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Thursday, May 26, 2011


Awhile ago (actually, over a year ago) I did a post on Paul Smith, intended as the first in a series of posts about my mentors. I never did any other mentor posts - although I guess I could count Elton John as a style mentor and I have mentioned Kylie Hawkes on here before.
The mentor thing came about when this blog was being written as an assignment. The subject was called Professional Practice and it was all about preparing to graduate, finding jobs and exploring who we are as designers. We were given the task of identifying who our mentors were. At first I was confused because despite what Whitney Houston said, I've never searched for a hero or someone to look up to. My parents do the job pretty well and I've always liked to figure things out by myself.
I finally understood the task when my teacher explained that mentors don't always need to be like Mr Miyagi from the Karate Kid - they can be people you don't know, they can be in a completely different industry. It's just about identifying people who you admire and can learn from in some way.
This post by Nubby Twiglet reminded me of the whole mentor thing and I thought I should finally finish what I started last year and tell you about the rest of my mentors. I'm not doing a whole post on each, though - just a little bit about them and why I chose them.

Nubby Twiglet is my blogging/online mentor. She's a freelance graphic designer and has pretty much nailed the whole using-your-blog-to-promote-your-business thing. She's created a strong personal brand and an excellent website that showcases her aesthetic and allows readers to get to know the person behind the work. She's always generous with her advice and I can learn a lot from her through reading her blog, especially her 'Ask Nubby' posts.

Mary Quant is my ultimate I-want-to-be-just-like-you mentor. She was a huge influence on the sixties fashion scene and her first shop 'Bazaar' gave me the idea for my dissertation on fashion retail in sixties London. She inspires me because she managed to build a very successful fashion business without slaving to the deadlines and expectations of the ‘fashion world’. She ignored the conventions of two seasons a year and designed small collections all year round, constantly adapting and changing the brand to reflect what her customers wanted.

I have read her book 'Quant by Quant' over and over, and when Mum and I were in London last year we tracked down her original shop, which is now a pasty shop. We had a cup of tea there and when we checked with the waiter that it was indeed the location of her shop, he was so excited that we knew! He was a big Mary Quant fan and so was the other guy working there, who was a fashion student. He then introduced us to some people sitting outside who have lived in Chelsea since the fifties and had some cool memories of the King's Road and Bazaar. I love that even though the shop itself is long gone, there's a sort of Mary Quant appreciation club going on at the pasty shop!

Me with my new friends outside the original location of Bazaar

Kylie Hawkes is the only one I actually know personally. That isn't her in the photo, it's a model wearing my favourite ever shorts which I have in black and pink and the world's comfiest jumper which I have in grey. I've worked for Kylie for about two and a half years and am always learning. She did the same course as me at the same uni, and won the business competition that I came second in last year. Her eponymous label started out at Paddington markets and is now sold in select boutiques all around the country. Oh, and online - she happens to be having a sale on OzSale this weekend! what a coincidence!

Paul Smith is my if-my-dad-was-a-fashion-designer mentor. As I explained in my post about him, there are a lot of similarities between Paul Smith and my dad. They are both called Paul, they both get up early to go swimming every morning, they are both obsessed with cycling and the tour de france. They've also both owned a mini cooper and they both like Harry Potter. So they're pretty much the same except one's a fashion designer and the other isn't. Although with me doing a fashion degree and Mum being a fashion teacher, My dad's probably been to more fashion shows than the average dad. Now I've talked more about Dad than about Paul Smith but I already talked about why he's awesome in last year's post.

Now I feel like I have to mention my mum after all that dad-rambling. She taught me to sew and let me use as much fabric as I liked and use the sewing machine as often as I wanted. Then she said I didn't have to go to uni after high school which turned out to be a bit of clever reverse psychology but it worked so I have her to thank for becoming a fashion designer. She also let me take the good sewing machine and overlocker when I moved out, so that was pretty awesome. Mum had her own little business in the 80s making appliqued jumpers with koalas and gum leaves and stuff on them that hipster kids would probably spend $80 on now for their kitschy-Australiana-coolness.

Pete Townshend of The Who was also listed in my mentor assignment because I had this thing at uni where I would try to sneak The Who into as many assignments as possible (I was pretty successful). I chose Pete because, like my other mentors, he does things differently. He looks at everything as art and is always striving to do something new, preferring to write experimental concept albums rather than aiming for ‘hits’. He's a bit of a grumpy bugger now but I think you're allowed to be when you've had the same job for fifty years! He's got an autobiography coming out next year and I can't wait to read it.

Who are your mentors?


Aria said...

Great post! I don't know...I have to think about my mentors!

Winnie said...

I'd love to see some of your designs! I'm really into young emerging designers at the moment and there are so many bloggers out there who are also trained as designers, it's really inspiring! My mentors are my parents as they've definitely had to struggle to get to where they are now- esp as they made a new life over here after moving from HK.

Josie said...

I'm with you on moms as mentors -- mine is absolutely amazing!
xo Josie

Glowing Doll said...

I love Pete too! I had a teenage obsession and went to loads of Who concerts. Also love Paul smith. Great mentors list!