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Diversity on the Runway | SBS World News

Source: SBS

"While international mastheads like Vogue are certainly influential in shaping the industry, designer and small business owner Suzan Dlouhy believes there is a role for smaller players to add to the narrative.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t feel reflected in the fashion I saw. For me, now as an adult, I’m trying to reflect that back to the next generation,” she said.

“It’s a ground-up change. When small labels like myself start casting diverse models, and it gets press, that’s when the more mainstream brands realise they can do it too.”

SUZAN DLOUHY: SIMPLE CHAOS | THE PIN

 PHOTO: Cara Iurato MODELS: Konnker & Mawut

PHOTO: Cara Iurato MODELS: Konnker & Mawut

SZN's designer Suzan Dlouhy gets interviewed by Nkechi from The Pin, a discussion platform about race, identity and culture.

Read the full interview here!

[Excerpt below]


The pressure of being the first in our families to have opportunities for further education can some times stump out our true desires and creative lifelong pursuits of happiness. 

For Suzan Dlouhy creativity, design and fashion have always been a part of who she is but, it took a boring government job, crazy dress up Monday's and hunting down amazing street style in Canberra for her true passion to be realised.

Starting her own label SZN, Dlouhy has continued to make her mark in design - from hand stitching 100 scarves for the National Multicultural Festival in Canberra to taking out Fashion Designer of the Year at the African Australians of the Year Award Ceremony. Before moving to Melbourne for love, teaching at The Social Studio and continuing to build her own brand.

MEET SUZAN DLOUHY

THE PIN. So you grew up in Brisbane?
SUZAN DLOUHY.
 I grew up in Kingston, which is in Logan City half way between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, and I love it because it is a very culturally diverse area, due to it seeming to be the first port of call for immigrants, I imagine that's how my family ended up there, pretty much any conflict overseas is followed by an increase in Logan of that particular culture.

For a lot of people we have spoken about the feeling that within the boundaries of their household was a different culture to the outside world. Did you have a similar thing?
S.
 The first time I watched The Wog Boy movie I felt like I identified with that kid with his salami cheese sandwiches. I was going to school with these salami, cottage cheese, rye bread sandwiches, and I’d be embarrassed - I was like, ‘everyone’s got white bread with cheese’, my dad was like, ‘we will not eat that crap!’, and I’d be like, ‘this is crap!’ Now it’s ironic because today people are paying $20 for these sandwiches at a café now. But at the time, I remember begging my dad for white bread, I was like, ‘could you just….buy…like half a loaf! They sell half loafs, and just like six slices of cheese’. So I’d go to my friend’s house and just love what they ate. It was so weird you know, white bread and cheese for me is the epitome for me of what we didn’t have.

My dad is, not formal, but we all had to sit at a dining table for dinner, using a fork and knife from this old cutlery set he had from when he migrated, I think it was very special for him. We’d be like, ‘we should sit in front of the tv, dad!’ and he was like, ‘no, we will not do like the Americans with their pre-recorded laughter, I will laugh when I want to laugh and not during dinner’. I was like, oh my god [laughs]. Just some of the funny shit he says. I’d get to school, and I’d never repeat that to friends at school because it just made me seem more different so I’d be like, ‘yeah sure, I watched home and away’…I didn’t watch that show at all, I don’t know what happened…just trying to keep up, trying to be cool…it never happened.

I read in an interview that you found your way into fashion as a way out of the boredom you had towards your job so, I was wondering if design and fashion were always apart of your life?
S.
 My Czech grandmother was a seamstress and she taught me how to sew when I was five by hand, I could sew things. All through primary school and high school I wanted to be a fashion designer, that was a given. Everyone knew I wanted to be a fashion designer. My dad taught me to sew on the same machine I have now, when I was in grade five. Then by grade 11, and for some stupid reason, I decided I wanted to study anthropology. I don’t know what happened, I think the culture thing hit me, or the idea of being different hit me and I wanted to investigate that. At the time thought I was going to save the world, from an environment perspective, you know – we’re going to be sustainable and green!

I remember my teacher being like, ‘ah, you’re good at art why don’t you do that’, and kind of rebelled against it, even though all along I told people that I wanted to grow up and be a fashion designer.

