Image: Caitlin photographed by Agnieszka Chabros for our Catalogue Girls series.
These days it’s perceivably harder than ever to make a creative life work. Rents are skyrocketing, so are travel costs, and most arts-led industries (and governing bodies) seem to exploit rather than properly fund or pay their own ‘workforce’. Also, Trump is the present president-elect. In other words: it can feel like an impossible time to care about making a difference. That being said, we’re the generation that wants to make a difference; galvanised by a generational gap that refuses to recognise priorities that, in a decade when we’re ruling the world, will be no-brainers. Across Australia and New Zealand exciting and innovative ideas are pushing a social agenda, and Caitlin Shearer is a part of that new wave. Designing using only local materials from her Melbourne studio, Shearer believes in an individualism that keeps things weird, pushing against fast fashion’s reigning bland aesthetic by seeking creative support networks that celebrate difference, not homologous identities. We had a chat with Caitlin to see what keeps her ticking when things are tough, and capture her in pretty amazing environment.
Catalogue: Hey Caitlin! You are an illustrator, seamstress, curator and clothing and textile designer who works from her studio in Melbourne. When did you first become interested in clothing design?
Caitlin: As a young one, I would always have a tantrum if my mum tried to dress me in pants, so I think I’ve always been overly conscious of clothing and what it is like to wear. I started working creatively at the age of 18 by delving into the illustration world, and fashion illustration was something that particularly interested me at that time – it seemed like a natural progression to make the clothing I was drawing into real garments rather than just them being static on paper. Illustration and textile design also go hand-in hand, so I think this project and label came together very naturally, based upon my lifelong obsession with curating my own wardrobe and from keeping a very keen eye on costume design through the decades – I spent my early 20’s in a hermit crab shell and educated myself by watching too many old movies, from the 20s to the 70s. These visions inform what I do now.
Catalogue: You have so many skills that all work together in creating your incredible clothing. Do you have a favourite part of your creative process, if so, why?
Caitlin: I love sitting at a desk and being so into a piece of work that time, temperature, space, no longer really exist: that meditative zone is where I feel most at ease.
I also love figuring out who I am through making. It’s a self exploratory thing to do – and the final product says so much about me – sometimes that is easier to share with other people than having to speak it.
Catalogue: Your clothing is made locally and ethically, what is your opinion on fast fashion and where do you think, or at least hope, future fashion is leading in terms of it’s manufactured process?:
Caitlin: Yes! I design and make everything in the studio, and all my fabrics are printed here in Melbourne – which is a very difficult and time consuming effort – sewing from dawn till dusk is often the only thing on my calendar – but if I’m going to put things out into the world then the least I can do is support the local economy and creative scene and feel good about it, deep down in my heart. I try not to support fast fashion – I source a lot of vintage fabric to make one-off pieces, style my shoots with vintage from my own wardrobe and buy a majority of my clothes from op-shops. There’s a thrifty rural peasant italian streak in my family which has always been there and intrinsically influences these decisions, but I also want to lead by example – I would rather my clothing be loved and worn and situated in someones wardrobe and life like a dear and special friend. By trying to avoid fickle trends and focusing on classic silhouettes I hope that these garments will be able to do that.
I am saddened by humongous companies which plop their branding onto beautiful old buildings in the city, thereby crushing visions of beauty and heritage. They rip-off small designers, have no respect for the creative process and turn design into a cyclical, hurried and worthless money making exercise. People then do not know how to respect the creative industry of ‘clothing design’ as a wholly important and innovative form of art – people disregard the immense skill that goes into tailoring, pattern-making, shoe-making, etc…. and the knowledge behind using the right fabrics, colours, proportions. A light needs to be shone back on these skills, which are slowly disappearing from daily life.
These mega brands offer people a new personality to slip into – I want everyone to embrace their own weirdness and curate a wardrobe that speaks of all the beautiful things inside their own heads! It’s something to play with and enjoy and we forget that. I want fashion to embrace the weird again – for everyone to LITERALLY wear their heart on their sleeve.
Catalogue: The prints you design are incredible. Who or what is currently inspiring you creatively?
Caitlin: Thank you! I am currently inspired by the overhanging roses in every garden of Moonee Ponds and Brunswick. Also Blueberries, the colour pink, empowered females, self confidence, bird memes, twin sets, resin jewellery by my gal pal Rosaleen Ryan, tambour embroidery, Jacqueline Roque – the wife of Picasso.
Catalogue: Are you currently working on any other creative projects?
Caitlin: I have just curated an exhibition with my friend Sophia Cai, which opens at Enough Space on the 17th – it’s all about the colour pink and it’s connotations, and features 20 Australian female artists who question and celebrate the colour. I’m working on a zine for Helio Press which is run by illustrator superstar Ashley Ronning – doing some illustration work for Hopeless Lingerie, working on some special stock for Footscray boutique Paradise Structures, and just finished some pencilled artwork for a group exhibition at Boom Gallery in Geelong called Pencil Pushers. I can’t seem to say no to all these good opportunities coming my way!
Catalogue: As a female in the creative community, do you find you are supported as a designer?
Caitlin: I moved to Melbourne 5 months ago and the support I’ve received from the FEMALE creative community here has been incredible – it’s changed my life and how I view myself and my work – I’ve gained an inexplicable amount of confidence: it’s Caitlin 2.0! Other creative women are my biggest supporters AND, most importantly ALLIES – none of us have a tonne of cash but we all shell out the clams to support each other’s work anyway – we all rep each other’s work hardcore – and we try not to step on each other’s toes, understanding that the creative process is so personal and heartfelt . We go to each others’ openings, share our knowledge – and we keep each other going with support and cat memes on Facebook and craft clubs and after work vinos and sometimes comfort eating while watching Will & Grace on a sunday afternoon. we love each other – that’s what is important. Men are another issue altogether – I don’t know how to break into that bubble and to be honest, I can’t be bothered to try. Queens of our own queendom, ya know.
Catalogue: If you found $100, what would you spend it on?
Caitlin: I’d probably go to savers and buy some old pairs of leather shoes, a few antique books on gardening and everything silky and satiny on the pyjama rack because they are about $4 each. How many pairs of Satin PJs can i buy with that!? Not enough!!
Catalogue: What are you most looking forward to for Summer 16/17?:
Caitlin: I’m going to go back to NSW to see my family, swim in the ocean everyday, cut my hair super short – and most excitingly, I’m going to be an aunty for the first time to my Brother Nicholas’s soon-to-be Baby! Oh, and I’m taking a suitcase of Melbourne made goods back to gift to my loved ones!