In the short two-and-a-half years since Emma debuted her TAFE collection at Fashion Week's The Innovators Show in 2011, she has established stockists across Australia and in New York City. Along with this commercial success, she has picked up some big name supporters, including M.I.A, Susie Bubble and Kanye West.
It was Emma's undeniable talent, creativity and hard work that grabbed ABSOLUT Vodka's attention when they were brainstorming their BLUE ROOM project. Emma, along with VJ Sampology, sculptor Dion Horstmans and digital artist Jimmy McGilchrist, will work with a select group of ABSOLUT Facebook members to create an ABSOLUT limited-edition vodka, and partake in a series of national events. If you are keen to work with any of these creatives, and to showcase your talents—head to their Facebook page.
We caught up with Emma to chat about her new Spring Campaign, just how one gets a break in the fashion industry, and staying true to her design ethos.
TUL: Your Spring Break campaign looks like a whole lot of fun and the swimwear takes me straight back to 1988—with a dash of 90s grunge. Can you tell us a bit about your love for the 80s and beach culture?
Emma Mulholland: I really love colour and print, surf culture from the 80s and 90s was all about that and it was all I wanted to wear when I was growing up. It's fun for me to play around with it in more of a fashion sense, as you get to develop and experiment with ideas.
TUL: Do you design with anyone particular in mind?
Emma: Not so much, I think I have in my mind the way I want people to wear it and look, but then it's a nice surprise the way people interpret it into their own style. I find this way cooler than them just wearing it how I have it in the lookbook. ??
TUL: There is such an interesting design juxtaposition within your work. On the one hand it is so irreverent, colourful and playful, and the simplicity of the silhouettes makes it all very wearable. Yet upon closer inspection you utilise detailed embellishment, embroidery and extraordinary prints.? How do you meld these two approaches together?
Emma: It's something I have been trying to perfect since the early stages; I need things to always be wearable, functional and flattering. Because it's not actually a skate or surf brand I get to push things further, because I'm not working to that price point, so that's why I can add some embellishment or embroideries to the pieces.
I think it creates more of a unique look, rather then just sticking to plain prints and block colour, although it can be a nightmare come production because there are so many different things going on.
TUL: During TAFE, you have said at times your teachers would question your design approach and fabric choices, was it a challenge staying true to your vision?
Emma: My teachers were actually always pretty supportive of my style and design approach, I think they could see I wasn't going to change my ways, but most of the time I think they just thought I was a bit loopy. It was more my technical skills they were worried about—and I don't blame them. I didn't pick up sewing and patternmaking easily, so sometimes I had great ideas but no skills to execute them. Now, because I don't have to do that all by myself, I can produce much better things. ??
TUL: Earlier in your career you interned with some of Australia's leading designers, including Dion Lee and Romance Was Born. Now that your label is burgeoning internationally, have you drawn on those experiences?
Emma: Yes, I was very lucky to have worked with such amazing designers at the early stages of their careers, so I kind of had some idea about what I was getting myself into. It's great to see how far they have come and it's inspiring me to keep going.
TUL: Your first solo Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week show, Spring Break, in April this year received rave reviews, can you tell us what is next for the label?
Emma: I'm about to shoot my winter collection next week, so just trying to keep my eye on the prize and make sure that everything is ready. After sales for that are over, I'm planning on heading over to LA to try and set up some meetings over there. ??
TUL: Do you have an international focus?
Emma: Not so much at the moment but I have plans for the next year to continue growing my label overseas. I have some new stockists in America that I am excited about and I really want to get into some stores in Japan also. ??
TUL: Kanye West, M.I.A, Susie Bubble, you have some pretty big names supporting the label—I can imagine this is reaffirming?
Emma: Stuff like that is great to see, dressing celebrities isn't my focus, but when it's someone I admire like M.I.A or Susie it does give you a bit of a buzz. ??
TUL: Living in Sydney can you tell us some of your favourite places to eat out?
Emma: I love Japanese so generally eat that for most meals, I like Ju Ju in Kings Cross or Sushi Suma on Cleveland Street.?
TUL: You are currently taking part in the ABSOLUT BLUE ROOM project, can you tell us a little about the initiative and why it is so important to foster emerging talent?
Emma: I definitely had a lot of encouragement and help from actually going out and experiencing things when I was studying. There are so many skills you don't learn in TAFE or Uni that you need for the real world.
ABSOLUT is giving people the opportunity to get creative and submit ideas, then the chosen ones will work with me, or whoever they want to on the project, and get to see it come to life at the ABSOLUT BLUE ROOM launch party.
It's not often you don't have to pay for things yourself, or get to work with something like the ABSOLUT brand when you are starting out. So it's a very cool and exciting project for people working in their chosen creative field, to get their ideas seen on such a large scale. So I'm looking forward to working with whoever is chosen!