My dad said artists die poor, so I was like I don’t want to die [laughs] let alone be poor. So when I did uni selections I put environmental policy first, because it had the lowest entrance scores …I didn’t have high expectations for myself….for the thing that was closest to anthropology. Random. So that course I did was more like an anthropology degree and less like an environmental specific degree. For my second, third and fourth choices I put anthropology and sociology degrees and fifth – I put fashion. I was hoping I wouldn’t get in. I kept going ‘I don’t want to get in, I don’t want to get in!’. That fifth choice was a TAFE because back then, in Brisbane, there wasn’t a uni version of fashion design. I guess this whole time my dad thought it was a good choice, because he was like, ‘well you have a chance to go to get a degree, why would you go to a TAFE? Anyone could go to a TAFE, you could go to a TAFE now if you want’ this was in grade 11. For him, TAFE was short courses you did at night – not courses you did for life. So I got my first choice, and I went. I am very interested in the environment, I was, but the whole time I was at university I would spend all of my time sewing, painting, drawing, I’m blowing cash on watercolours like you wouldn’t believe. I don’t know why, everything I did was art related and I persevered through that degree. I failed a whole year, like 7 out of 8 subjects in one year….kept going…because I finish what I start. I made my dad so bloody proud, he was almost crying at the graduation. He didn’t go to university so he really wanted that for me.

When did you realise taking this path down that path wasn’t for you?
S. 
I kind of skirted around it by doing all these other creative things, everything but the thing I should have done!
It was a building up over four years of hating working in a government organisation there were two things that I particularly hate – one I hate air con so much, and I hate environments where I can’t choose music. It’s always quiet at work, and freezing. Also, everyone in my team was around fifty or sixty and they were all on the verge of retiring, and I was like, ‘I can’t do this for another forty or fifty years!’.

There was another guy working in my corral that felt the same way about our work environment and also had an interest in dressing well and so we started dressing for each other. It was the only thing that brought any excitement to going to work. I’d say, ‘oh Thomas, what are you wearing tomorrow? He’d be like, ‘my paisley tie, checkered shirt and some particular pair of pants’, then I’d tell him what I was wearing, and we’d waste hours doing this sort of shit. That happened for about a year, we’d have fantastic Mondays, we’d dress for each other on Mondays, go to the park and do a photoshoot and we’d hang out. It was getting crazy [laughs].

I started a street style blog in Canberra as my excuse to get out of the building. Everyone else would go on smoko or to get a coffee, and I’d take my camera and doing street style shoots during the workday and then uploading it at work. I was doing all of this at my desk, all the while keeping my job. I still didn’t make the leap that I should just do fashion.

Then one day I was at work on the fantastic Monday and we decided to dress as the bins, because we decided we were no more useful than the bins. We both dressed and posed with these bins. I think we had a collective mental breakdown [laughs]. The two of us got to this stage that was not normal. The thing that kicked it over, was the guy sitting next to me got promoted to the position that I probably should have been in, purely because he wasn’t part time. At that time I was studying part-time and they thought my interests weren’t there. That guy was watching The Simpsons on his computer, but because he was really good at talking the talk and being blokey he got promoted. I thought, this place isn’t for me – I can’t play that game. This cleaner came through, and as he left, he went around the corner, that guy took the piss out of him. And that was it – that broke me.

I would have rather of cleaned that building than worked in it for guys like him. That was it for me. After that I called up the TAFE and asked about courses, they were having an audition for their fashion course the next day. And that was it. It decided my fate.

When it comes to creating and designing, is there something that you are able to express through design that you find you can’t express in anything else you do?
S. 
Simplicity.

I tend to explain stuff very complicatedly, and at length but my clothing is so ridiculously simple, and presents very minimal but, there is actually a complexity behind it that makes it seem simple, a very complex idea. After the months and months that it takes me to arrive at that design, and put it out on the shelf, it looks like a square. When I’m advertising or talking, I say I am a minimal designer – but there is nothing minimal about the process that goes on there.

My clothing presents a simple logic, that I cannot communicate in any other art form. I couldn’t do it in music, talking, or writing. I’m too all over the place.

How did your involvement with the social studio begin, and how have you found that experience?
S.
 My first day in Melbourne, I decided to go on a shopping tour of Melbourne – I knew I had to look for a job but told myself to take time and enjoy it. I went on a little day trip, visiting all these different places and I walked into The Social Studio. It was in transition and there was a sewing machine in the doorway. Andrea, who is the general manager, said to me as I walked in, ‘do you want a sewing machine?’ and I was like, ‘woah, this thing!’ I didn’t understand, and I was like, ‘I do, I really do! but first I need a house and a job, because I can see it needs to be serviced and I need a place to put it’. Andrea said there was a lady down the road looking for a sales assistant who could sew and there was a place going for rent above it. I thought she was joking. We got chatting a bit more and she was so sweet. I left there feeling like I’d found my place. I went down the road, within fifteen minutes, went into the shop and the lady had just sent that email about half an hour ago – the email to Andrea. We talked about my experience and clothing and she said I was exactly what she needed. It was ridiculous. So I went back said a big thank you to Andrea and I worked there for three – four days a week. I never took that sewing machine, it was too bloody heavy [laughs].

