Gemma, below, will unveil her designs alongside seven other talented emerging designers from Raffles College of Design and Commerce in Sydney. Her MBFWA debut collection is based on the garden she designed and grew for her children, which resulted in a botanical print she has created for the collection.
Have you always been interested in fashion?
Yes, I’ve always loved fashion, ever since I was a little girl.
What stopped you pursing your dream earlier?
My first profession is as a wife, homemaker and mother and as a mother of a somewhat large family, raising my children and creating a happy, stable home took priority – and time!
What prompted you to live this out now?
I’d trained in 2005 as an image consultant, and worked part-time with that, which was highly valuable, but not for me, and from there the desire to design crystallised. At the same time, my family was growing up and as a result I could manage more time-demanding outside interests. Plus, I have a very strong belief in the dignity of women and often felt this wasn’t represented in the fashions available to us, which tend to be highly sexualised – that a woman has to be uncovered to be beautiful. Or at the other end of the spectrum, especially for older women, the look becomes daggy. This came up time and time again in my work with women as an image consultant, so I decided to do something about it!
Are your designs influenced by age at all?
I’m sure they are. I’ve had more time to absorb the beauty of the world around us, to travel, to think, to enjoy the best of design that is kept in museums and art galleries. The role of the designer is innovative but also to bring beauty into our world from what is within us.
Tell us a little bit about what inspired your collection.
I was inspired by my garden, which in spring is a carpet of Jacaranda blue punctuated by white gardenias, roses and Italian-red geraniums amongst verdant green. It is a garden I designed for my children so they could play and climb trees in it so it has a lot of emotional connection for me. I painted water colours of flowers and used these to design a print which features in my collection which is feminine and romantic with a sling of the uber-cool 70s to it.
Did your younger classmates treat you any differently? (whilst studying fashion)
Not that I noticed! We didn’t have a great deal in common to chat about like kids, husbands, school etc – but they were a pretty good bunch and we did have the throes of college life in common.
How did your the younger pupils react when they found out you were a grandmother?
I wasn’t a grandmother when I started so I think they were more amazed when they found out I had five children. When I became a grandmother, I think they were happy for me.
Do you think there is a gap in the market for fashionable older women?
Absolutely. The market is crying out for an elegant, fashionable, sophisticated, dignified, beautiful look for a woman who doesn’t want to dress as a 20-year-old.
Who do you look to for inspiration?
Women of our age: Audrey Hepburn for her inner and outer beauty, Princess Mary of Denmark – a fashionable woman with such an appealing family, Mother Theresa who knew that loving people despite outward appearances was the most important thing you could do.
Designers of our time: Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Christian Dior, Christobel Balenciaga, Mary Quant for their elegant, innovative and feminine design and their ability to cut.
Who are you favourite designers?
Hmm, see above and add Alberta Ferretti, Armani and Dolce and Gabbana. D&G are firm favourites. I love them!
Describe your personal style…
Classical, elegant, glamorous.
Are there any trends or styles that you think older women should steer clear of?
Avoid ‘grandma’ shoes or super high heels! But let’s start just with women. Styles that skim the body are the most flattering at any age. I would recommend avoiding sexualised styles because they don’t reflect all that we, as women, are. For older women, don’t just head for loose baggy garments, good fit is important. Steer clear of doing things the same way you did them 20 years ago – keep your look fresh by adding a dollop of quality on-trend accessories and keeping an eye out for how to wear items on trend, like the current way of wearing scarves.
Do you think you’ll start a trend for grandmothers in fashion?
That would be totes cool, babet! No, seriously, that would be awesome.