News location:

Canberra Today 16°/20° | Thursday, January 20, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Car model inspires Lilli’s ‘out-of-the-box ideas’ 

Lilli McKenzie… “I’ve always had a passion for making clothes out of random objects, repurposing old papers from my dad – I like to think out of the box.”

A YOUNG fashion designer has been selected as one of four finalists in a design competition being held by Mazda Australia to mark the arrival of its MX-30 model, its first step into the electric-vehicle market.

I caught up with Lilli McKenzie, schooled in Canberra and a student in the Bachelor of Fashion Design Honours at RMIT University, Melbourne.

She was putting the finishing touches to her entry, which is being mentored by fashion icon Margie Woods from Australian fashion label, Viktoria & Woods.

The finalists are tasked with designing an outfit inspired by the fabrics and leathers used in the car’s internal design. 

McKenzie says hers will consist of three different pieces, using vegan leather to create a skirt and cork and felt to fashion a bodice. 

No stranger to success, in 2019 McKenzie was chosen to design the Melbourne and Olympic Park Trust staff uniforms, which are worn by more than 1000 staff, but this time she’ll be turning her attention to sustainability issues, with each project to be reviewed and aligned with the UN’s 17 global Sustainable Development Goals.

Mazda’s first electric vehicle MX-30 interior in vegan leather.

According to McKenzie, the challenge has been integrated into RMIT curriculum and a documentary film of the process is being made as finalist response to the call-out to create outfits taking inspiration from MX-30 materials such as vegan leather, heritage cork and repurposed plastic waste.

The winner, selected by Woods and Mazda staff, will be awarded a trip to Mazda’s Japan headquarters to enjoy a mentorship with Mazda’s global design chief, Ikuo Maeda.

Despite a peripatetic life so far, McKenzie has strong connections to Canberra. Initially schooled at Forrest Primary, famous for producing lively extroverts, she did her secondary studies in Melbourne and Perth, but her family have now moved back to Canberra and her brother goes to Telopea Park School, where he studies French.

Big sister Lilli is skilled in French, too, following a school exchange to France that helped her speak it fluently – very handy when she won another competition and got to attend Paris Fashion Week in 2019.

She’s already finished her basic bachelor studies at RMIT, but is now doing the add-on honours. 

“RMIT is giving me a lot of opportunities,” she says. 

Lilli’s garment… “I’m using traditional weaving techniques but recreating them in a modern context as I weave vegan leather together. The cork is almost the loom, mounted around the body,” she says.

“I’ve always had a passion for making clothes out of random objects, repurposing old papers from my dad – I like to think out of the box.”

Luckily, at her school in Perth she was able to study textiles right through years 11 and 12 which she did enthusiastically, also studying photography. 

In fact, she toyed with the idea of pursuing photography seriously but found there were “more opportunities and openings for design work, it is multifaceted and multimedia so it’s very exciting”.

It was her parents who pushed Lilli to do fashion, as she’d always loved costume design with school musicals in mind, but when she handed RMIT a large photographic portfolio, the question was: “How can this design-minded student progress in fashion?”

“But they just wanted to see that you have a creative mind and can be innovative and there is no limit to the approaches. My mind is always thinking how can I use unconventional materials,” says McKenzie, who still loves to collect snapshots from buildings, landscapes and crowds to get inspiration for her fashion designs.

Nonetheless, she pays tribute to the “artisanal” and fine-motor skills such as embroidery, which are encouraged at RMIT, saying, “they help to solidify your practical skills”.

Certainly, it’s a challenge to design with a car in mind, but it’s not just about aesthetics, she tells me, it’s about combining the use of materials and the design aspects in an opportunity to think about design in a different way.

Lilli McKenzie… “I’ve always had a passion for making clothes out of random objects, repurposing old papers from my dad – I like to think out of the box.”

“There’s quite a strong similarity between a car and a garment,” she says, as she explains how her honours project links into the Mazda competition.

“My honours project is weaving-based, looking at a garment in new ways… I’m trialling a method of creating by weaving on to the body using the body as a loom.

“I’m using traditional weaving techniques but recreating them in a modern context as I weave vegan leather together. The cork is almost the loom, mounted around the body.”

The hybrid MX-30 is available from Phillip Mazda.

Who can be trusted?

In a world of spin and confusion, there’s never been a more important time to support independent journalism in Canberra.

If you trust our work online and want to enforce the power of independent voices, I invite you to make a small contribution.

Every dollar of support is invested back into our journalism to help keep citynews.com.au strong and free.

Become a supporter

Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Helen Musa

Helen Musa

Share this

Leave a Reply

Related Posts

Follow us on Instagram @canberracitynews