MEET THE MAKER… As a fashion designer with a lovely old rambling garden, Tassie based designer Sandra Alcorn says it was only a matter of time until her passion for flowers and design intertwined. Her exquisite range of petal & pins greeting cards and limited edition art prints feature photographs of miniature dresses created from nature for her Garden Fairy’s Wardrobe.
Tell us about your background and interest in fashion design.
I grew up in Sydney with the most wonderful dress up box to play with containing vintage dresses and old theatrical costumes, that was the beginning of my love of fashion and textiles.
After graduating from the Fashion Design Studio I designed for several fashion houses before moving to Hobart and opening my own studio specialising in bridal and eveningwear.
In the spring of 2011, swapping fabric for flowers, I started making my miniature dresses and blogging stories from the wardrobe and other creative musings from my studio. In 2012, with my husband Simon, I launched petal & pins with our first range of greeting cards featuring the Garden Fairy’s Wardrobe.
What designers and artists have inspired you over the years?
I have a wonderful book called Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations (published for an exhibition of the same name at The Metropolitan Museum of Art) which perfectly symbolises the mix of designers and artists whose work I admire — the old and the new.
It shows in the things I surround myself with in my home and my designs for petal & pins – a 1950’s Christian Dior inspired ballgown created with fading rose petals, a touch of Anna Sui’s romance + rock glam in a patchwork tunic from a mix of spring flowers and a dress using hellebore flowers inspired by a chapter in that book — Ugly Chic — where Miuccia Prada talks about the French epithet jolie laide (literally ‘pretty/ugly’).
What’s the secret to a beautiful garden?
For me it’s one that entices you to linger and explore, changes with the seasons, and has a spot for quiet contemplation and joyous celebration in the company of friends…and of course lots of flowers!
How did spending time with your flora prompt a transition from fashion to miniature petal designs?
My studio looks onto my garden and I often step into it to pause for thought, feel the warmth of the sun or pick a few flowers, it was in one of those moments that I created my first miniature dress from aquilegia flowers.
I could see the folds of the fabric I was working with reflected in the petals and it quickly became a daily ritual that I began to document with photographs before scattering the dresses back into the garden.
Tell us about your range, and the relationship you have with nature. How does working so intricately with ephemeral material influence what you create?
petal & pins greeting cards are released as collections – currently red carpet, catwalk, prêt-à-porter and the camellia collection (an ode to Coco Chanel) are available as single cards and notecard sets with an artist’s quote.
We also a have a selection of limited edition art prints from the Garden Fairy’s Wardrobe digitally printed on beautiful cotton rag paper.
A large part of the enjoyment I get from creating the dresses comes from their ephemeral nature, the immediacy of being able to transform an idea into reality (as opposed to working with cloth). The element of impermanence also encourages reflection which makes it quite a meditative process.
My experience as a fashion designer shows in the attention to detail within the designs I create with nature, they are sophisticated and extravagant like haute couture but also have a playful side.
We get wonderful feedback about the enjoyment of choosing a particular ‘dress’ for someone and at design markets we love seeing the smiles they elicit and the conversations they spark about fashion, gardens and memories of both.
What three items are the most treasured of your possessions?
My wedding ring, a handwritten letter from my father and a handcrafted velvet rose bought from the legendary atelier Legeron a couture flower maker (est.1880), on a special birthday trip to Paris.
This is your first time at Bowerbird. What are you looking forward to getting up to in Adelaide, outside of market hours?
A stroll through the Adelaide Parklands, sharing a glass of South Australian wine with Simon in the evenings and meeting up with some of the other designers at Bowerbird.
More information: www.petalandpins.com