The sleazy French pop of Sebastien Tellier and the Virgin Galactic space centre in New Mexico were the unlikely inspirations for Shayli Harrison’s debut collection at Melbourne Spring Fashion Week, which will be available in her online store launching this month.
The young designer delivered a big bang of cosmic colour, in neon organza and rainbow-hued chiffon mesh, framed by a tinsel backdrop, which pulsated to tracks mixed by DJs Wum N Coke and Ove Naxx.
Perched like a kitten in the window of Brunswick Street’s Black Cat, Shayli is animated as she reflects with Couturing on her vision for the debut line.
“I don’t look at other people’s clothes… I come up with something I want to say, something that gets me really excited,” she explains.
With hair scraped into a chocolate and strawberry fountain on top of her head, her green eyes sparkle under pink brows. Clad in a Hawaiian shirt, maroon jacket and clashing floral shorts, Shayli oozes confidence.
She grins when the “ghetto beats” pounding over the Black Cat speakers are mentioned, and says she likes them. It seems Shayli likes everything that is loud, funky and over the top.
With a sweet feline face and a slightly zany aesthetic, she emphasises creative collaboration and fashion design as an artistic outlet. The show itself was a collaborative effort between friends who designed artwork, mixed tracks and even constructed the stage.
“I was so nervous, I was backstage the whole time trying not to throw up,” she divulges.
Her vision was to transcend the sterility of the average fashion show and create an event that was more theatre production than whitewashed runway.
“All my stuff is always really colourful. I like it to be theatrical; for people to come and be entertained,” she says.
Originally from Perth, Shayli studied at Sydney’s Whitehouse Institute of Design before responding to the primal call of Melbourne’s urban jungle. After a year searching for the right design job, she decided instead to start her own collection.
“I thought, I’ll just do my own thing,” she shrugs casually, taking a sip of her cider.
Her “own thing” is a post-apocalyptic disco of beach-wear-meets-space-tourist garb.
“My inspiration was this kind of tacky space holiday. I liked the idea, instead of going to Bali, of just going into Earth’s orbit for the weekend… It’s like resort-wear for space.”
“I like to tease a bit,” she adds, with a laugh.
Her collection is a cacophony of colourful chiffon and multi-hued organza, digitally printed with a design painted by one of Shayli’s friends. High-waisted shorts, sheer skirts, breast brooches, vertical arrow prints and a plethora of pleats in magenta, orange and blue are the crux of this beautifully-crafted cosmos.
Channelling her madcap magnificence into a vibrant and energetic collection, Shayli maintains a practical element, with simple sheathes and cropped tops that “you can just wack on over your bathers”.
Well aware of the pressure on young designers to come up with a concept that is creative and innovative, while also being financially viable in a commercial setting, her aesthetic remains uncompromisingly unique.
“I think there needs to be more creativity in the Australian fashion industry. No one seems to set their own trends,” she says.
“From an artist’s perspective, I want to be pushing boundaries.”
The parochial and “safe” nature of the Australian fashion design market is an oft-lamented result of being one season behind the Northern Hemisphere, meaning designers can unintentionally draw inspiration from the European runways, rather than breaking new ground.
This is evidently no issue for Shayli, who hints that her next line may well include poodles and inflatable pom poms.
“I like changing it up a bit every now and then,” she smiles.
Given the impossible task of describing her own style, Shayli proffers three adjectives…
“Art deco. Avant Garde. Psychedelic.”
“You don’t really see them together, but I make it work.”
Image credits: Jenna Eriksen www.facebook.com/shaylithelabel