studio pop-in with Nita-Jane McMahon

Your designs reveal a great sense of tailoring. Any thoughts on venturing into menswear patterns?
I hadn’t thought about doing a line into menswear.  Now you’ve planted a seed. I have been into the idea of doing non-gendered kids' patterns and I could definitely see an adult version of that. I have tried the Aeolian Tee on Ben (Mr Pattern Fantastique) and it needed some new hem lengths but I definitely would call it a fit. He is still waiting for his very own Aeolian Tee. He may have to come to a workshop and make his own.

Have you ever seen a stranger wearing a garment made with one of your patterns? If so, did your heart skip a beat?
Yes, and Yes.  Once, in real life, the wearer was very hip and I was way too embarrassed to say anything. She looked amazing wearing an Aeolian in denim. Social media is so great, I love that I can check Instagram hash tags and see a catalogue of styles that the sewing collective have produced and so generously shared. It is a great example of how much textiles impact on the design. I market and brand the patterns in a particular way but I know they have the potential to be reinvented by the maker with textiles and styling.  It breaks down the hierarchy of traditional fashion design. 

You're a designer who's had a long career in the industry. How have recent developments in digital patterns affected the way you work? 
Once I realised it was a thing (PDF’s), it was on. I had alway intended on having a fashion label at some stage and when the time seemed right (in terms of what I was doing with my life) many Australian labels were falling over. I think I knew the system was broken already, I had drafted up many business plans and couldn’t see how I could make it work here. I was also really uncomfortable knowing how environmentally and socially toxic fashion manufacturing could be and it gave me the chance to face it. Which was kind of big. I realised having a pattern label not only ticked the boxes for me creatively but it also opened up an opportunity to be part of the revolution.

The most important lesson I learnt from my textiles design studies is that the finishes (whether they'd be structured or not) make the quality of the end product. What are your thoughts on this?
I have alway been a bit crazy about finishes.  The durability of the garment is dependant on its construction. Obsolescence is a design feature that is really apparent in the electronics and industrial design industries and now rife in fashion.  The thing that breaks is deliberately designed into the garment. Denim that tears, invisible zips that pop, etc. This extends from high st to luxury brands. It’s much more of an issue in women’s and girls' wear. I naively imagined myself being the consumer of the luxury goods I was designing and having really high expectations of the performance of these clothes.  It wasn’t until I was a stay-at-home-mum, without a supply of free clothes, that I noticed how unobtainable well-made things are and what crazy expectations are on people, women in particular, to have brand new, seasonal clothing. Which is why sewing is so cool and having the revelation that something you have made can be washed, repeatedly pressed and worn for 10+ years.  So I see ‘finishes’ not just as sewing straight and inserting zips correctly and having nice insides etc but a whole design concept that makes a garment. From shaping, style, textile choice and components as well as construction, these are the elements which make the garment desirable enough that you want to keep wearing it. It really stands out now. I design patterns that are for all levels and really believe in skill-building. The instructions try to make no assumptions about what people know and not underestimate people’s ability to learn new things. They are really clear with heaps of illustrations that have been thoroughly tested. If you come across a style you’ve not tried before these booklets will hold your hand through it. I see that as much of a part of the pattern design as the fancy curves and good fit.  

Nita-Jane will be leading the Constructing with a digital pattern- the Lucent visor class on Saturday the 27th of February from 10-4pm and the Construction with a digital pattern- the Aeolian dress class on Saturday the 26th of March from 10-4pm.

All photos courtesy of Heartland.