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Carmel Ryan

Meet the designers


Franca Frederiksen

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 dressmakers, 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. 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 spole Franca's language and opened up a world of possibilities!


I t's great fun re-imagining 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!

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Carmel Ryan
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Philomena Hali

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 Portugese women from the island of Madeira, where her parents lived, and so her passion for textiles was born.

Co-ordinating Sustainable Couture with Franca Frederiksen in 2009 fueled Phil's desire to see more and more recycled clothing being upcycled and repurposed to stay of landfill. Deconstructed garments become completely new, fashionable, wearable items that delight the wearer and 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 techniques 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.



Carmel Ryan

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.

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.


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Marg Johnson

Margaret Johnson

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.