FASHFEST 2016 DESIGNER PROFILE | INK & LEATHERS

Thanks to Grant from Ink & Leathers for a detailed profile on SZN:

Photo: Martin Ollman

Photo: Martin Ollman

Suzan Dlouhy is a name known to many in the Canberra fashion scene. Founding her label SZN in 2012, Suzan quickly created a name for herself with her avant garde styling and her dedication to creating a label founded on principals of sustainable design. With a focus on simplicity and craftsmanship, SZN produces beautiful, intelligent pieces for a contemporary audience.

As a label SZN is Fashfest alumni and has showed collections twice previously, before Suzan moved the label to Melbourne. Since leaving Canberra Suzan has not only expanded into the Melbourne market, now stocked at Milly Sleeping and The Social Studio in Melbourne (as well as Canberra’s own Assemblage project); but has also been active in  designing for many art projects, including music videos and short films. Most recently SZN showed as a part of the FreekA runway at Melbourne Spring Fashion Week.

The last SZN collection for Fashfest 2014 was a revelation for me. I’d previously thought of recycled and environmentally conscious design as clunky, poorly made and ugly. If you’d ever seen the garments showcased on Regretsy you would know exactly what I am talking about. However what Suzan presented was a beautiful collection of striking silhouettes and stunningly crafted denim pieces that leapt off the runway and into my imagination.

I’m still dreaming about the striped denim t-shirt from this collection, and cursing myself for not ordering one right away.

Photo: Beige Renegade

Photo: Beige Renegade

As you can imagine I am very excited to see SZN return to the Fashfest runways for 2016, and I wanted to catch up with Suzan to see what she has been up to since we saw her last, and to see what insight I can get to her 2016 collection.

It has been almost two years now since you moved your label to Melbourne, and anyone who follows you on social media would be aware of the exciting work you’ve produced in this time. Can you give us a brief update on what the move has meant for SZN as a label? 

Since moving to Melbourne I’ve enjoyed engaging in several different projects, such as costume assisting on a feature film; teaching clothing production at a social enterprise; designing and making costumes for two sci-fi short films; and working on costumes for a dance company. Its been a way for me to experiment and try out new directions for SZN. Though Canberra is always close to my heart, and I’ve been lucky to return to the ACT to work on projects such as the Fix and Make workshops, and contribute garments to the latest film clip for musician Tak-Un-Da. Most recently I collaborated with photographer Eryca Green who shot a self-portrait series featuring SZN.

Something that I am dying to know is whether we’ll be seeing more menswear from you this year; or if you’re focusing on womenswear only? 

Photo: Beige Renegade

Photo: Beige Renegade

Yes this year I’ll present a unisex collection, though its not traditional menswear (or womenswear for that matter) its for the more experimental dresser.

What has brought you back to Fashfest for 2016? Is it something you always intended to do? 

I would’ve liked to have shown last year as well, but unfortunately I was busy. I saw the images that came through and loved the work and new location, I really think that Fashfest has been a great platform to showcase great fashion designers.

There’s been an increase in the sustainable design presence at Fashfest since you first showed, and I think this is in part thanks to your label’s influence. Would you agree that you’re something of a trail-blazer, leading the way for beautiful, sustainable design in Canberra? 

Thank you, I think that generally awareness of environmental issues is more prevalent in the media and this has an impact across many industries. It’s also a legacy of the emphasis that was placed on sustainable thinking at CIT by design teachers, Steve Wright and Cate Shaw, who were also responsible for highlighting diverse practices through fashion events such as Fashionably Early. These events help to contextualise fashion as design thinking and designers as responsible for informed practices.

After so long away from Canberra it must be exciting to be showing in front of the home-crowd again. What can you tell us about the inspiration behind your collection for Fashfest this year, and what you have in store for us? 

Yes I’m super excited and appreciate the chance to be showing a Spring Summer collection. SZN’s current collection considers minimal waste through reductive pattern-making.

Photo: SZN

Photo: SZN

Like origami for the body each garment is made from a 150cm square piece of fabric. Featuring sustainable textiles such as hemp and organic cotton, which are hard-wearing and develop character with use.

I have constructed garments in a neutral palette of ivory, black and chambray. A requirement of the design of each garment is to be gender and size flexible.

I’m inspired by Japanese calligraphy within marks and seals – lines through geometric shapes that resonate with the 2D nature of my pattern making.

You can see SZN during ‘Spectra‘, closing night, Saturday 1 October, 6.30 pm.

Fashfest 2016 will run from 29 September to 1 October at the award winning National Convention Centre. Tickets are on sale now.