Apr 04, 2013 4:54PM

MBFWA 2013 Studio Visit: Elissa McGowan

We visit the young designer before her debut show at Fashion Week.

23-year-old designer Elissa McGowan is showing at MBFWA for the first time as part of TAFE's Innovators show. Last year Byron Spencer shot her graduate collection for Oyster, and we profiled the rising star as one to watch. She has already been picked up by leading PR company Little Hero. We visited Elissa in her Newtown warehouse to check-in on her progress before Fashion Week.

Ingrid Kesa: What is the first word that springs to mind which describes how you feel?
Elissa McGowan: Nervous!

Understandable. You were saying earlier that you slept here the other night?
Yeah. I decided to have a friend who's also doing a show come over and do her work here and she wanted to keep cutting. At 4:30am I decided to call it quits so I slept on a sheet of neoprene.

The glamorous world of fashion. Are any of your pieces completed yet?
I've got a couple of pieces completed but mostly... let me think... some are at the makers and then there's seven key pieces that still have to go, so there's still a lot of work to do. I'm almost there!

How many individual pieces are there altogether?
Let me count — 23.

It must be a really awesome feeling to know that your dreams of becoming a designer are coming true...
It's a bit scary and I don't really think it has hit me yet. I'm pretty sure it's going to hit sometime soon — probably just before the models go down the runway. [Laughs] And I'll probably cry, which I did at the graduation show, so...

Can you tell me about that brocade that you developed? How did you do that?
I was actually at Little Bay and I was looking at the rocks — as I tend to do, which is why I have about a million photos of rocks saved to my phone — and I found this particularly interesting one. When I was doing my grad collection I wanted to develop something a bit more textured and I came across an agent who had the ability to let me do that, so basically it started off with a photo of some rocks and then I used the colourways that I'd done in a digital print before and tried to translate that into a new texture. It was a bit of trial and error.

In terms of your graduate collection that we've shot for Oyster already, how have you built upon that?
I dropped one of the stories in the collection, which was the one where the model was styled with the crop top and the checked pants, because I didn't feel like it was as fluid as the other stories, and then I've basically worked in a few more elements of texture using fabrics different ways. I've brought in a really bright pink and I think that's kind of it. I just wanted to make it a bit lighter.

It's all very pastel now which is nice, and there's also a few 'sports luxe' references with the exposed zippers.
I'm the least 'sports luxe' person [laughs].

Alexandra Spencer has already worn some of your pieces to New York Fashion Week so to ask you quite a clichéd question, who would be your ideal woman to dress? What kind of girl do you see wearing your clothes, obviously there would be a a bit of yourself, but who's the dream girl of your collection?
I always find myself referencing somewhere between Patti Smith and Jerry Hall. It's kind of like a boy but a girl, somewhere in the middle.

No Jerry Hall jumpsuits here though? 
It's too 60s for there to be a 70s jumpsuit but maybe in the next collection there'll be a jumpsuit. I love a good jumpsuit!

You're showing as part of a group for Fashion Week; how much control do you get in the creative direction of it? Do you get to choose music and models?
At this point I have chosen music. Hair and make-up has been decided by Nick [the head of The Design Studio] and we didn't have any input on that, but it's fairly clean so noones really worried. We didn't get to do the casting... We have only twenty girls doing the show so Leroy, who's opening the show, will have the first fourteen girls and then I'm going after him so I'll have the following six and then they'll start to repeat... I've got this guy called Dan Boud shooting backstage which will be nice, and that will be fun.

Are your parents coming for the show?
They are coming and some of my aunties are coming as well!

Follow Elissa McGowan on Instagram in the lead-up to MBFWA

Photography: Gavriel Maynard