Six months later, Andrea replied to my email and said she vaguely remembered me saying that I did a fashion design course. She asked if I wanted to teach.

I love the Social Studio. It has its ups and downs. As anything does. It comes with a lot of cultural things that I’ve had to face. My students are often older than me and they’re parents, so I feel like I’m their kid in twenty years. Often the problems they are dealing with, and the crap they have to integrate into their lives, just random requirements that you have as a person, that is harder when you don’t even speak the language – even if you speak the freaking language, it’s hard to integrate that stuff into your life. So I feel like I see myself as their daughter almost, and I know it’s hard for them but it’s worth it and their kids will be thankful…hopefully [laughs]. My parents did the same, and I appreciated it. The Social Studio, at least, gives me that reflection on my past in a difficult setting. Often you can’t do something for everyone, and the jobs these guys are going for are the same ones I’m in, so I tell them what I did and how I hustled. I tell them about how I walked in and chatted – I point out their strengths and give them honest feedback. The Social Studio has been a big learning curve in being helpful but being chill.

Growing up, was there a time where race and identity really stood out to you? Was it something that was always there and recognised?
S.
 When I was young I think I just went under the radar. I think when you stand out as a person, everything stands out about you.

I’ve always found it really interesting when people talk about Australia being racist. I actually do agree, but the ones being racist find it hard to recognise because it’s done in this joking way, they don’t mean it badly, so they don’t see how it’s hurtful. I remember when I was really young, a girl walked past with her mum and she said something like, ‘Coco Pops’, and it’s the only time in my life where I had a quick reply and I said, ‘Rice Bubbles’. I remember saying Rice Bubbles, I was little – maybe five – and I remember thinking, ‘yeah, I got back at her’. But also thinking, why did she say that? Coco Pops are yummier anyway. My dad made me believe that Coco Pops were two colours and he would premix the Coco Pops with the Rice Bubbles to give it a lower sugar content. So in my life Coco Pops were brown and white anyway. So her insult never made sense, because I was like, but there are two colours! [laughs].

THE PIN. If you could give yourself one piece of advice about being in the skin you’re in, what would it be?
SUZAN DLOUHY.
 When I went overseas for the first time, I was 17, and my dad always did this when I was younger. He never told me not to do something, but he phrased it in such a way that made me not do it, or do the right thing. He’d say, ‘keep your eyes open’. When I went on this trip it was the best advice.

So I think I’d tell myself, have confidence and trust in yourself.

This interview has been condensed and edited

 

Fashion labels Ten Pieces and SZN | The Saturday Paper

"The desire for a stripped back ‘uniform’ may speak to a catastrophic future but, it’s more about saving the present by simplifying choices and consuming less." By Alyx Gorman.

Checkout today's Saturday Paper which features a great piece on SZN and Sydney label Ten Pieces.  

Suzan Dlouhy, founder of five-year-old Melbourne label SZN, is also trying to create clothes “I would personally want to wear as a … uniform”. A former public servant who studied environmental management and policy before coming to fashion, Dlouhy’s collections are even smaller than 10 pieces – usually she’ll show between four and eight. She works with a single maker, and still creates one-off garments on a personal sewing machine. Scarcity is a central theme.
Each collection explores a different method of waste-reduction, from remaking second-hand clothes to using scraps left over by other fashion brands. Lately, she’s been working with organic cotton, trying to create patterns that use textiles as efficiently as possible. She’s “driven by process, not an aesthetic … I try and do everything to reduce it to its most simple form.” Yet the end point fits comfortably within the same dark aesthetic. “Often [my process] leaves you with a big voluminous shape. Sometimes … I’ve been so simplistic or minimal.” She talks about cutting things down, simplifying patterns. “I’ll realise, ‘Is that not … a pair of light drop-crotch pants just like ancient Indian garb? Did I just design myself back into a traditional garment?’ ”
As for her uniform, she avoids anything that clings to the underarms, “so I could wear it multiple times before I wash it”. She gravitates to “things that were black, so they didn’t look … dirty immediately”. For Dlouhy, reducing “laundry is a big factor in sustainability”.
In her runway shows, Dlouhy casts models “based on who they are” not their gender. With a background in one-off pieces, SZN’s output remains one-size-fits-most. Now mother to a four-month-old baby, she found “the fact that I could wear the same garment from the beginning to the end of my pregnancy was actually really good. I became my own test model for that size range.” Terzini’s take on gender is just as loose: “There’s no such things as women’s and men’s, in a way … the world is a bit freer, and a bit more loving these days.”
For both Dlouhy and Terzini, clothes are about grappling with the future. “The more conceptual you get … the further away from reality and the body shapes you get … you’re no longer trying to echo what the body can wear but looking at future ideas,” Dlouhy says.
At present, Dlouhy teaches sewing at The Social Studio in Melbourne to supplement her label. She also DJs for income – something Sydney fashion designers typically do for credibility, not cash. Ultimately, she would like SZN to become a full-time job. But making one’s output sustainable and one’s business sustainable are two very different challenges.
The irony, and beauty, of the end-of-the-world aesthetic coming back into fashion is that, for those who first dreamt it up in the 1980s, and their contemporary disciples, the style is about ending the cycle of fashion. Each collection bleeds back into the previous, and forward into the next. Visually, it speaks to a catastrophic future, but conceptually it’s about saving the present. This style asks us to shatter the gender binary. It asks us to consume less. To develop a simple, personal “uniform”. Fashion has taken an apocalyptic turn. Perhaps we’re trying to imagine this future in order to prevent it.

