I LOVE Brisbane-based label, Velvet Pins, a beautiful creative partnership between friends Amy Wardrop and Catherine Maddin. Around a year ago I first interviewed Catherine (Catherine Maddin: Dreamtime, Psychedelia & Velvet Pins) and since we last spoke Velvet Pins has launched a new website and a new collection, Find Your Tribe. For those of you new to Velvet Pins they strive to reflect “a culture exploring the grey matter between music, nostalgia and style that rejects the mundane. As the old saying goes…‘Something old; something new. Something borrowed; something blue’. Velvet Pins marries all of these notions to create a label which casts out trends and fads and makes a stand for artistic expression in dressing.” I adore their ponchos, Navajo Dress and Kimono Wrap!
Velvet Pins’ designs have an exotic bohemian flavour; where did your fascination with, and taste for the exotic come from?
CATHERINE MADDIN: It developed with our lifestyle. Holistic living, meditation, freedom of expression and the psychedelic experience!
Is designing something that comes naturally to you?
CM: Amy is always designing amazing prints and patterns and this usually manifests into some kind of shape. We usually just experiment with vintage shapes that we like and alter them to make them ours, unique to us.
What’s your favourite part of the process in creating one of your pieces?
CM: Cutting the sample out using fabric that we have lying around and have been dying to use! The best motivation is the excitement of getting the sample done so we can wear it the next day!
When did you realise that you wanted to become a designer?
CM: I always wanted to do something with clothing, being practical and having skills such as what we have now has always been something we’ve both admired. We both had incredibly positive associations with women who could design and create amazing clothing!
What designers inspire you?
CM: We don’t really follow designers too much. Artists, musicians and native cultures are our biggest inspirations, such as the innovation you see in traditional African dress, the colours, the woven fabrics, the folds and twists. The whole process of creation begins at so much more of a base level than what we are used to. The amazing skills that these women have passed down from generation to generation for the sake of adorning the body and representing things like unique traditions and feminism etc. are the greatest sources of inspiration. There is depth and slowness to the way these women dress and that is what makes it so amazing. It’s like how the more love and attention you put into cooking a meal the better it will taste, these women have worn their heart and culture on their sleeve for centuries, with love and attention. It is an integral component to their tradition.
What does fashion mean to you?
CM: The idea of ‘perfect fashion’ is irritating and soulless. Adorning your body in clothing that has an emotional/spiritual connection to you is what we strive for. The most ‘unfashionable’ people are always the most intriguing. There is immense beauty found in imperfection and obscurities in people and clothing happens to offer us as individuals both insight into one another and ourselves. Everybody has to put something on their back and if you look closely at this it often provides us with some kind of information on the personality of this person. Similar to reading someone’s body language or listening to the words that come out of our mouths, adorning the body in cloth is just another avenue for communication.
Who have been some of your biggest mentors?
CM: Amy and I have both been blessed to have two very similar mentors from a young age. Mine is a woman named Lynda who was a designer around the world who taught design in Melbourne, I think, in the 60s/70s. I was shown her home studio by my Aunty Sharon (who was Lynda’s carer after she sadly developed Dementia). The studio was left completely in the throes of production, there was an unfinished garment still under the needle of her sewing machine, as if she left to answer the front door and never returned. It was a complete haven of her amazing creativity with incredible old design books and beautiful water-colour illustrations, intricate brass buttons lay splayed over her massive design table alongside old hand-made patterns and a massive pair of shears engraved with her name. An incredible 50 year old mannequin sat in the corner of the room with a half-finished summer dress tacked on with old rusty pins. There were so many wonderous things to look at, the place was haptic and inspiring in every way. I still often think back to that place. Lynda and I only spoke once but I feel like she showed me so much with that room in her house and I still consider her memory and belongings to be my greatest mentor.
How do you ladies each complement each other in relation to working on Velvet Pins together?
CM: Amy and I are constantly being drawn to the same items of inspiration all the time. We are sisters and our sisters are sisters, we have a strong family bond and the work we do together is forever.
What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced getting Velvet Pins up and running?
CM: Motivation, having a steady home for our work, balancing our ‘day jobs’ with our Pins work, getting the correct machinery making ends meet etc. the usual struggles of everyday living I suppose. But all you need is that deep desire to do something for yourself and you can do anything! It’s just about syncing up our lives and committing to it with everything we have.
Velvet Pins released an amazing Cyprus collection in 2011. Find Your Tribe is the next collection; tell us about it. What inspired it?
CM: Amy had written ‘Find Your Tribe’ on a piece of paper in our office one day and we both must have looked at it every day when we were working on the collection. It is the perfect phrase for our brand really and until now we hadn’t really verbalised so eloquently that this was our brands ethos. The collection in many ways is inspired by that phrase alone, the collection is the first we have done purely for us. Cyprus was for a store in Brisbane and all of our clothing in the past hasn’t been completely for ourselves. So, the range has been a bit of an exploration of what we could achieve and what we really wanted, finding our aesthetic and our own culture.
Do you listen to music while you work? What would I find on your playlists?
CM: Of course! We are always listening to lots of different things. Our old workspace was in a house of music, we would listen to new Dreamtime recordings while working, or Amy’s partner would be in the next room making music. And if that wasn’t going on we would listen to records all day! Some Friday afternoons I find Amy going on her youtube rampage and get sucked into the vortex of indulgent music videos of Kanye West and ASAP Rocky! Have you heard that song Peso by ASAP? BASS!
What’s the rest of the year hold for Velvet Pins?
CM: Now we have done the first drop of Find Your Tribe we are back into the designing/creating mode! Then I guess we will do it all again but with plenty of sunshine and wine in between!
*Photos from Velvet Pins’ new collection courtesy of the VP site and fb.