The Australian Chamber Orchestra visited us in 2019 to chat about Good Day Girl designing and making new “concert” styles for their female players. It was time for a revamp in look and they were wanting to find an Australian made operation that could offer more of a tailored approach. They were attracted to our slow fashion style - of course we leapt at the opportunity!
For a successful collaboration and to deliver a stage wardrobe the players truly loved, we knew we needed to engage these talented ones from the very beginning. We wanted to understand what it felt like to be on stage performing, how they wanted to feel, the kind of look they wanted to project, what they were looking for in a collective vs individual style. It was also imperative to understand the practicalities and function - fabrics, colours, trims, care - how were these clothes going to live and endure? We also knew, from our own experience, getting dressed needs to be as easy as possible - so we wanted to create a capsule of styles that would be a no brainer to don.
THE FIRST MEETING
Our first meeting with the players was at Angel Place. We rocked up with some black fabrics to have a look under the lights and a few very loose sample concepts to use as discussion points. You can imagine our squirm factor when we were asked to stand on stage and present the loose concepts to the players, who were casually sitting in the audience.
The players of the ACO are incredibly talented - these women are at the top of their field. They are there because of hard work, passion and a quest to be part of something wonderful, that the ACO clearly is.
This was not their first rodeo, they have been getting “dressed” for quite some time, so were totally apt at telling us what they liked and strongly disliked.
We felt a heady combination of awe, fear and complete out-of-our-depthness.
But we took a deep breath and pushed on…...in a fashion.
After that initial meeting, we had a good understanding of what the players were looking for. They wanted a polished, chic look that was uniform but did not look like a uniform.
We got to work gathering inspiration.
Starting with these descriptions of the ACO…..
“...the ACO is known around the world for dynamic, wide reaching programming that explores the links between old and new world.”
“The Australian Chamber Orchestra is uniformly high-octane, arresting and never ordinary.”
“Transformative musical experiences.”
“Renowned around the world for explosive performances, brave interpretations, unique collaborations and adventurous programming.”
We focussed in on words….
Dynamic - Brave - Confident - Elegant - Chic - Individual - Adventurous
And then started looking into design directions that we felt would complement...
Tailored Femininity - Tuxedo Style - Capsule Dressing - Utility - Transeasonal - Versatile - Performance - Endurance
Was to present mood boards and more rough concept samples. This time we were in the green room at the ACO’s offices at Circular Quay - no stage (fright) this time. Concepts are a tricky thing to communicate. As designers, we have it in our heads and often can clearly see it. Articulating and presenting it in a way where our players could understand and see what we were starting to see, was a totally different thing.
But we presented our visual style boards.
And by doing so, was able to get more feedback on the yays, nays and definite no ways.
Back to the cauldron....
IN THE CAULDRON
A few of the considerations we narrowed in on:
- Feel good on the body, breathable and allows for movement
- Looks "black" under the lights
- Washes, wears and endures well
- Travel well
- Looks to suit the dynamic nature of the ACO yet not distract from the performances
- To suit nine different body types
- Need to be able to move, it can be quite athletic
- Versatility: dressed up or informal, depending on where they are performing
- Necklines are very important (no buttons, no busy-ruffle-esque detailing, nothing too low for bowing)
- Flat fronts that won't interfere with instruments
- Sneaky pockets that can't be seen
- Sleeves that can bend at the elbow with ease
- Not everyone comfortable with showing arms without covering
- Ease in getting dressed, focus is on their performance
BACK FOR SHOW + TELL
At Angel Place, on stage again, this time with a little more confidence, we presented the very first samples to the players. While slightly nervy we were feeling strong as we were really enjoying what we were designing. That said, we still had no idea if the concepts would get even a half thumbs up. Thankfully, while there were many more learnings that we needed to adjust for, the overall concepts and looks got an aok….ish.
So back for some more tweaking and sample making.
We headed over to The Concourse in Chatswood, where the ACO was performing. With our measuring tape, pins and clip board we measured each player - which we have to say was one of our favourite moments. We got time with each of the lovelies and really started to get a little connection and deeper understanding of how they wanted to feel and what their own individual style was all about. GOLD!
From this point we went into the finished samples - creating one of each piece so that we could show how each style looked and how it was going to work together as a capsule. It included nine pieces consisting of four tops, two pants, one skirt, one cummerbund and one tulle under/over skirt.
Then Covid hit.
And pretty much put us on hold for most of the year.
We created a look book to show the players what it was looking like and what they might like to be ordering - you can see this here.
Fast forward to October 2020.
YAY to being able to again meet with the players. We had individual appointments at our showroom in Paddington and took each player through the styles, trying pieces on and coming up with their own mini Capsule Collection of five styles and two accessories. The last step was a final measure up and length adjustment.
It was time to get making.
The fabrics had been ordered, and had come in from Japan. So we got busy creating individual grades and patterns for each player per style. Once this was done, the markers were printed out and we were off to visit our maker, Patricia in Chippendale with the fabrics, patterns, markers and accessories.
Here the magic happened.
At the beginning of Feb it was time to invite the players for their final fitting. We headed over to the ACO HQ at Circular Quay and tried all the pieces on. Of course there were some more tweaks and adjustments but overall things were looking good. YAY and PHEW!
The players were looking amazing and thankfully they were also looking happy. Woot WOOT!
After a few more adjustments we rallied to have everything ready for their first performance at Angel Place - Tabula Rasa on Tuesday 9 Feb. We arrived at about 5pm to style them up in the Green Room. And it was BLISS! We thought we would be really nervous to watch the performance, but as soon as we saw them all on stage, donning the styles, looking amazing - we breathed a collective sigh and allowed ourselves to enjoy the moment and of course, the music.
The experience of working with the Australian Chamber Orchestra has been a highlight of our careers. We have loved every minute of it. Getting to know these talented women has been pure joy and we can’t thank the ACO enough for the opportunity. A special thank you to Robin Hall, Lisa Mullineux and Luke Shaw for guiding us through and for trusting us with their treasures.
And to the wonderful musicians who have inspired our hearts, Satu Vanska, Helena Rathbone, Stefanie Farrnads, Aiko Goto, Liisa Pallandi, Maja Savnik, Elizabeth Woolnough, Melissa Barnard and Nicole Divall.
Photos are ours apart from the gorgeous ones at the very beginning and the end by the talented Nic Walker.