now that she lives in Adelaide.
Over the 35 years she has been a textile artist, Liz has expanded her repertoire to include screen printing, Japanese Indigo Shibori, devoré (burnout) and discharge printing and dyeing, amongst many other techniques, which have been showcased through Sustainable Couture.
In my hippy trippy days in the 1970s, my grandmother gave me her beautiful silk gowns from when she was a soprano with the Bluebird Choir in the 1920s. She was not pleased when I tie dyed them all!
Liz’s current focus on repurposing was ignited by her first foray into the Sustainable Couture Opening Night Parade in 2016:
It has turned my artistic practice around, and I now use pre-loved items as a basis for much of my work. I particularly enjoy Indigo dyeing, coupled with Japanese Shibori, or discharge printing.
Liz Wauchope works with the wonderful Naina Devi, who studied fashion design and construction in India, where she lived until coming to Australia several years ago. Naina brings the technical and fashion design expertise and imagination to her collaborations with textile artists.
Naina went to sewing college in her small town in the Punjab, where she worked as a pieceworker for some time, mass producing sari petticoats and other simple garments. Her particular love was embroidery. She gradually became a noted tailor in her community, developing pattern making skills for new designs, together with the ability to expertly repair or completely reproduce a client’s favourite garment.
Naina and Liz discuss the designs for the garments and refine their ideas together, then Naina does the skilled work of sewing and finishing.
I was very lucky to come to work for Liz as a cleaner, because when I showed her some of my sewing work, my job changed straight away! We have been working together for 6 years now, and every day there is a new challenge. I am glad that we design new things out of old.
If you are interested in seeing more of Liz and Naina’s work, or wish to purchase an item, you can contact them by email
Growing up in her native land Zimbabwe, Jen began fashioning her own clothes as a teenager in the early 1970s. After over 20 years in fashion and costume design and a lifelong love of natural fibres, Jen migrated to Australia, a journey eventually leading her to Alice Springs. A radical change of career followed; however, in 2013, Jen’s growing interest in promoting ethical fashion through the sustainable recycling of old garments from predominantly natural fibres, sowed the seeds for creating her own label. Jen deconstructs, dyes, felts, paints, recuts, tucks, or otherwise to create the transformed and timeless up-cycled range of unique clothing offered under her ‘Lokathula Couture’ label.
Cathy is a freeform weaver, creating one-off pieces of wearable art. She grew up in a home that nurtured and supported her to trust her own abilities, to use what was at hand and have respect for nature. These influences and values are the core of her creative endeavours.
Before embarking on a new adventure travelling around Australia in 2015, Cathy purchased her first SAORI loom. It was a way to nurture her creativity and bring enjoyment to her mind and soul, as the loom is travel-friendly.
And what began as a hobby is now Cathy’s passion: weaving, designing and creating unique pieces. Her weaving evolves organically – its freeform style encourages self-expression without the constraints of patterns or aiming for perfection. The garment design process also is an organic one, with the length, weight and fall of the finished woven cloth determining what it will be transformed into. Cathy incorporates all the woven cloth in the garment to minimise wastage.
I weave/create daily for the enjoyment of making a unique piece of weaving, the satisfaction of using what is at hand and the pride in creating something beautiful from recycling others’ discards. Old clothing is strikingly renewed with a splash of weaving.
SAORI weaving has given me the freedom to express my individuality through the garments I make, and the meditative rhythm of weaving allows me time for reflection. I want to share this enjoyment with others, and so in May 2018 I launched Gypsy Weaver Studio in Maryborough Victoria where I run regular workshops.
Anne Stewart is a textile artist and tutor from south-east Queensland whose love of fabric and fibre began in childhood, when she learned to knit and crochet and was also introduced to the traditional Indigenous art forms of weaving and basketry. Anne has continued to expand her skills and knowledge through formal training and is qualified in commercial needlecraft.
Anne is passionate about eco dyeing and natural fibres. She makes freeform bags and necklaces in colours that capture the intense tones and hues of the Central Australian landscape. Her stylish one-off pieces, embellished with beads, embroidery and feathers, are as memorable as they are beautiful.
Anne first visited Alice Springs many years ago and knew she had found her creative home the moment she walked through the door of Central Craft. She credits her love of eco dyeing to her discoveries at Central Craft where she has been able to share amazing moments and ideas with many outstanding artists. Anne is a regular contributor to the annual Beanie Festival, and the Sustainable Couture fashion parade is one of the highlights of her visits to Alice. This year Anne is collaborating with sustainable couturier Kate Fletcher from Tasmania, pairing her handmade, hand-dyed accessories with Kate’s eclectic clothing range.
I get absolute joy out of creating something from others’ discarded textiles. Collaborating with Kate in 2020 is a journey - with Kate in Tasmania and a few closed borders between us. Lock down is just more time to stitch!
Kate Fletcher’s driving passion is creating original clothing with the circular economy as its central focus. Kate, who lives in Hobart Tasmania, has been making and upcycling clothing for as long as she can remember and for the past decade has organised Sustainable Clothing shows.
Her main passion in life, apart from Aussie rules footy, is educating and inspiring people about wearing sustainable clothing and drawing their attention to the social and environmental impacts of the global clothing industry.
This year Kate’s creative inspiration has come from walking in her local neighbourhood: she wasn’t aware how strongly she would be driven to doing dyepots at this time. Wandering her neighbourhood, marvelling at the autumn paintbox, she has been moved to collect and play.
Kate loves collaborating with other people and sharing skills and ideas and regularly hosts darning days at her house. She is delighted to be part of Sustainable Couture for the fourth time and this time she is collaborating with Anne Stewart from Brisbane. Kate’s and Anne’s creative paths crossed in Alice Springs two years ago. There are grand plans for Anne to visit Tasmania which are currently on hold.
Despite our isolation we have made it happen! Our collection for 2020 is a response to life in isolation. It’s entitled ‘A stitch in the time of Covid’. Anne’s bags and neck pieces fit perfectly with my garments.
Connected Women is an empowered women’s group in Alice Springs, featuring socialisation, creative interests and connection to existing community information, services and events. The group iincludes women from backgrounds such as: Kenya, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Philippines and Australia. The group has been meeting each week since April 2021 and looks forward to participating in the Sustainable Couture 2021 event.
Participating in Sustainable Couture this year are Mercy Wairimu Wanjiru, Sherry Haynes, Nghia Pham, Colleen Paterson, Maricor Tolentino Ortega and Elsie Solis Tolentino.
The group believes that recycling helps us all save money, become more resourceful, and adds new life to fabric and feel good about not adding to waste in the environment.
They have been working with mentor Brigida Alberti this year and through their learning together, have gained confidence and skills, enjoyed having good conversation, connecting over fabrics and being encouraged to think creatively.
This is my first time to be able to sewI have always wanted to learn and now I have confidence in sewing and using the machine
I am learning to be creative – to see things in a new light
The group members believe they inspire each other but have also been influenced by family connections in their countries of origin.
Sherry has encouraged me to learn as I previously lacked confidence to try
My Mum’s best friend went abroad to work and sewed for the princess of Abbu Dhabi. She was very good and could make a dress with a pattern and had a visual memory. She used to sew my dresses and school uniform, I always wanted to learn from her but I didn’t as I moved to Australia
My Auntie was a tailor in the Phillipines – making dresses. When I visited her I played with her sewing machine and used her good scissors, after being here – I now know why she used to get upset!