fashion | 19 may 2018
Kitschy fake flowers in acid greens and silky hoodies in baby blues, textile designer Elise Brimer embraces colour clash like no other.
words: lara daly
photographs: bex mcgill & elise Brimer
make up: lara daly
hair: andrew cobeldick
model: eugie boyd
Elise has been sprinkling Wellington with her bright creations one pair of hand-painted earrings at a time. After graduating from Massey University last year with a Bachelor of Design, Elise has been exploring connections between the organic and the artificial, the beautiful and the garish. We caught up with the crafty young designer to talk about her latest collection, sneaking in to uni after hours and her desire to be surrounded by flowers and colour.
Hi Elise! What drew you to working with textiles?
I was always into knitting, embroidery and doing weird little crafty things since I was about four. My mum had a change of plans and decided to go study textiles, so I didn’t know much about it until she started at Massey. She’s a weaver so she works with a lot of natural textures but when I saw what they were doing with print and colour I was like, I want do that! We had two years where we were both at uni at the same time which was kinda weird.
"I only ever took one fashion paper so I didn’t properly learn how to sew, I sort of taught myself with shitty patterns from Spotlight"
When did you start making wearable things with textiles?
In my final year at uni we had a shared studio space with textile and fashion so I got to know a lot of the fashion students. It was really fun to branch out and collaborate with them. I only ever took one fashion paper so I didn’t properly learn how to sew, I sort of taught myself with shitty patterns from Spotlight. My mum’s a great sewer so she helped me out and she sewed all of my final collection for me which was amazing.
You have a unique eye for print and finding colour clash that works. What inspires you?
Just pretty things, like flowers obviously. I love different pinks and yellows together and I started exploring colour combos of pastels with a pop of bright or neon. I wanted to exhaust that whole interest with my recent prints and play with whatever colours and flowers I liked without the restrictions of uni. Real flowers would just perish as soon as I cut the stems off so I started sourcing fake flowers from $2 shops. Plastic ones are great ‘cos I can tape them together to fit under the scanner and go back two weeks later and still have them. They also have this kind of ironic, nostalgic quality that I like.
"When I first started working at a production studio there was a lot of Googling under the table trying to find out how to work with different fabrics!"
What were your biggest challenges working with fabric?
Studying textiles there was more of a focus on the ‘meta concept’ behind your work and trying to come up with this really wanky thing would often take me in a direction I wouldn’t want to go. I didn’t learn much about actual properties of different fibres and why you would use this fibre for this purpose and so on. When I first started working at a production studio there was a lot of Googling under the table trying to find out how to work with different fabrics!
You’ve experimented with techniques like digital print, embroidery and natural dye. What’s your favourite?
Definitely digital print. I love how you can use an infinite amount of colours, you can’t really get that with anything else. And it’s instant which appeals to me ‘cos I’m so impatient. Natural dye was a nightmare for me, it’s so cool but it’s too unpredictable! I’d be using a vegetable dye expecting to get this nice bright yellow and then it would just turn out like brown on the day, you have no control over it.
Many people know you by your hand-painted fritter earrings. When did the idea for them come about?
In 2015 I started making bracelets and earrings for myself and I would wear them to work. My boss liked them and wanted to sell them at Small Acorns, so I started to make more and I had all this clay to play with. I gave my fritter earrings to my friends to wear and then it kind of just grew! I refined the design a bit and started stocking them at more places.
Where would we typically find you working on your designs?
On my days off I’m usually in my cave of a room with the curtains closed, Shortland Street on, coffee or glass of wine depending on the hour… When I’m working full-time I’ll get up early and do a coat of glaze or paint on some earrings and that will be dry when I get home from work. There’s a lot of drying time so I have to schedule it well. When I need to scan my prints I’m sneaky ‘cos I still have my swipe card from uni so I’ll go in after hours to use the scanners there!
"I don’t come from a fashion background so I like the idea of simple, oversized styles like hoodies and boxy button-up silk shirts to show off the fabric."
What are you most excited about?
I’ve just made a little brain-child of a new collection... I want to explore clothing more and hone in on a small range of garments. I don’t come from a fashion background so I like the idea of simple, oversized styles like hoodies and boxy button-up silk shirts to show off the fabric. I want to make things that are comfortable to wear, look cool but seem effortless which I feel suits Wellingtonian style.
Describe your personal style in 3 words:
What. Ever’s. Clean.
When was the last time you really felt like an adult?
I had to pay a really big ACC bill the other day and that really stung.
Last time you really didn’t?
Everytime I wake up in my room at my parent’s house and come home to a hot meal
on the table! It’s great but it’s bleak.
Favourite coffee spot in Wellington?
Raglan Roast on Abel Smith street or Milk Crate.
Go-to karaoke song?
Pure Shores by All Saints
If you were a candy what you be?
Go behind the scenes with Eugie. Video by Bex McGill.
Elise Brimer @elisebrimer
Bex McGill @bex_mcgill
Lara Daly @lara.daly
Andrew Cobeldick @_filthymisfit
Eugie Boyd @ug_boyd
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