The collections of Melbourne based tettmann.doust are infused with scientific influences, using the finest natural fabrics to create breathtaking pieces of wearable art. Naomi Tettmann’s is truly a master of pattern making, and Elke Doust’s eye for detail and embellishment is second to none. The designer duo kindly welcomed me into their studio, where I watched them work, previewed their spectacular Winter 2013 collection and picked their brains about designer life.
GEMMA: How did each of you get started in fashion? Was it something you’ve always been interested in?
NAOMI: I grew up watching my mum sew, so I’ve been sewing pretty much my whole life. I’ve always had an interest in it but I never thought I’d do it professionally because I’d seen how hard my mum used to work. She tried to talk me out of it [sewing professionally] but I just did it anyway!
ELKE: I didn’t always have an interest in fashion. I started off studying interior architecture, and I sort of moved into fashion because a friend prompted me to and she also introduced me to Naomi. Then I started working for Gwendolynne. I started working for her before I started to study fashion or anything… she sort of suggested that I go and study fashion, so I did!
G: And you’re both still working for Gwendolynne aren’t you? How do you find the time?!
N: We’ve pretty much given up on the whole sleep thing. I think it’s pretty overrated anyway! [laughs]
E: It’s definitely time consuming but it’s necessary. It’s a good way for us to hone our skills, and it’s really our bread and butter.
G: So what inspired you to start tettmann.doust?
E: I think both of us were always planning to start our own collection eventually.
N: What we do is quite niche in a way. We knew what we wanted to create and we saw that it wasn’t already out there.
E: I think after working together for a number of years we just thought “Why not?”
G: For your first collection, Aves Insecta, you drew inspiration from birds and insects and aesthetics traditionally used in science and the study of nature. Where did the inspiration for Corpus Epherma come from? Did you draw on similar elements?
E: The current collection is actually based on the very same thing. We’re doing a yearly theme as opposed to a seasonal one. We start again with our pattern blocks and we change them up each year. So this one is also based on birds and insects but it is a little bit more delicate than the winter 2012 collection. We’ve actually just finished winter 2013, and that one is based on fractals so that theme will continue into our next summer collection as well. It’s all kind of mathematical.
G: Do you ever find that you have clashing ideas? Does one of you ever suggest something that the other doesn’t like?
E: Not really actually! Because we are working really far in advance, there’s a lot of time for ideas to begin and come to fruition. We’re usually on the same page by the time we actually start doing the work. We work on different parts- we come to each other to see what the other is working on. We’re always bouncing ideas off each other to make sure the other one is happy with the direction that we’re going in.
N: With the last collection I was really stuck on this one piece so I was like “Help!” and then Elke fixed it and made it awesome!
E: Yeah! And say if I’m stuck on a print it’s great to have another pair of eyes to come in and say “Okay, maybe we can do this”.
G: Your garments are really more like wearable art. How does the design process begin for you at the start of a new collection?
E: We usually start working on the prints first, but Naomi is always working on getting the pattern blocks done sort of at the same time, so we’re always working together to make sure that all of the elements will fit in with each other. It’s pretty organic. I think maybe a little more forward planning could work in our favour but we’re getting there. It’s a lot of work but we get better with each collection.
G: You’ve also branched out into lingerie. What inspired that move?
N: I just love lingerie, it’s so beautiful!
E: Naomi’s always had a passion for it and she loves all the really old school lingerie- the way they do up, that sort of thing.
N: It’s so beautiful. I would love to do more of it but it just comes down to finding the time to really develop it. It’s kind of a whole other world.
E: Yeah it really is in a different world to fashion. Even the machines and everything are completely different. We will branch into that more, but at the moment we’re keeping things in house and lingerie is something we’d need more people for.
G: You recently won the Stonnington Emerging Designers award. Why do you think awards and events like that are so important for up and coming fashion designers?
E: It’s such a good way to get seen. You go from being someone that no one has ever heard of, and suddenly you’re someone that people have heard of. You become someone that people might recognise the name of.
G: You’re also involved with the Parallel Tensions exhibition for the Emerging designer series as part of Melbourne Spring Fashion Week. What can those who haven’t been to the exhibition yet expect to see?
E: A lot of the designers are actually quite cohesive in their style. I think there are a few similarities between the designers. The exhibition itself is kind of based on the idea of Parallel Tensions so they’ve put it together in a way that ensure all of the pieces will interlink. It looks good!
Images by Sabine Legrand for Couturing.com