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madeit designer spotlight Retrofied

Tell us a bit about yourself

Hello! I'm Leanne, the creator and maker here at Retrofied. By day, I'm a contractor at one of the large government agencies here in Canberra where my world revolves around regulatory reform, policy coordination, consultation and briefings, briefings, and more briefings. After hours, I'm mum to my three gorgeous kids - Jude (3), Marcus (7) and Elke (8) - and general crafting fanatic and retro devotee. I first came to Canberra for university 20 years ago and, aside from a year away spent working in France, have been here ever since -- that's 19 Canberra winters done & dusted, phew! I grew up in Newcastle and would be back in a flash if my partner could get a job there...one day maybe {fingers-crossed}.

madeit designer spotlight Retrofied

Can you explain your craft/art and the material you like to use?

My craft is a celebration of vintage colour, print and pattern. I use beautiful vintage fabric remnants in all textures and forms - cottons, wools and synthetics - I love them all! The retro synthetics are my absolute favourite materials to work with -- they can be challenging to sew but they feel so good to touch and I think they make gorgeous little purses, which is lucky because they're pretty hideous fabrics to wear as clothing. I also use the distinctive patterns found in retro wallpapers to create designs which I print and set in jeweller's resin to make fun little earrings. The challenge is bring all of the different colours and patterns together in one place to create a collection that's visually exciting and cohesive, rather than looking like a chaotic mess!

Where do you get your inspiration and what is your creative process?

Inspiration to create comes from everywhere; well, maybe not in the greige of my day job office cubicle but most other places! My new collection of little polka dot studs is inspired by the colours of my retro kitchen canister collection...teal, acid green, orange, red, aqua, gorgeous!! My coin purses are inspired by the shape of a tiny play purse I had as a little girl. I even like hanging out in front of the paint swatch displays at Bunnings just to soak up some colour combo goodness -- all sorts of ideas can come from there.

As for my creative process, well when I first set up my Madeit store I'd sketched out a plan to fill it with all of the things that I love making for myself -- it was going to be about skirts and shift dresses made from my favourite vintage sewing patterns, along with bags and purses and a few other things. But with only little snippets of time available each week to actually design and make, I quickly realised that there's a world of difference between making a few things here and there for myself and pulling together a range for sale. If my little store was going to survive I decided that I needed to keep some firm reigns on my creative process and limit my product range to just a couple of lines of smaller items in order to keep production manageable. That said though, even with some self-imposed boundaries, I find my creative process is constantly evolving. As I go along, I'm refining my techniques, finding better ways to do things, letting some products go and bringing new things in. It's good to keep some flexibility, and it's exciting not quite knowing where it's going to end up.

How long have you been creating and how did you get into craft/art?

I can't remember ever not making things and I'm not happy unless I'm making something! I've been sewing since I was a little girl; my mum trained as a textiles and design teacher and was always making beautiful clothes so I think that my love of turning pretty fabrics into pretty things stems from there. A walk through my house and shed reveals a cavalcade of crafty endeavours that I've played with over the years; there's lots of lino and relief prints and tapestries on the walls, patchworked cushions on the couch, leadlighting, beading, weaving, a cupboard full of hand-sewn skirts, the list goes on. I'm a chronic crafting addict!

How did you come up with your business name?

I tossed around a few ideas with my partner but kept coming back to the name 'Retrofied'. I'm always 'retrofying' things, adding a little bit of vintage charm to the shiny new, so I guess it just felt like a good fit. Luckily I was able to register the business name when I was starting out so I just ran with that.

What resources 'have or do you' use to help your creative pursuits (i.e. groups, classes, shops, websites etc)?

YouTube is my favourite online resource, I use it all the time to fumble my way through photoshop when I get technically stuck, which is often -- thank goodness for all of the nice people out there who share their awesome tutorials.

Op-shops are my favourite offline resource, I love the promise of kitschy treasures waiting to be found, repurposed and reloved.

I've done an assortment of art/craft/design courses over the years, none directly related to Retrofied but all of which have provided some rudimentary design fundamentals that I can draw on as part of my creative process. Tapping into resources to improve my photography is on my 'to do' list; there are some things that I just can't work out how to photograph for my Madeit store, so they're sitting in limbo until I sort that out.

What's your best advice for someone starting up?

If you're just starting out, my advice would be to take time at the outset to give some thought to what you want your label/brand to be about, what your point of difference is, and who your target market is. Make this your ongoing point of reference as your label grows and evolves; it will help you to keep things unified and hopefully ensure that you stand out from the crowd.

Do you have any advertising/promotion tips for sellers to be successful?

To be honest, I don't feel at all qualified to be offering tips on advertising and promo as I've done very little of this actively myself. I do have a facebook page but I couldn't claim that I use this to drive sales; I tend to just pop in and out as I remember! I'm super grateful to Blackbird Corner in Newcastle (and their lovely customers) for their support as they have had Retrofied on their shelves from the very beginning. I'm also grateful to Madeit for providing such a supportive platform for Australian makers to get their work out there, and of course to my Madeit customers, a number of whom I know do some awesome promo on my behalf {thank you!}. There are some fabulous advertising opportunities available to sellers via Madeit and I'd totally recommend that sellers looking for more exposure take advantage of these when they can.

Can you share any lessons that you have learned the hard way?

My big lesson is that you can never be 'too busy' to back up your files. A world of pain awaits if you have all of your digital designs, product pics, spreadsheets and notes saved on a laptop that spontaneously and randomly decides to meltdown and not restart...and you haven't backed up your data for a very long time. Cue some serious hyperventilating. Back up people!

What do you like to do besides creating?

I love to travel, but that doesn't really happen much these days. Other than that, I love getting some exercise - walk, run, bike ride with the kids, i'll take whatever. I also love a good dig about in the garden. And of course I super love a trawl through a good op shop or antique store.

What is your favourite music, television show, film, book, website?

Music: there's a combo of old stuff shuffling on my ipod right now - My Friend the Chocolate Cake, Led Zeppelin, Santana, Paul Kelly, Dave Brubeck are in the mix

Television: Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad

Film: Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and anything by the Coen brothers

Book: my gorgeous Hundertwasser Portfolio book

Website: WHORANGE : www.whorange.net/whorange, The dainty squid: www.thedaintysquid.com

What would be your perfect day?

My partner had to relocate to Sydney for work in the middle of this year, so right now I'm thinking that a perfect day would be for us to finally find a house in Sydney so that the kids and I could move up, we'd all back together and put an end to our current limbo of being split between two cities -- that would be just perfect!

I'd also be quite happy to see Betty on Mad Men pull a little Retrofied purse out of her handbag; that'd be a pretty perfect day as well :-)

Who is one of your favourite madeit seller, explain why in less than 10 words?

Merry-Go-Round - Prettiest vintage fabric bunting ever.

Retrofied visit store

23 September 2013

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