DIVINE AND DESIRED | ARCHER MAGAZINE

 

"This is fashion – Archer Magazine style. Three models who proudly identify as transgender or non-binary, a handful of inclusive brands, and one solid creative crew.
With us, diversity comes first, and that’s something we have in common with the brands, people and studios we work with. In this editorial, photographer Leila Koren plays with light and latex to showcase gender-diverse models as deities of our time, soaking up the spotlight they so deserve.
The thread between our models was confidence, pride and strength of identity, so we designed looks that would exemplify these traits, while showing off their individuality and sense of style.
We included some behind-the-scenes shots as a reminder that all images are constructed, and to show off our awesome crew.
The looks are fierce. The feeling is joyful. The result is reverent and radiant. We hope you enjoy it."

PHOTOGRAPHY Leila Koren
CREATIVE DIRECTORS Natasha Jynel + Alexis Desaulniers-Lea
STYLIST Diane Vu
LIGHTING ASSISTANT James Plant
ASSISTANT STYLIST Michelle Sam
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Bobuq Sayed
HAIR + MAKE-UP Helena Regina Smythe
BTS PHOTOGRAPHY Florencia Mdv
MODELS Priya, Lana Faye + Mama Alto
LOCATION Awesome Sauce Studios

MAX BLACK www.maxblack.com.au
ANDROGYNOUS FOX www.androgynousfox.com
SZN www.szn.com.au
THE SOCIAL STUDIO www.thesocialstudio.org
PAT MCGRATH LABS www.patmcgrath.com
ONCE MORE WITH FEELING VINTAGE @oncemorewithfeelingvintage

The hardest thing about ECO FASHION | ECO FRIENDLY FASHION

 Katie from Eco Friendly Fashion interviewed SZN, Thunderpants NZ, The Spotted Quoll and Hemp Authority, on our perspective of eco fashion, see the interview  here , or read SZN's answers below.

Katie from Eco Friendly Fashion interviewed SZN, Thunderpants NZ, The Spotted Quoll and Hemp Authority, on our perspective of eco fashion, see the interview here, or read SZN's answers below.


From your personal experience, what are the hardest aspects of running your business with sustainability in the forefront Vs profit? 
The cost of fabric is higher; brand representation and presence in commercial media limited; and access to educating the customer on the product is minimal. To counteract these aspects time and money can be spent to promote your business and consumer more, but its not always reflected in sales and or presence, so at present being sustainable is purely a personal motivation and basic standard, but I believe it informs my designs and practice, which makes SZN unique from other labels.

Which manufacturing practices do you see as the biggest environmental threats, and which do you try to avoid?
Mass production, especially for products that are not guaranteed purchases or their lifetime use determined. SZN has tried different approaches with each collection, and as more information on environmental impact surfaces has evolved. For example our first collection used only pre-consumer waste, the second upcycled post consumer waste and current collection organic fabric in zero waste design. New information regarding the discovery of micro-plastic shed over the life-cycle of synthetic garments has informed our move to ultimately use the least toxic textiles available. 

Do you believe that hiring labour in third world countries (upholding fair trade) is a positive thing? Or does come with its own social and environmental downfalls? 
If companies forge good transparent relationships that can be monitored and provide for a healthy lifestyle for all of their labour force then I see that the skills, traditions and existence of international labour markets as necessary for the fashion industry. Unfortunately Australia has a limited manufacturing capacity and has not been able to technologically evolve to meet the standards, capacity and or skills of countries that have maintained their manufacturing industries. I also prefer to not differentiate labour as from 'third world countries' since ethical labour practices are more nuanced and poor conditions can be just as apparent within more developed nations.

