A few month ago I was invited by Todd Anthony to his self funded fashion Expo. I had heard great things about Todd Anthony, I was so eager to get more insight and a story behind the designs.
The show “Hybrid 524′, the invitation stating ‘Be the first to meet some of Melbourne’s most innovative designers showcase their brand new collections’. ‘Get up close and personal’. ‘Opportunity to mingle and share a glass of bubbly’. How could I refuse!!
On arrival I was greeted and introduced to Todd. I think I was instantly magnetized. A super charismatic man with the very personable approach. He stood out for all the right reasons and I was taken aback by his attention to detail, his attentiveness to others and his incredible ease and warmth of character. There were many people there and I wanted to stand back and capture the atmosphere and the energy around him and get a general feel.
I’d been working with an awesome model Sam Carson, I wanted to have him work with Todd on this project, so all was organised setting up a studio in Todd’s apartment. It was a very exciting creative mix of talent that really worked well, each of us pushed to get the best.
During our shoot we talked about so many things. I asked him what made him decide to start a career as a fashion designer?
Todd tells me about his career as a professional dancer, ‘Dancing from eight and always feeling invincible, as I got a little older I felt my body change and realised the impending end to a happy dance career’. An inevitable life shift faced by all dancers, he knew he needed to do something that had the same combination of creativity and discipline, affirming ‘The only thing I could think of was fashion’. With strong ambition and determination he studies both undergraduate and masters degrees at Whitehouse Institute of Design. The undergraduate in Sydney and masters in Melbourne.
His career has flourished, lecturing at the Fashion Institute in Melbourne, I wanted to know more about his development, what he teaches and the way he sees fashion eduction today?
‘I teach design’, adding, ‘Illustration and design business looking at brand marketing and such. I learn as much from my students as they learn from me. It is a magical thing to do’, saying with great satisfaction, ‘Inspiring others to create is a wonderful privilege’. He is a very amiable person, with a passion to advance others and with this creative and progressive personality he has tutored and nurtured many students, enriching their learning not only with his knowledge of fashion but his life experiences.
Tell me what you see in the students?
‘In the beginning I see fear and uncertainty but day by day I see each student grow in their individual way.’ He finds, ‘At some point throughout their degree a ball will drop or a sparkle of light will come and that’s the moment I think. Ha! that student is now a designer’.
It must be a very rewarding experience the conception and spark of creativity and seeing unique designs take shape, I ask how do you approach teaching fashion?
He explains that his priority is to give the students contemporary design knowledge without creating baby Todd’s ‘I nurture all aesthetically’ directions.
Back to the Hybrid Event, I found it interesting that three designers, including Todd, self funded the event. Why? Private funding?
‘Yes I collaborated with three other creatives all of us producing local and ethical products but all showcasing something different. Yes we funded the event ourselves. We wanted to test this small boutique static trade showcase idea to see how the industry would respond. It was terribly successful so we will do it again’.
Do you think that major corporations should be backing the fashion industry?
“YES YES YES so should the Government’. Todd’s eyes rolling, he adds,’ I believe there is sooooo much opportunity within this country for manufacturing of both textiles and products’, ‘Our best graduates leave Australia for the North in order to make their way. There is so much talent so much land so much money to be made. I actually am totally perplexed that finding funding is so difficult’.
For all the contacts I’ve made in this while working on this blog, the general feed back is grim when it comes to funding and support of up and coming designers. The Council of Textile and Fashion are working hard to push development and growth in the industry forward, but what about corporate funding or even lottery funding (as in the UK). There must be many schemes that could and should be designed by larger corporates. I am very eager to know if this is happening? I know that Myer works with RMIT and Cotton On have a student training project, but why have the large corporates not been putting their name to schemes, grants and awards and funding of the Universities and TAFE’s? Getting new grads financial opportunities to take their new enthusiastic energy to the next level. I would very much like to be part of this and feel that the gap needs to be filled. With the right funding and investment the fashion industry could evolve into a something massive and contend with other business sector economical pullers.
Can you tell what inspired you to do your own expo?
He answers, “For years I have been lecturing my students to support local suppliers. Manufacture locally and consider ethical and eco design. I wasn’t doing that myself. I felt fraudulent and thought screw this I’m going to show them it can be done. It took me 18 months but I did it.’
Its great to see that the show was a success, I know how hard Todd worked to get that off the ground. It crucial that more financial support is directed for designers fashion expo events. Todd definitely has the right ideas getting people involved face to face, networking and putting the designer and the business together.
I want to see more events like this and am looking forward to the next one. I will keep you all posted on Todd’s plans. If you know about funding and supporting new up and coming designers, I would be interested.
I asked what do you think about the Melbourne fashion industry?
