Words by: Tahlia Sanders
I stumbled across Abbey Rich whilst scrolling through Instagram one day and was instantly intrigued by her quirky prints; unconventional, vintage-inspired silhouettes; and the handmade quality to her work. Abbey Rich’s aesthetic makes me feel nostalgic for a time I can’t quite remember. It reminds me in many ways of Gorman, perhaps before the brand went mainstream, when it was a little more pared back and rustic.
It feels rare in these days of fast fashion and computerised design to encounter a textile designer with such a hands-on approach to sartorial artistry. I was curious to find out more about Abbey’s work, so I got in contact with her for a chat.
Can you tell us a little bit about your story and how you came to be interested in textile design?
I’ve grown up in a creative family, my mum is an artist, one side of grandparents ran a home wares/textile business and my other granddad was a graphics teacher. Naturally as a young teenager I wanted no part in all of that but as I got to the end of high school I realised that creativity was innate within me and I had no choice. I am so thankful for that realisation – but indeed it wasn’t really until last year where my love for art and design took over my life and it [became] all I would ever want.
What exactly does textile design involve and what is the process behind your pieces?
Predominantly textile design is the surface design or construction of fabrics. For me, I see it now as the whole process of what I do and I feel no restrictions on what I am doing. I’d like to think my work fits more as a piece of art compared to a piece of fast fashion clothing. My process is super haphazard and occurs quite organically. I try not to overthink things and just enjoy the process of making art. I don’t really plan things; my work usually just fits together as a result of my aesthetic etc.
What inspires your work?
I am fascinated by the world around me. I am that person who constantly comments on the beauty in everything. As my love for art and design consumes me I’ve noticed myself becoming so bloody appreciative of the natural world and the people that change it. Life is special and I don’t let myself forget it, every piece of my work is in response to something I’ve experienced or works to create an experience for its wearer. It sounds quite abstract and bizarre but I guess it makes sense to me.
What lead you to turn your creative passions into a business?
It was all kind of by accident to be honest. I mean I’d wanted to have my work out in the world for a while now but I was still in the mindset I’d finish uni and then either get a job with a label or just freelance. I threw a couple of things online and it has just grown from there and I honestly have no idea how!
All of your pieces are handmade. Why is this important to you? What are your thoughts on fast fashion, as opposed to the carefully constructed work you produce?
The process is so important to me. I’m fascinated by artists like Andy Warhol because of their lives and their practice. Sure it is important that my work looks beautiful in the end but the process is the most beautiful part to me. Creating handmade pieces means I am in control from start to finish and those who buy my work know that they are buying something that was created lovingly in my north Melbourne studio. Fast fashion is such a western beast; unfortunately with the current mindset of our society fast fashion is somewhat unavoidable. We need to value our wardrobe, piece for piece and perhaps we need to remove ourselves from trends and the need to have the latest thing. I’m glad there are people that think otherwise and I rely on their desires for something special.
What are your views on the Australian fashion scene? Have you found it to be a positive environment for up-and-coming creatives like yourself?
I am not sure to be quite honest, I have been so supported from the people around me but I don’t feel like I am actually a part of the fashion scene. I am supported by other visual artists more than anything and I couldn’t be more positive about that. I owe everything to them in making me feel like my work was worth something instead of a transient piece of fast fashion. I am thankful to be treated like an artist because it is what I love; however in the same breath I completely admire and respect so many local fashion designers for their innovation and beautiful creations, I’ve just fallen into a different crowd I suppose.
Do you have any tips for creatives looking to turn their hobby into a business?
Don’t overthink it. Don’t wait around for the opportunities to come to you. Work hard, be creative but just have fun and hopefully things will work out.
What’s next for Abbey Rich?
Who knows really! Nothing I’ve done over the past few years have been in any way planned. I am open to experimenting with my practice and pushing my creative process further. I am excited about the unknown and will forever be inspired by those who inhabit the world around me.