In your opinion, has fast fashion been created by consumer demand? Or is it an invention of the industry? 
No, fast fashion is a reflection of our times and lifestyles. Markets fail to account for the 'true cost' of resource-use, so they are able to be exploited without the impact considered in the pricing of the goods. Also the cost of living has changed dramatically so that disposable incomes must stretch to cover more. And marketing has targeted satisfying desire over the provision of quality goods from reputable companies.

Whose responsibility is it to change the attitude towards fashion consumption? Consumer? Manufacturer? Marketing companies? Bloggers? Social media influencers? Celebrities? 
It is all of our responsibility to make sure that we consider the impact of our behaviour towards consumption - we should be the change we need.

How interested are millennials in being environmentally and socially conscious? Do you think awareness has become better or worse over the past few generations? 
I'm really not sure, I feel that with the internet and individuals being able to best represent alternative views of the industry, awareness has increased. But at the same time the cost of products have dropped, marketing increased and populations grown so the environmental impact of our consumption has not reflected this increased awareness. Some people are not interested or informed of the impact of their purchases, so I still feel more needs to be done at the regulatory level to prevent markets from allowing business practices and resource use that is un-environmentally sound. 

If you could change one thing about the fashion industry on a world-wide scale, what would it be?
Costing of resources. The life-cycle of resources should be economically considered at the input stage, so that manufacturers and consumers are responsible for the whole life-cycle of a product, including its disposal.

REVIEW: FASHFEST 2016 | LEIDEN

  Source:   Leiden.

Source: Leiden.

"In its third Fashfest presentation, Melbourne based label SZN presented simple, intelligent designs in a neutral colour palate. All in one suits, loose tunics and draped coats were presented in multiple colourways and on both male and female models, demonstrating the genderless nature of these pieces. While looking simple at first glance, clever details such as large pockets, the folding and draping of fabrics, and play with proportion proved each piece to be anything but."

REVIEW: FASHFEST 2016 | HAPPY SCHNAPPER

  Source:   Happy Schnapper
"SZN took minimalism to a whole new level with this their third appearance at Fashfest.  The colour palette was made up of white, black, grey.  Lines were crisp and clean with no embellishments, statements or detail of any nature other than the natural movement of the fabric.  The style of the garments were also very gender neutral with both female and male models wearing identical jumpsuits, and similar oversized tees, capes and harem pants.  The cut of some of the capes and jackets had a very distinct Japanese yukata feel.  A perfect collection for lovers of Japanese minimalism."

REVIEW: FASHFEST 2016 | INK & LEATHERS

  Source:   Ink & Leathers
"I was incredibly excited to see that Suzan Dlouhy would be returning her label SZN to the Fashfest runway this year. As a label SZN is known to many as avant garde styling and a foundation of sustainable design principals, with a focus on simplicity and craftsmanship. SZN produces beautiful, intelligent pieces for a contemporary audience.
Closing out the first show of Saturday night, SpectraSZN showed a concise collection of unisex looks for Spring/Summer.
The collection utilised almost origami-like construction, with each garment made from a 150cm square piece of fabric. This obviously poses the designer with a variety of challenges, and as a result stimulates the creation of new and interesting tailoring and draping. Constraint has often been utilised by designers in order to stimulate inspiration, and it was clearly successful in this collection.
Dlouhy herself described the collection as not being traditional menswear, or womenswear for that matter, and stated that it was for the more experimental dressers amongst us
A part of me agrees with this assessment, and that is the part of me that never saw himself wanting to own or even wear a chambray jumpsuit. Now it’s all I can bloody think about, and quite near the top of my post-Fashfest shopping list. I’m already thinking of the potential ways that I could style it for the office and get away with it….
The collection remained true to Dlouhy’s previous designs with featured sustainable textiles such as hemp and organic cotton in ivory, black and chambray. These fabrics are not only environmentally sound, but also incredibly hard-wearing and given to developing character with use. Further, the colours and fabrics used in this collection perfectly align with the requirement ofthe design of each garment to be gender and size flexible."

FASHFEST 2016 DESIGNER PROFILE | INK & LEATHERS

Thanks to Grant from Ink & Leathers for a detailed profile on SZN:

  Photo:  Martin Ollman

Photo: Martin Ollman

Suzan Dlouhy is a name known to many in the Canberra fashion scene. Founding her label SZN in 2012, Suzan quickly created a name for herself with her avant garde styling and her dedication to creating a label founded on principals of sustainable design. With a focus on simplicity and craftsmanship, SZN produces beautiful, intelligent pieces for a contemporary audience.

