Time Out (Melbourne) - - Made in Melbourne -

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.

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