Named for Barbara Merritt, Manapa Butler, Ruby McIntosh and Roy Merritt – four Aboriginal artists from the Yamiji region surrounding Geraldton in Western Australia, Antipodium’s AW2010 collection ‘Ab-Fab’ takes inspiration from the natural beauty of the region’s wildflowers and Dreamtime folklore. Interestingly “Ab-Fab” was conceived in New York and previewed in London, but true to their moniker, Antipodium have crafted a stunning, uniquely Australian collection. Pedestrian recently caught up with Antipodium’s Geoffrey J. Finch to discuss unlikely inspiration, travelling to the remote Yamiji region and the whimsical results of homesickness.
Hey Geoffrey, tell us about your AW2010 collection.
Ab-Fab celebrates the work and personalities of four Aboriginal artists from the remote Geraldton region of Western Australia. The mismatched prints, bowerbird trims, focus on textures and the earthy palette create to the nonchalant, nomadic chic I wanted to offer this season.
What did you learn from those artists – Barbara Merritt, Manapa Butler, Ruby McIntosh and Roy Merritt – respectively?
They are all so talented and yet down to earth with a good sense of humour – such a delightful contrast to the industry trolls you can come across. Their warmth, sincerity and enthusiasm is really striking.
Did working with them change your perception of design?
I was really taken with the deep spiritual connection the artists have with their land. Despite being a country boy I’d never really been able to get a grasp it until I worked with them. It was also tremendously inspiring to see how the artists communicate truly ancient stories in their totally modern work.
Did you travel to the Yamiji region?
Yes, we drove all the all 6 hours from the Perth to Geraldton. The landscape is otherworldly and strangely we were listening to War of the Worlds on repeat. The highway stretches through incredible ochre valleys, across grassy flats and past lonely service stations. And then you get to Geraldton where it’s so windy on the waterfront that the trees grow horizontally. It’s rather different to Shoreditch.
When did you first become aware of their work and were they originally receptive to collaborating?
I spent a long time researching artists and finally came across Roy Merritt’s weirdly wonderful weavings and then discovered rest of the Ab-Fab Four. The artists were excited about the project right from its naissance and have been incredible to work with. None of them had ever had work commissioned before – especially not by some designer based on the other side of the world – so it was a rather steep but enriching learning curve for all of us.
Why did you choose to go in such a strong, characteristically Australian direction this season?
Strangely I was in New York for appointments when a friend got me thinking about Aboriginal art again. Then I was in Perth a week later and became thoroughly obsessed with the freshness of some of the contemporary Aboriginal art I saw there. A couple of months later I met the Ab-Fab Four in Geraldton and knew it was the right thing to be celebrating in the new collection.
What are your favourite pieces?
I love the Dreamtime Skirt in Barbara Merritt’s Seven Sisters Print. It’s an easy to wear shape which puts Barbara’s genius centre stage. I also love the Seventh Sister dress with it’s rainbow serpent straps and ‘fertility’ bust cups.
Who do you see wearing this collection?
It was rather gratifying to see to so many pieces wandering about London Fashion Week on totally trendy young divas. Oh, and I hear that Rihanna is dying for her Walkabout shorts – I love that we’re beating around her bush…so to speak.
All Photos Provided by Antipodium‘s Geoffrey J. Finch