As a label SZN is Fashfest alumni and has showed collections twice previously, before Suzan moved the label to Melbourne. Since leaving Canberra Suzan has not only expanded into the Melbourne market, now stocked at Milly Sleeping and The Social Studio in Melbourne (as well as Canberra’s own Assemblage project); but has also been active in  designing for many art projects, including music videos and short films. Most recently SZN showed as a part of the FreekA runway at Melbourne Spring Fashion Week.

The last SZN collection for Fashfest 2014 was a revelation for me. I’d previously thought of recycled and environmentally conscious design as clunky, poorly made and ugly. If you’d ever seen the garments showcased on Regretsy you would know exactly what I am talking about. However what Suzan presented was a beautiful collection of striking silhouettes and stunningly crafted denim pieces that leapt off the runway and into my imagination.

I’m still dreaming about the striped denim t-shirt from this collection, and cursing myself for not ordering one right away.

  Photo:  Beige Renegade

Photo: Beige Renegade

As you can imagine I am very excited to see SZN return to the Fashfest runways for 2016, and I wanted to catch up with Suzan to see what she has been up to since we saw her last, and to see what insight I can get to her 2016 collection.

It has been almost two years now since you moved your label to Melbourne, and anyone who follows you on social media would be aware of the exciting work you’ve produced in this time. Can you give us a brief update on what the move has meant for SZN as a label? 

Since moving to Melbourne I’ve enjoyed engaging in several different projects, such as costume assisting on a feature film; teaching clothing production at a social enterprise; designing and making costumes for two sci-fi short films; and working on costumes for a dance company. Its been a way for me to experiment and try out new directions for SZN. Though Canberra is always close to my heart, and I’ve been lucky to return to the ACT to work on projects such as the Fix and Make workshops, and contribute garments to the latest film clip for musician Tak-Un-Da. Most recently I collaborated with photographer Eryca Green who shot a self-portrait series featuring SZN.

Something that I am dying to know is whether we’ll be seeing more menswear from you this year; or if you’re focusing on womenswear only? 

  Photo:  Beige Renegade

Photo: Beige Renegade

Yes this year I’ll present a unisex collection, though its not traditional menswear (or womenswear for that matter) its for the more experimental dresser.

What has brought you back to Fashfest for 2016? Is it something you always intended to do? 

I would’ve liked to have shown last year as well, but unfortunately I was busy. I saw the images that came through and loved the work and new location, I really think that Fashfest has been a great platform to showcase great fashion designers.

There’s been an increase in the sustainable design presence at Fashfest since you first showed, and I think this is in part thanks to your label’s influence. Would you agree that you’re something of a trail-blazer, leading the way for beautiful, sustainable design in Canberra? 

Thank you, I think that generally awareness of environmental issues is more prevalent in the media and this has an impact across many industries. It’s also a legacy of the emphasis that was placed on sustainable thinking at CIT by design teachers, Steve Wright and Cate Shaw, who were also responsible for highlighting diverse practices through fashion events such as Fashionably Early. These events help to contextualise fashion as design thinking and designers as responsible for informed practices.

After so long away from Canberra it must be exciting to be showing in front of the home-crowd again. What can you tell us about the inspiration behind your collection for Fashfest this year, and what you have in store for us? 

Yes I’m super excited and appreciate the chance to be showing a Spring Summer collection. SZN’s current collection considers minimal waste through reductive pattern-making.

  Photo:  SZN

Photo: SZN

Like origami for the body each garment is made from a 150cm square piece of fabric. Featuring sustainable textiles such as hemp and organic cotton, which are hard-wearing and develop character with use.

I have constructed garments in a neutral palette of ivory, black and chambray. A requirement of the design of each garment is to be gender and size flexible.

I’m inspired by Japanese calligraphy within marks and seals – lines through geometric shapes that resonate with the 2D nature of my pattern making.

You can see SZN during ‘Spectra‘, closing night, Saturday 1 October, 6.30 pm.

Fashfest 2016 will run from 29 September to 1 October at the award winning National Convention Centre. Tickets are on sale now.

FASHFEST 2016: SZN | HER CANBERRA

  PHOTO:  Daniel Spellman

PHOTO: Daniel Spellman

SOULFUL, INTELLIGENT CLOTHES. THAT’S WHAT INSPIRES SUZAN DLOUHY, THE FASHION DESIGNER BEHIND INDEPENDENT LABEL SZN.

