By | September 5, 2017



Words by Rebecca Ochab

Material sourcing for a collection is typically a scavenger hunt for textiles in a labyrinth of fabric bolts in the most dodgy part of the city. Designers buy copious yards of material that may or may not be used in the collection. Per contra, Alexandra Deam of Melbourne based label DIS/OWNED doesn’t do anything typically. Her (Re)design philosophy involves browsing through op shops or through friends for garments that she can rework into something entirely new. Still generating innovative collections, Deam believes in a more sustainable approach to collection creation. Not garment genesis per se but material manipulation into something entirely innovative. Think Margiela – in terms of material preservation but in a millennial context. Questions? I got a chance to pick the designer’s brain about her highly conceptual creative process. So I got (some) answers. The rest are speculative, at best, but I have a feeling that Deam prefers things that way.


Describe to me the origins of your interest in fashion.  

AD: I actually learnt to sew when I was about 9. I used to go to a sewing class every Sunday afternoon which is where I think it all started, the teacher was a big fan of us getting experimental in her elderly way. I got more involved in fashion towards the end of high school, which is when I decided to pursue it as a career. But it wasn’t until halfway through my Bachelors that I took hard look at my influences, values and ethics, which is when my journey to ‘Designer’ really begun.


It’s easy to aspire to be a designer but much more difficult to truly pursue it. What do you find challenging about design / production ?

AD: For me it’s sourcing the right materials. My materials are reclaimed post fashion garments that I find in op shops or from friends, so getting the perfect garment to use for a particular design or work in a collection is always tricky and takes a lot of trial and error. Luckily for me hunting in op shops is one of my favourite pastimes!


So, when starting a new collection, it begins with materials? Is there something else that initially inspires the collection?

AD: Usually it starts with the materials. I like to play around with them and get a feel for the fabrics and the shapes before starting to experiment on a mannequin. A lot of the theoretical or political inspirations are quite organic in the work, they come through very unconsciously in the design process whilst my head is so focused on the technical considerations. It’s not until after I’ve finished a piece that I can start to see the complexity and all the intangible things that make fashion, Fashion.


It seems that you’re one of the few designers that truly understands fashion as an industry versus fashion as a creative force that drives culture. It may be difficult, then, but describe your design aesthetic in a few words.

AD: Playful, feminine, abstract, boyish, serious. It’s a mix of everything that fashion was, with how I feel it should be.


It sounds like an interesting harmony. Describe your latest collection to me.

AD: The DIS/OWNED capsule collection is a study of garments, as both a material and subject for design. It was inspired by the methodologies of textile conservation, a series of design interventions have been developed to reconstruct unwanted or post fashion garments into new forms that function as both fashion products and a platform for commentary on materiality and social attitudes towards lingerie. The visible exposure of whole or parts of lingerie reflects on the social perception of underwear and faux pas; Visible Panty Lines, the traditionally unacceptable visible bra strap, trends of exposing sides or backs of bras through low cut garments, rejecting the idea that the visibility of the bra suggests a sexual context – exploring the clash between traditional ideas on femininity and the role of underwear in modern culture.