Stephanie Downey – the woman behind Melbourne fashion label Dress Up – reflects on getting started in fashion, her label’s ethos and why manufacturing locally has become a labour of love
A DENIM PANTSUIT, a beige sweater, a silk shirt dress with a fine line drawing by illustrator Bianca Miro Skoudy: it’s the kind of style you want to copy and paste onto yourself. Not only are Dress Up’s designs effortless and original, every detail is considered: the fabrics are high quality; the cuts are feminine, but not overly girly; and there’s pockets – proper, functioning pockets that you can actually fit your things in. It’s clothing for when duty calls. Dress Up began 11 years ago, after lead designer Stephanie Downey completed a fashion degree at RMIT. She never set out to start a label. Rather, she just continued the processes she learnt at university: conceptualising designs and making them a reality. The label grew slowly, mostly through word of mouth. Friends would wear her pieces and she was spurred by the response she was getting. “I never had any money or a backer so it’s grown quite organically,” Downey says. Better yet, she does it all locally from her Collingwood studio. “The reason why the label’s grown so slowly is mostly down to the fact that we make things locally. Just finding the right makers and getting them to understand your design and how you want to do things takes time.” Looking back at Dress Up’s steady rise to prominence, Downey attributes the brand’s success to one key factor: Melbourne. “I think Melbourne is really interested in fostering locally made products and businesses – [consumers] seek it out. There’s a real community and it crosses over with food, fashion, art and lots of other creative industries. I think we’re lucky like that.” There’s a real sense of camaraderie between other local labels too. Dress Up is set to appear at the Melbourne Fashion Week showcase, Garage Runway, alongside her Melbourne labelmates on Sunday September 3. This showcase takes place outdoors in a concealed carpark and will feature new season looks from independent local labels like Arnsdorf, Kloke, Pageant and Verner.
What I wish I knew from the start: “How to have a work-life balance. I have a two year old now, and that’s helped me remove myself emotionally a bit from work. Work is no longer my everything.” Rebecca Russo àdressup. net.au.