Suzan’s new collection promises to smash it on the catwalk at FASHFEST 2016, and here’s why.

Each piece in the collection, called ‘150’, is created from square pieces of fabric measuring precisely 150 cm x 150 cm. Suzan continues to focus on minimal waste in her work, using as much of a piece of fabric as possible, conscious of the fashion industry’s reputation for discarding tonnes of material a year.

With ‘150’, Suzan has carefully selected a range of all-natural fibres that are comfortable and beautiful to wear—organic wool, cotton and hemp. The designs, true to SZN’s aesthetic, focus on simplicity and craftsmanship and appeal to the wearer’s non-conforming spirit.

“The pieces are one-size-fits-all and can be worn from size 8 to size 20 because they drape differently on each body,” says SZN. “They’re oversized garments with a minimal silhouette that you can wear layered.”

Also true to SZN’s aesthetic is a somewhat androgynous look, with Suzan’s designs appealing to men and women. ‘Many artists wear my designs,” says Suzan. “And people who are conceptual thinkers.”

This will be SZN’s third appearance at FASHFEST. Guests can expect a monochrome look and a “super simplified collection”.

After FASHFEST 2014, Suzan moved from Canberra to Melbourne where she’s been teaching fashion at The Social Studio, a fashion label, shop and café that celebrates the style and skills of diverse cultures in Australia. At The Social Studio, she’s had the opportunity to work with young people with talent who have experienced being a refugee.

Suzan is also busy working on collaborations with other artists, and has created costumes for two short sci-fi films and worked with a production company as a costume assistant on a movie coming out soon. She’s also produced garments worn by talent in music videos.

SZN stocks in three Melbourne retail outlets — Milly SleepingNorthern Thread and The Social Studio. Suzan also stocks in Canberra at Assemblage Project in Braddon, owned by Karen Lee (who designs for a fashion label under her own name and will also launch a collection at FASHFEST 2016).

‘Assemblage Project is fantastic,” says Suzan. “Karen is such a great operator and as a shop owner who is also a designer, she “gets it”.”

FASHFEST is being held 29 September to 1 October. Three nights. Six distinctive shows. One total fashion experience. Tickets on sale soon: www.fashfest.com.au

MAKE A UTILITY APRON WITH FASHION DESIGNER SZN | HERCANBERRA

  PHOTO:   Lee Grant

PHOTO: Lee Grant

Here's a great piece by Molly McLaughlin from HerCanberra on upcoming SZN workshop at Nishi's Hotel Hotel: 

Local fashion designer Suzan Dlouhy left Canberra for the bright lights of Melbourne, but she is returning in June to teach a hand-sewing workshop as part of Hotel Hotel’s Fix and Make series.
The workshop will teach participants how to make a utility apron from pre-loved now unloved denim, and Suzan also will be answering questions about sewing and the fashion industry more generally.
“The idea is that we’ll deconstruct some pairs of jeans,” she explains, “and then we’ll look at what kind of apron we want to make, and which part of the denim to use. Depending on how the jeans have been worn, where the holes are, where you can use certain features to enhance your apron or make it adaptable to the situation.”
As well as working on SZN, Suzan teaches sewing classes at The Social Studio in Melbourne, which is a not for profit social enterprise dedicated to improving the lives of young Australians from a refugee or migrant background. Her students use donated fabrics, mostly scraps, which she believes teaches them to design flexibly.
She is equally passionate about fashion and sustainability; studying fashion at CIT after first dabbling in environmental policy study and a stint in the public service.
“In my final year I got more into upcycling because I needed to make a graduate collection at a low cost, so I was looking for free fabric,” she laughs. “I used scraps from other designers and grabbed clothes from the Green Shed. It’s hard to make fashion sustainable – there are so many choices you can make. Just buying from a local designer is a sustainable choice in itself.”
For those of us attempting to move away from overconsumption of fast fashion, Suzan designs with these qualities in mind.
Suzan-Dlouhy-1.jpg
“I always encourage my customers to buy less and choose well,” she says. “A lot of my stuff is oversized so it will fit over many years if you fluctuate sizes. I also make sure that the designs will last with your style over a longer period.”
Many of Suzan’s designs incorporate denim, like the utility apron that she will be making at the Fix and Make workshop, because it is a durable and versatile fabric.
“I love denim,” she says. “As a whole item it can be very specific, but once you cut it up it has a great texture and finish, and it’s timeless. It’s got endless transformation in it as a fabric.”
Suzan will be showing her designs in Canberra at FASHFEST later in the year. Her most recent collection is made using zero waste techniques and organic fibres, and she remains focussed on small-scale production.
“I run a label from half of a bedroom, I don’t have a big studio! Hopefully people will get into the idea that making something doesn’t have to mean a lot of equipment, a lot of skill, or a lot of time.” [Comment by Suzan: design and making does take a lot of time and skill, but your creativity is how you use what resources are avilable to you!]

