Designer Gemma Threadgate On The Community Behind A Local Label

by: Rosie Dalton | 3 months ago | Features

Image: Threadgate designer, Gemma Threadgate.

Gemma Threadgate believes in uniform dressing. Which is to say that she believes in buying less and buying better. This is the premise behind her local label, Threadgate, which favours small production runs and focusses on craftsmanship above trends. Working closely with a community of local makers, Gemma delivers tightly-curated collections of staple wardrobe items, crafted in a transparent and minimal waste supply chain, using high quality materials. Here, the designer runs us through the process of creating a Threadgate garment and tells us why she loves screen-printing by hand so much.

Rosie Dalton:Can you tell us a bit about how Threadgate first came to be?
Gemma Threadgate: Threadgate first came to be while I was studying Textile Design at FDS Tafe Ultimo. I designed my first Threadgate collection 'Trouble In Utopia' for my graduation show. It was well received, which made me think maybe I could turn my passion into a label. Having my own label is something I had always dreamt about, so after years of working with other fashion designers and studying I thought the time was right for myself. 

Rosie: Who is involved in bringing a Threadgate piece to life?
Gemma: In the beginning it was mostly just myself, but as each collection has grown, I have begun outsourcing to local small businesses and freelancers to do the work that would take me too long to do. I screen-print the yardage myself, cut all the designs and sew some of the smaller pieces. I have a pattern maker that lives two streets away from me, who has been bringing my production sketches to life since the beginning of the label. Like myself, she also works from home, which is something I want to ingrain in Threadgate and support. I also work with a local printer who mixes my printing inks, rent a table from a print studio in Petersham and work with a maker close to my home.

Image: the Straight Leg Pants in Green

Rosie: Can you run us through the journey of your clothing, from concept to creation?
Gemma: When designing my collections I like to start with a concept or an idea. For my current collection Sleep, I was inspired by Ted Spagna’s body of work Sleep – in which he set cameras up above the beds of his friends to document their sleep. I was drawn to the repetitive nature and routine of sleep and how Spagna had shown this in his work. I find in my everyday life and work that I thrive off repetition and routine. Printing my plaids, it is the same motion over and over again and with printing you are trying to replicate the same design again and again, so this is something I really enjoy and find therapeutic. For each Threadgate item, the fabric is hand screen-printed by myself, individually cut and then sewn together either by myself or my local maker.

Rosie: Why is it so important for you to work closely with local studios here in Sydney?
Gemma: It is important for me to work closely with local studios, because in doing so, I am supporting small businesses and empowering people to work for themselves – which allows them to be in control of their product, time and money. I also find that by having a face-to-face relationship with suppliers and contractors, there is less room for error and miscommunication, making sure the product is the best and most efficient it can be. 

Image: Threagate's unique fabric, up close and personal.

Rosie: What does ethical fashion mean to you and how does this carry through to the brand?
Gemma: As a designer ethical fashion means being responsible and accountable for all parts of your product, starting from the design all the way to the delivery to the customer. The same goes for being a customer, too. We need to be accountable for what we are buying and who we are buying from. This carries through to Threadgate by designing small, practical collections that will last and will hopefully inspire people to buy less and shop locally.

Rosie Can you tell us about some of the fabrics you work with and why?
Gemma: I work with natural fibres as I find them more comfortable to wear and more durable than synthetic or regenerated fibres. My last collection I worked with 100% linen, which wore really nicely but was a little difficult to screen print. This collection I have sourced 100% Japanese cottons in drill, canvas and sheeting in vibrant colours that I haven't seen anywhere else. The quality has been amazing to print and work with and it will wear really nicely over time.

Image: the Moo Moo Dress in Red.

Rosie: Finally, where do you source inspiration for your prints, colour palette and silhouettes?
Gemma: My inspiration for the Sleep collection print designs came from bed sheeting and pyjamas. When working out the plaid pattern I analysed my hours of sleep and tried to turn that into a pattern using the sequence of tiny dots to make up a larger design. I normally start somewhere small for inspiration and go somewhere completely different. Colour is a big part of my designs and everyday life, so I am constantly looking at different colours together and the reaction they create. This collection I wanted colour to play a bigger part in the designs, so I used coloured fabric as the base cloth.

Inspiration for the silhouettes came from the need for comfortable and practical clothing – clothing that you can sleep, work and play in. Having a uniform is an idea I really like and find myself doing daily. I think this goes back to our current state of over consumption. With Threadgate pieces I wanted to pair this back and have a simple wardrobe consisting of a shirt, pant and dress.

Shop the Threadgate collection over here.

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