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Warrior woman Yumi Morrissey

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While fashion designer Yumi Morrissey is petite and soft spoken, there’s a lot of warrior in her. So much so that she is calling the new collection she’s developing for FASHFEST, under her independent label Zilpah Tart, just that. ‘Warrior’.

“The idea is based around women as modern warriors,” says Yumi. “Women face a lot of challenges—raising kids, running houses and handling jobs—but they still battle on. So I looked at traditional armour from warriors, took aesthetics from that, and brought it all together into garments with real feminine shapes.”

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The Panel Dress.


For the first time, Yumi has created her own fabric design for FASHFEST, which she’s had printed on soft, jersey fabric that flows and fits comfortably over the body.

“I started by looking at what I could use in the capital to create prints based on a modern woman’s environment. That took me to the landmarks people recognise most. The most obvious to me was Parliament House and I went from there,” says the designer.

Yumi first took photos of Parliament House and then started to ‘fiddle’. At least that’s how she describes it. If truth be told, it took a lot more talent and patience than that.

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The T-shirt dress.


The next step was to crop photos, angle them, adjust the colour balance in photoshop to form a suite of colours worthy of a collection, and then repeat the image to form a kaleidoscope pattern.

“The graphic design looked quite cool and what I love most is that from a distance you don’t realise it’s Parliament House,” says Yumi. “It’s only when you get up close that you get a sense of intrigue and discover what you’re really looking at.”

Yumi has just released a ‘Parliament Kaleidoscope mini collection’ in two colour schemes—black and white, and black, yellow and white. The third colour scheme is being held as a tight secret until FASHFEST, but Yumi says it will be ‘visually amazing’.

parliament house final print yellow black copy

Three styles of the dress are available. The panel-line dress, the double peplum dress and the t-shirt dress.

Yumi has already sold the panel-line dress to a Canberra mum who is mailing it all the way to her daughter who lives in Doha, Qatar. And MP Gai Brodtmann, who is well known for her support of local fashion designers, and who already owns several other of Zilpah Tart’s dresses—was quick to try one on.

The double peplum dress has ruffles on the sleeves, and the t-shirt dress is Yumi’s best-selling design. She makes it all year round in a range of prints and they sell like hotcakes.

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The double peplum style.

In developing this year’s FASHFEST collection, Yumi has designed another surprise—a pattern inspired by the Canberra Times Civic Fountain, installed as a gift to the people of Canberra in 1979. This print incorporates a sunset.

The Parliament House print dresses in the first two colour schemes are available online, at the Handmade Shop or at the upcoming Hustle&Scout Twilight Market this weekend.

In future, Yumi wants to produce all of her own fabrics. In the meantime, she’s busy as a bumble bee stitching matters up for FASHFEST. This is the second year in a row guests will see Zilpah Tart fashion on the runway. Once more, Yumi’s collection will include her dresses, accessories and handbags, which she hand cuts and hand makes in her Canberra studio.

Yumi graduated with a Bachelor of Design from the Canberra Institute of Technology in 2007.

FASHFEST 2015 (13 to 16 May) is at the National Convention Centre this year, in a heated venue. Zilpah Tart is on closing night (Saturday).

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