Image: Anny Duff photographed by Jonno Revanche.
Anny Duff is the name behind Good Studios, the Adelaide brand that reps sustainability as much as it does gorgeous silhouettes: they’re all about using practical materials with a sleepy, stylish bend that translates into effortless looks. However, she is rarely seen at the forefront of her designs – she vanishes into the shadows, letting her ridiculously admirable work ethic and output speak for itself. At the heart of her practice lies a desire to pay homage to the places where she is from, to the land and the people on it and their stories, which is why her gallery/studio space in Adelaide – named after the brand – is perfect for the Vaein Zine exhibition Documentarian (and upcoming artist panel talk Secession.) We spoke to her about the quiet satisfaction of work, her roots and history, and how her multi-disciplinary approach has panned out in a fickle industry.
Jonno: You do so much amazing work behind the scenes on your label, as well as working as a stylist and in production on some huge film projects here in Australia. What are some things people might not know about you given these circumstances?
Anny: I starting earning my stripes in film and television on sets as soon as I finished school, so I actually don’t have any formal training in film or fashion and I feel very lucky to have been able to build my career as I have. When you throw yourself into a project or business pursuit with no background you grow so much as a person and learn so much about what you’re capable of (especially how to ask for help!). I think I always knew I would be a creative but one of the hardest things when you’re figuring out how you will practice and earn a living from it is refining what you do. Even still I struggle between doing too much and not feeling fulfilled when I’m only doing one thing, its a constant pursuit of balance and feeding each area into the other to give them all cohesive meaning.
Jonno: Do you think not being trained in conventional ways helped you develop your unique style and sensibilities?
Anny: To be honest, I have no idea because I don’t know any better! I find that I’m a bit more of a risk taker possibly because I have no insight into the statistics of failure or success in my chosen fields. Starting a label and opening a studio with only a very basic understanding of how to run a business seemed so crazy at the time, but man has it been the best ride!
Jonno: Do you feel apprehensive about being the “face” of your work?
Anny: YES, very. I want the work to speak for itself, but I also have an overwhelming sense of being the sum of many many parts and they should all be up here with me.
Jonno: It’s interesting and admirable that you let your work speak for itself. But what kind of styles do you gravitate toward when you’re shopping yourself? Are there any other brands you’re fond of?
Anny: I love the basics, most days you’ll find me in a pair of old jeans and a t-shirt. In terms of shopping I invest in pieces that tell a sustainable story, like my kangaroo leather RM Williams, a local business using leather from an animal that doesn’t destroy our natural environment, or my Patagonia jacket that uses traceable down.
Jonno: You also help curate shows at your studio in Adelaide, which is where the Vaein exhibition is happening. Is there a common thread running through many these shows?
Anny: Aesthetically the space lends itself to many different practices and themes but more often than not we have curated photography shows with a focus on nature and the environment. In the coming months we are focusing a little more on story and the marginalised voice, starting with vaein this September and asylum seeker Pierre Mukeba from Congo in November.
Jonno: What do you feel inspired by at the moment? Do you feel responsible for staying in Adelaide + making sure great things happen?
Anny: I love working in Adelaide. It is my home and I have a deep sense of pride that I am doing my small bit in giving back to the arts and fashion industry here. That being said, Australia is a hard nut to crack and this has really come home for me in the months leading up to launching my first store in Tokyo. Birkenstock Japan (who are my distributers in Japan) are so encouraging and excited about the label, but here in Australia stockists are fickle and I can’t even get a business loan. I rely heavily on my loyal online customers which are predominantly in the eastern states but I never get tired of telling people I make my clothes where I was born and still live. For me, coming onshore to Adelaide has been the proudest achievement of the journey thus far for Good Studios.
Jonno: Do you ever feel like you would live anywhere else?
Anny: I’d quite happily live in Japan, but the label will always be Australian made and I think I’ll always have a base here in Adelaide.
Check out the exhibition at Good Studios on Sturt Street in Adelaide and open until the 18th September – and don’t miss the artists’ talk this Saturday