Reinforcing his view on talent here, he thinks the Melbourne fashion industry is astonishing ,’I’ll tell you why, Designers here do not have access to a lot of new fabrications and technologies that the rest of the world can access so readily. This creates great opportunity for innovation and that’s what Melbourne designers do. They create and innovate because they have to. I call them engineers rather than just designers’.
How do you think the fashion industry here can be pushed into the global market? How do you feel about that?
‘The way fashion or Australian fashion is showcased and promoted needs to change. I love a good fashion week but. Fashion showcases move in trends as does fashion itself. The way in which we promote Australian design needs to be considered carefully and this goes back to the financial support as discussed earlier’.
I think that is so significant, Todd and I see the standard here in Melbourne. Its eco development and growth in innovation is thriving, it’s exciting and the future looks bright, but it still comes back to funding and financial. Lets get things moving before the talent ships off to other countries never to be seen again.
What do you think about Australian fashion to European fashion?
Todd thinks its major difference with Australian fashion to European is that the Australian consumer is far more conservative when it comes to dressing. ‘Mind you’ he jokes ,”This is a generalisation because at some of the events I beam with smiles at men in sparkles and women in heels so high I get vertigo. But generally Australians are not as adventurous with fashion’.
So where do you see the Melbourne made fashion in the future? Do you think there is a market place for ‘Melbourne Made’?
Todd feels there are so many strong innovative Melbourne designers again, he mentions that all need a platform in which to promote showcase and sell. ‘Melbourne has the space and the interest’, which is good to know. He sees that the fashion climate is changing with the big European guys coming in. He wants Australian Designers to innovate again and ‘play the game differently than ever before’. Todd’s view, ‘It will all be about the entire experience for the consumer. Melbourne designers need a story they can share and an experience they can deliver. How wonderful’.
I agree – mainstream, mainstream, mainstream – its time for a shake up – more big business and department stores, not only need to re think their approach to brands, they need to take some risks and get behind independent Melbourne designers. It does sound right and the talent is outstanding here, a change is needed, bring it on!
So when Todd isn’t busy lecturing, he manages to squeeze in the time to design and run a successful fashion business. Having seen and photographed his garments, I was eager to get more information about his ideas behind his concepts and more about Todd Anthony. I asked him about his designs and inspirations?
‘My designs are inspired by the things I love which are. Japanese flowers, Art Deco furniture and Australian birds’, mentioning,’ I use fine virgin wool and bamboo knits’. Every piece is draped and can be worn numerous ways due to the buckles used as closures. ‘I design for myself, meaning if I wouldn’t wear it it doesn’t get made’.
You mentioned that you aren’t keen on your designs being labelled ambiguous? How would you describe your work?
Todd’s clothes are menswear, explaining, ‘By having a soft aesthetic myself, lots of women showed interest in what I was doing’. He makes it clear that, ‘It’s not unisex that makes me think of women dressing masculine nor is it’s androgynous because that makes me think of boys dressing feminine, so I call it non binary. My designs don’t seem to favour masculine or feminine they just are’.
The designs flow around the body. The fabric choice works, giving a soft and tactile appearance. Some of the clothes are almost seamless, just hanging. The clothes can be dressed up and down allowing a versatile and modern style.
You have done a lot in your life? What are your future ambitions?
He answered, ‘It sounds naff but I don’t make long term goals. As a dancer I learned that once you achieve a goal as wonderful as it is you feel instant terror. Where now? It’s done and now I’m lost. The goal is simply to keep going and to enjoy the process as I move forward. To be happy with my work true to my braving and ethos and to inspire change in the consumers mind to embrace and support local design’.
Who inspires you in life ? His response, My mother and father. They see the real me and do nothing but love me’. This is so evident when you meet Todd, a strong image with self confident and positive persona. I’d say beautiful, not just in appearance, but all his soul.
Who are you inspirations in fashion? I love Todd’s answers,’I miss Joan Rivers. Lol. I know I know but she did inspire me. She said “anyone who takes fashion too seriously is an idiot” whenever I overthink or if I am having difficulty in trusting myself or even worse if I start to doubt my work I think of that quote’.
For a very ambitious man a question that need to be asked – Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
His answer, ‘Working from my little farm in the middle of nowhere in my onsie, with my laptop, living off the grid developing new and better design that is transparent ethical sustainable and local’. Love it ! A perfect way to go!
I had the best time working with Todd, British born, he hasn’t forgotten his British sense of humour. Living here most of his life, He’s a true success!
Thank you for the jokes, sarcasm and fab stories x
Thanks to Sam Carson for his awesome work and the lovely Matthew Saint Clair for your fantastic make up and hair work xx
Find Todd Anthony on Info@toddanthony.design www.toddanthony.design