Inspired by B-grade horror films, architecture and modern art Australian label, Hopeless Lingerie, charmingly invokes a moody glamour with their lovingly crafted handmade collections. Having recently celebrated Hopeless Lingerie’s 4th birthday and getting set to release latest collection – The Death – designer Gabrielle Adamidis talks to ConversationsWithBianca.com about the journey so far…
Congratulations on your 4th birthday milestone! What did you do to celebrate?
GABRIELLE ADAMIDIS: I had a big giveaway on the blog – a $200 voucher – I think it is really important to say thank you to everyone who has supported me over the years. And I went out with a few friends to sing Karaoke, and drunk too much wine. But that’s okay because I don’t let loose very often!
Out of everything you have achieved so far what are you proudest of?
GA: Earlier this year I had a set featured in Marie Claire Australia, amongst some very big and established brands from Europe and USA. To even be considered on par with them was really special.
Were you interested in designing and sewing when you were young?
GA: Absolutely. My mum always used to sew when I was little, and I loved helping and making little things out of the scraps. I used to love embroidery, cross stitch and long-stitch. And knitting and crochet. As a teenager I made a lot of my own clothes, and cut up and reconstructed second hand and vintage things. I didn’t really start ‘designing’ until my mid-20s, even though I sketched and sewed a lot before then it was more about replicating than making my own. I used to buy a lot of magazines and just sketch garments, do these really detailed drawings including stitches and seams, so when I did start I had a lot of knowledge to build on just through all that observation.
Are you formally-trained? What is your creative background?
GA: I studied fashion at Tafe, and learned how to sew. Before that I was studying art history, film, and literature at uni. I’ve always loved drawing, painting, being creative. I didn’t pursue it initially after high school because of the brilliant advice of a careers counsellor who told me I “wasn’t good enough and it is too difficult to succeed in the creative field”. I wish more than anything I would have done fine arts straight out of high school, but that isn’t what happened. And if I didn’t do that Arts Degree I might never had developed the love of film and cinema I have now. So I suppose it did all happen for a reason.
What inspired you to design lingerie?
GA: Three reasons – One was that I really enjoy small detailed work. Two was that not many people do lingerie, the market is saturated with clothing brands but lingerie is much more of a niche. And three is that I am blessed/cursed with a 10G bust, and the options for girls of my size (small frame, big cups) is very minimal. Over the years I still however have not yet offered underwire bras – the challenges involved are just too great for me as a one-woman show to tackle just yet. But that is the ultimate goal, beautiful supportive underwear for women in an extended size range.
How does being based in Australia influence your work?
GA: To be honest I feel that it limits me more than influences! Unfortunately access to materials here is so limited, in US and UK there is so much more available in terms of colour, elastic, clips, slides, rings. Of course I can shop online but add in shipping costs and it just isn’t as viable, my garments are already expensive because they are handmade. So the influence I suppose then has almost become a trademark – I use black trims a lot because it is all that is available here in Australia to purchase wholesale. So this black edging and framing that runs through a lot of my work is more than just aesthetic.
On Twitter recently you tweeted: Feeling frustrated today – Re: Total lack of manufacturing options in Melbourne, that is only getting worse. Could you please elaborate on this and how it effects/could affect your business?
GA: The garment manufacturing industry in Melbourne is almost non-existent. Our cost of living is just so high comparatively, that it is near impossible to compete with China or India where workers will sew for a fraction of the price. The general fashion industry is one thing – I do have friends that get things made here, but a lingerie machinist? I still haven’t found one. Even if I do find one, I couldn’t afford to pay them a fair wage. I work long, long hours, for below minimum wage, because I am chasing my dream. But I can’t really ask that of another person. So I am kind of stuck. There are only so many garments I can sew in a day, but I need a substantial amount of funds to take my business to the next level. So I am really in limbo at the moment, not sure how to break into the next level. There are also problems with sweatshops in Melbourne, so laws are being put into place to protect those people – but in turn those laws are in fact destroying any chance I might have of employing piece workers. I haven’t read anything about it lately – but the last I did read a few months back was that it was going to be illegal to employ someone to do piece work on a freelance basis. So if you want someone to sew for you, you need to be employing them full time, and they need to work in your studio. This is so they can benefit from work cover and so on. Obviously impossible for small independent brands. It is a very big and complex issue and I am only scraping the surface.
What is your creative process? How do you go about creating a design? Are all your patterns made from scratch?
