All Is A Gentle Spring’s debut runway presentation—which took place in Balmain’s town hall for an amateur theatre performance feel—was a glorious mash-up of 1880s-style corsetry and modern basics.
Using couture techniques like spiral steel boning in the pieces, designer Isabelle Hellyer proved she can deliver more than a cult-worthy corset, offering high waisted mini dresses and tiny, almost delicate fleshes of flesh. The collection was dripping in understated sex appeal, although the beauty look took this to another level. (Hellyer described her models’ skin as “freshly f*cked”, with “a euphoric sheen of sweat highlighting the cheekbones”.)
marie claire Australia caught up with the designer ahead of her debut.
Your past collections have been a fusion of 80s meets 1800s. Bridgerton features orchestral versions of current pop songs, if you could choose one 80s song to get the Bridgerton treatment what would yours be and why?
Madonna is forever an inspiration. Her Ray of Light, Music and American Life album run is my holy trinity. From her 80s catalogue, I’d love to hear Lucky Star reworked on strings.
Tell us about the new collection and what inspired it?
I’m interested in backwards discovery: reintroducing techniques we mightn’t ordinarily find in contemporary, ready-to-wear clothes. I’ve borrowed finishes from the great mid-century couturiers and theatre costumers, including hand-sewing techniques like cartridge pleating and whipstitching, which just can’t be replicated by machine. My great-great-grandmother Ethel ran a dressmaking shop called Bonberette in Melbourne from 1917 until the 1940s, so I feel like I’m paying tribute to her work in some way. I want to continue the tradition of Australian dressmaking.
Charles James, a master of boning, has been a major inspiration. Graciously, Glen Petersen, conservator at The Met’s Costume Institute, supplied us with X-rays of James’ dresses, so we could really see the bones inside. Glen confirmed James worked predominantly with spiral steel boning—the same we’re using in this new collection.
What does showing at AAFW means to you?
Long hours, many hands, saying please, digging deep. Learning how far we can really go for a few moments of something transcendent.
What Australian designers throughout history do you look up to or have inspired you and why?
Catherine Martin. The immaculate Red Curtain Trilogy. I love Strictly Ballroom. Sonia Kruger’s costumes as Tina Sparkle, brilliant. I’m looking forward to Elvis and am hoping Miss Del Rey has a role, somewhere, somehow. I’d say the Australian department stores, some surviving, some long gone, are also interesting to me. Mark Foy’s, David Jones, because of David Jones, Australia was the first place Dior ever showed the New Look outside of Paris. It debuted in 1947 and in 1948 it was flown over to Sydney. I love walking past the old Mark Foy building on Liverpool Street. It’s fun to picture what it might’ve been like to spend a day there when there was an ice rink on the top floor, and a real Parisian flair to it all. I imagine it was a real treat. Glamorous.
In three words, who is the All is a gentle spring wearer?
Isabelle Grace Hellyer.