FASHION designer Yumi Morrissey, of local label Zilpah Tart, inspired by the bright lights of Canberra, has created a new collection based on national institutions lit up at night.
“So many of the national institutions are permanently lit up after dark, and they look so beautiful and unexpected,” she says.
The collection, called Illuminate, includes patterns made with photos taken at Questacon, the National Film and Sound Archive and the National Museum of Australia.
“My husband and I drove around at night so I could get the images, with our three-year-old asleep in the back!” she says.
There are three fabric prints in the Illuminate collection – the Pathway dress in the National Museum print, which Yumi says is more obviously the museum with the orange loop, the Radiance dress in the coloured light print from the National Film and Sound Archive, and the Pillar dress in lucent blue from the torsional wave at Questacon.
Yumi says the label offers a variety of styles, including a T-shirt style dress and a crossover style in every collection, as well as skirts and scarves.
“None of the patterns are very obviously Canberra and I usually have to point it out to people,” she says.
“Once they see it, they love it and I like being able to show the beautiful things in Canberra in my designs.”
Yumi says she gets a lot of positive feedback to the dresses and that people say they like the connection to both the place and the designer.
“I’ve heard from politicians that they love wearing the dresses, because it becomes a talking point for them at events,” she says.
“Canberra gets dogged by outsiders but I love it – I was born in Calvary hospital and grew up here.”
Yumi completed her bachelor of design in 2007, when she says fashion design was more of a hobby in the background of her public service job.
“I quit my job after my son Asher was born in 2013, and I wanted to work on Zilpah Tart full time,” she says.
“It was great, but when I created my first collection I couldn’t quite find the fabric I was after.
“I felt what I used compromised my work and my design aesthetic, and unsurprisingly it didn’t sell well.”
Yumi says that when she was working on her second collection, she had started digital printing and was able to create exactly what she was looking for.
Yumi, who has exhibited at Fashfest, says she tweaks some prints more than others by flipping, repeating the pattern or grey-scaling the background to make the colours pop.
Previous collections have included a sunset print, Civic fountain, autumn foliage, hot air balloons and the wind farm.
“The wind farm print was particularly difficult, and it was hard to make it look good on a dress, but I made it more abstract with the exposure and filters and it worked,” she says.
“The print was actually bought for the Innovations Hub, which was exciting as I’d never seen it as an artwork but it looked great.
“Some are small prints with different pattern repeats and I enjoy working in photoshop until I create a design I’m happy with.”
Thinking about how the print falls on the body is really important, Yumi says.
“Straight lines and geometric designs can be hard, so I have to consider scale, the width of the print and where the bodice will sit,” she says.
“I love creating the prints and meeting my customers face to face, and they all say they get so many compliments when they wear the dresses.
“The dresses are comfortable, don’t need ironing and are easy care. I was never bothered about comfort until I had my young son and was constantly getting up and down from the floor! Now it’s a really important consideration.”
Zilpah Tart garments are available at zilpahtart.com.au, at Cardif Collective, Level 2, Cusack Centre, 27 Eyre Street, Kingston, and the Handmade Markets.
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