WOMEN WHO CREATE: ELLISS, A NEW KIND OF WOMENSWEAR DESIGNER
Working to change the fashion industry’s representation of women in the mainstream, designer ELLISS is celebrating the subtle quirks of beauty in her choice of models as well as in her clothes. Using materials made from recycled fishing nets, choosing models with more of a real world beauty than we are used to, sourcing locally where she can, and going easy on the retouch, ELLISS is the new direction for womenswear.
Her lookbooks are where the magic happens – the classic cuts, raw feeling fabrics and subtle details can fool you into thinking ELLISS’ designs are soft at first glance, but when on a body they quietly empower the wearer. These are clothes that truly fit the description of “wearable art” – we asked ELLISS all about her forward thinking approach.
You launched your brand in June 2016 – what were the key ideas behind it?
I thought a lot about it before it launched – I wanted to work in a way that was in line with my values. Working with jersey basics and underwear seems to me like the most important items to buy new and not second hand. I designed the Belle Briefs with the hand on the front in my final year of university using faces and body parts from animal rights activists in the 18th and 19th century. I liked the idea of playing homage to these important figures from the past in a subtle way and wanted to work with natural and recycled materials and produce the clothing locally to reduce the carbon footprint.
What is your general creative process pattern?
I start with the print concept – that drives the collection. I develop a few new shapes per collection but there are also classic cuts that follow through. This means there is a new creative process to each collection but also an easy identity for my customer to follow.
What about the ideas of sustainability and conscious production methods, which have become increasingly important in fashion?
I really care about being as conscious as possible so I just try my best to work in a way that I am comfortable with. I work locally where I can, I work with fabrications that are more sustainable to produce. I have just started working with regenerated nylon which I’m very excited about. They collect fishing nets from the oceans and create a strong yarn, which is turned into a number of fabrications. I am working on printed swimwear using their yarn.
The brand is all about women – how do you go about creating this raw beauty?
The women that we have used in the lookbooks are all interesting women with a lot of personality. It is important to me to show these women in a candid light, it’s important for them to be themselves.
The women I choose to photograph are generally pretty natural and the clothes aren’t fussy and embellished, they are understated. I think I look for understated beauty rather than dramatic and bold. That is the same with the design of the clothes. It’s in the detail and subtleties. They are easy to wear but should make you feel interesting – like you have a secret.
If there are things you could change about the industry and its representation of women, what would be your hopes for the future?
I would like to see more women in high positions in all aspects of the industry. Despite the amount of women studying fashion the industry is still dominated by men.
ELLISS is rare in that it seems very personal – how did you develop this brand identity?
It stems from my personal interests and taste but is developing into its own identity. It’s constantly developing and becoming closer to what I want it to be. I’m also very lucky to have worked with amazing photographers to develop some beautiful imagery. Patricia Villirillio, creative director of Pylot Magazine also styles the collections – we work really well together.
Do you think the fashion industry is lacking in diversity when it comes to representing all women?
Definitely. Agency models don’t represent most women and even though there are definitely more brands breaking that mould, most mainstream brands are still designing for very skinny women. It would be great to see more women represented in high fashion. Growing up I saw images of slim women with very symmetrical faces. Most people don’t have symmetrical faces but are interesting and beautiful. We were brought up surrounded by campaigns telling us that that kind of beauty is the only beauty. I am excited that that’s becoming less of the case – there is a lot more imagery of more natural women celebrating their quirks with less retouching and I can see that already younger generations are benefitting from that.
With the series Women Who Create, Material Magazine is looking to highlight women from a variety of professions and passions that use their unique talents to carve out a space for themselves and their art in our cultural landscape.