GA: I like to be quite structured and organised. So I will usually start with a film that will decide the look, colours, mood, and from there I will pull other inspirations. As well as building on previous designs I will introduce new shapes, and yes all my patterns are made from scratch. After spending a few weeks sketching I will start patterns and sampling. They usually change a lot as I sew, figure out what I have the means to do, what will logistically be a good design in terms of materials, and with that in mind try not to kill the creative spirit too!!! At the end of the day I do have to sell these things – so even though it is fun to let your imagination go sometimes, you do have to be realistic and business minded
Do you do custom orders?
GA: Often, but not as often as I would like. I have the freedom to do custom colour ways and shapes but I don’t think customers realise. Even though it’s written on every item in my shop! That’s one of the greatest things about being a small independent, I can easily customise things and it won’t cost very much extra, if anything at all! I think many people think my business is a lot bigger than it is, another thing that is good and bad.
What’s your personal favourite piece in your current collection?
GA: The ‘Lola’ Basque. I love the proportions and the strap detail on the neckline. I am immersed in dark, sheer, clean lines lately. After being very colourful for the past few years I wanted to take a step back and strip everything down.
What’s one of your most popular pieces?
GA: The ‘Jeanne’ Knickers. Super comfortable, vintage inspired, no lines under your clothes, and awesome to sleep in.
You work closely with your sister Dominique; what’s it like working with a family member? Have you always been close?
GA: My sister is the voice of reason, I always ask for her advice. She used to be able to help a lot more but her work and uni commitments have grown lately. When we were very young I was awful to her! I was 8 when she was born and I was very jealous of all the attention she got. As we have gotten older though we have become very close and are very good friends. We often have dinner parties and she stays at my place once a week or so.
How do you complement one another?
GA: She is much more decisive than me.
Your designs combine vintage aesthetics with modern comfort; where did your love for the vintage look come from?
GA: I have just always been drawn to that aesthetic. I can’t really identify a reason! When I started Hopeless I was definitely very into the vintage look, but as time has progressed I think I am looking at things will a bit more of a modern eye. I will always love the vintage silhouette, but it has to moving forward in some way too.
What do you think makes ‘pin-up’ style lingerie so feminine?
GA: Romantic nostalgia, imagining a time where women had a very different place in the world. It’s idealising a time that we never experienced, glossing over the truth and just looking at women in a much more innocent, soft, and subdued light. I think I am pushing away from ‘pin-up’ lately because of this. There is so much more to women, and so much more to me. At the moment I am interested in portraying strength. The ‘pin-up’ era was a time when sex wasn’t really spoken about. Today things are very, very different and I think that is a good thing. Hopeless is moving into a place where it is okay to talk about sex.
Hopeless Lingerie is inspired by various things one being B-grade horror films; what’s some of your favourites that you could share with us?
GA: I love B-grade films in general, so some of these might be a little more action or thriller or comedy rather than strictly horror – but anyway, no need to get technical ha! Top of the list has to be Evil Dead 2, followed by the Nightmare on Elm Streets, The Thing, any Russ Meyer movies, Rosemary’s Baby, all of Romero’s old zombie movies, Escape from LA, Escape from New York, well anything with Kurt Russell, The Poltergeist, Re-animator, The Blob, and action/horror like Predator, Alien v Predator, then there are so many lesser known ones like The People under the Stairs, Night of the Creeps, Slumber Party Massacre, Toxic Avenger… I could go on forever!
Do you listen to music while you work? What are some of your favourite artists?
GA: Yes, I’m either watching movies or listening to music. Lately all I’ve been listening to is Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, The Velvet Underground, Violent Femmes, and David Lee Roth era Van Halen. With a bit of Hall & Oates, and Huey Lewis and The News mixed in for good measure.
I’ve seen a blog post you did featuring Courtney Love and I read about a friend giving you a mix tape at Summer Camp with Suicidal Tendencies on it?
GA: From the beginning of high school I was very much a grunge/punk kid. Obsessed with Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Spiderbait, Hole, Soundgarden, Greenday, Silverchair, Frenzal Rhomb. And I used to see a lot of shows locally and there were lots of hardcore bands that played all ages shows – Suicidal Tendencies was one of the first hardcore bands I really got into. And then right up until a few ago I would go to shows every other weekend. I don’t listen to much hardcore nowadays though, or go out, just getting older and becoming a bit more of a homebody!
Spoil yourself! Do something special for you today,