What: Fix and Make’s Utility Apron workshop with SZN
Where: Hotel Hotel
When: Saturday 11 June. Multiple sessions from 9am-12pm, 10.15am-1.15pm and 11.30-2.30pm
Tickets: $95 or $60 concession. Purchase them here: hotel-hotel.com.au/fixandmake/events/make-a-utility-apron

COLOR CITY | TANTALUM MAG

Clothes: SZN | Photographer: Rupert Laycock | Model (fringe): Daniela from Vicious | Model (pink hair): Sammy Newton from Giant | Make up: Jordanna | Hair: Phoenix Ly | Styling: Tory Price 

See the rest of Tantalum mag here.

SAME SAME BUT DIFFERENT | SPOOK MAGAZINE

Stylist Grace Dlabik of GiDi Creative, was recently interviewed by Spook Magazine, about her creative practice and work in Melbourne and New York fashion industry. The interview featured photos of SZN worn by gorgeous sister models Wegahta and Shewit, here's an excerpt from the interview:

SPOOK: You’ve been in the fashion industry for a long time and working in different areas throughout that. Tell us a bit about your back story and how you got into things. 
GiDi LOVE: I’ve been in this industry for half of my life now, and always predominantly in street wear. When I finished school I went and designed with Fubu – I got a job as a production assistant and then became a product developer and fashion designer. Obviously they were a huge brand in the 90s and was the biggest brand in the States at that time, and I just really resonated with that street culture. When I started my career it was all really great and exciting, designing things and seeing people wearing my stuff and the launches we were doing, but it was all really superficial.
After a few years of being a stay at home mum and taking time to look after my son I went back to work and that evolved into doing styling and then creative direction, but everything was still on a very superficial level, and sometimes I felt quite jaded about the industry and what we were doing, enticing consumerism, what impact we were making... read more here.

[PHOTO: Creative Director & Stylist: GiDi LOVE of GiDi CREATIVE, Photography: Paul Philipson, Makeup: Wanda Waller, Models: Wegahta Ghebremeskel & Shewit Ghebremeskel @ XO Studios.]

FRIDA\FREDA INTERVIEW SZN

Inspired by revolutionaries Frida Kahlo and Freda McDonald (more commonly known as Josephine Baker) FridaFreda is a traveling online photography and fashion project that features contemporary and imagined superheroes created by the women and girls on this site. Part photography, part fashion, part interview and part performance, it is an archive of diverse voices, narratives and styles that document the powers of the women and girls from various cities around the world.

I was styled by Tamara Leacock and photographed by Katherine Soutar wearing all SZN! Here's the interview:

What kind of power would you like?
To be ninja like... I often check ceilings for potential hiding places.
How would it manifest? What would enable it?
To me it represents self confidence and a reliance on ones own abilities. I don't have these abilities in the slightest, but thinking about it enables awareness of oneself, others and the environment.
Who is your favourite superhero/person/public figure, contemporary or imagined?
My family.
What do you admire most about Frida Kahlo and "Freda" Josephine Baker?
Persistence of creative endeavour. They are both artists whose work stands alone and is larger than its self - representative of their personal struggles and social contribution.
What do you think of when you think of them?
Strong self identity. They seem to have a depth of self understanding and conviction.
What would you change in Melbourne? Australia? The world?
Awareness of the other. To move beyond just tolerance rather an acceptance of each other as we are.
Are there any other issues that are important to you? Locally? Globally?
The valuing of art for arts sake. I think if we could apply creative thinking to the world we would appreciate diversity, contribution and representation more.
Do you feel like change is possible in these areas? How? 
Yes, through understanding and acceptance.
Do you think your ideas could change anything?
Yes, every person with the frame of mind of understanding and acceptance is one less person who thinks otherwise.
Are you comfortable speaking your mind/putting ideas into the world?
Yes, but I don't do it enough, but maybe knowing when to be quiet is good too?
Do you consider yourself a feminist? Womanist? Why/why not? What does this mean to you?   
No, I prefer not to label my beliefs, or have my beliefs defined by labels. Feminists/womanists, to me, are people who choose to identify with a social movement to emancipate women from inequality. I support their cause. 
How often do you subconsciously/consciously think about your desired superpower when you dress on a daily basis?     
Occasionally I wonder if I can climb or kick in a particular dress or skirt, then I wear it anyway!

Read more here.