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BMDesigns at Fashfest

Wendy Johnson

I have a pair of white pants that have a rust stain on them. Don’t know how it got there but do know I’ve tried everything to get rid of it.

Barb Mickelson, of BMdesignsheadwear, says rust is a permanent dye and so I may as well give up. And so I have.

Unlike myself, Barb actually has a fondness for rust. She is using it to her benefit these days, in the ‘Heaven and Earth’ collection she’s designing for FASHFEST 2015.

On her property in the bush, somewhere between Goulburn and Nowra, Barb has an old, rusted trailer and some old rusted grates. She’s using them to dye cotton for her new collection and producing intriguing, one-off patterns through the process.

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“Rust is highly effective on cotton,” says Barb, “I soak the cloth in white vinegar and water and then lay it down in the trailer or on the grates I have on my property. I then add more rusty bits on top and leave it there for a week. It permanently dyes the fabric.”

Barb is also working with screen printing and eco-dying, to produce a colour palette for her collection that features browns and greens. She’s also using silk, which is perfect for natural dying.

Heaven and Earth is very much influenced by Barb’s intense love for the bush.

Originally from Wollongong, the fashion designer lived in Canberra for more than a decade before packing up and moving to totally quiet surrounds. “There’s nothing like the Australian bush,” Barb says. “I take inspiration from the native birds and their brilliantly coloured feathers, the textures of the gumtrees and their bark, and the beauty of native flowers. I’m heading back to my roots with this collection.”

Guests at FASHFEST can expect a little more structure to BMdesigns’ collection this year, including with trousers and skirts. Garments will still be coordinated—from head-to-toe—something Barb is well-known for. In 2014, Barb’s designs included complete outfits with dresses, accessories, headwear and even stockings and shoes often dyed to match perfectly. She presented colours that popped, including shocking fuchsia, emerald green and bright yellow.

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Barb designs comfortable and highly wearable garments that suit all body shapes and sizes. Her dresses are cut without the use of conventional pattern-making. She designs for the body, not against it, and drapes fabric and cuts it freehand. The result is individual shapes and textures.

This is Barb’s second year launching a collection at FASHFEST. If you attended last year, you’ll remember her amazing headwear, which is nothing short of wearable art. To create her headwear, Barbs meticulously wires and twists cloth to create unique, organic pieces. They look like they’re super heavy and almost impossible to wear, but the opposite is true. They’re actually fluffy light and exceptionally comfortable.

Barb has studied millinery with many prominent designers in Australia and with prominent bespoke milliners overseas, including the milliner to the Royals. She has also studied textiles and dying techniques with many international artists. So it’s no surprise she has won multiple awards for her wearable art. And she’s perfectly at home when presenting pieces at the prestigious World of Wearable Art event in New Zealand.

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This year at FASHFEST Barb is collaborating on some of her looks with award-winning artist, Lilian Thom, of Classy Glass Designs. It’s going to be amazing.

BMdesigns is on the catwalk on Thursday 14 May, the night that features ‘The Inventor’ theme. It’s a great fit for Barb. She is a maker who creates through touch … an inventor who focuses on purity and beauty to get to the end product.

FASHFEST will be held at the National Convention Centre. Tickets are on sale now and running hot. Don’t miss out. More than 30 designers are on board this year. www.fashfest.com.au.

Wendy Johnson

Wendy Johnson graduated with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, a few decades ago. She’s been living in Australia since 1995, having fallen in love with eucalypt trees and kangaroos. Wendy is passionate about Canberra and all the nation’s capital has to offer. She loves to write (about everything and anything) and owns her own pr and advertising business. More about the Author

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