The rite of passage for Australian designers is typically formulaic, comprising of an acclaimed graduate collection or an fashion internship abroad (with a small business grant just for good measure). Designer Edwina Sinclair is an outlier to this trend, founding her label SOOT in 2010, with nothing but a high school certificate and a hyper-cool consumer in mind.
After picking up the basics of patternmaking and sewing in a short course at the Australian Institute of Fashion, the SOOT designer quietly built her label, before the key players in the local industry started making noise (and a lot of it). What followed was an unprecedented reaction to Edwina's youthful branding, culminating in consecutive fashion week showings, the launch of a conceptualised retail space and a place in the hallowed QUT Fine Arts (Fashion) undergraduate degree.
Despite her commercial success, the SOOT head designer is not one to rest on her laurels. She acknowledges the challenges of existing in an industry embattled with retail woes and new trade regulations that complicate onshore production. Perhaps the hardest part of being an emerging designer is the title itself. For how long can a designer seek to emerge? The hype surrounding new design figures is often transient, spurred by a rapid news cycle and consumption habits. But rather than overcompensating, Edwina has streamlined her operations, focusing on producing quality campaign imagery and building cohesive ranges.
'Last semester we did draping and everyone in the class came up with something so innovative. We really just created garments from shapes but it puts it into perspective that you don't always have to research the trends or find out what's coming next season..you can come up with something wearable just from basic shapes'.
An acceptance into the Fine Arts (fashion) degree hasn't changed Edwina's direction in design, but the coursework has served as a catalyst for experimentation. This year, the Brisbane-based fashion student was welcomed into the QUT Fashion Incubator, an enterprise aimed at promoting sustainable fashion business, by offering production, design and advisory support. Specifically, Edwina hopes to work alongside industry mentors to refine her range building techniques and strengthen her pitch to prospective buyers. Sales agents are out of the equation for now and it's fitting that her current selling strategy isn't a strategy at all. Case in point: picking up a new buyer in Sydney after the shop owner complimented Edwina on her SOOT leggings.
Aside from a functional design space, Edwina's studio acts as an archive, documenting her progression from the earliest SOOT samples and retired runway pieces. The racks are a visual time capsule overflowing with two years of design work, tidings of things yet to come.