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Designer Jillian Boustred On Keeping The Local Fashion Industry Alive

by: Rosie Dalton | 1 year ago | Features

Image: designer Jillian Boustred.

Jillian Boustred is one of our favourite local designers. With and a knack for fit and a keen understanding of what women want to wear, she has logged time at the likes of Ellery, before deciding to launch her eponymous label in 2015. Since then, Jillian has been busy creating highly wearable wrap dresses and separates, which are made from comfortable natural fibres like linen. Basically, hers are the kind of clothes we live in, from work to the weekend – which reflects Jillian’s own laidback approach to style. 

Hanging out with the designer between her Chippendale studio and sunny home in Paddington – a terrace house that she shares with her friends – we jumped at the chance to gain a little further insight into the world of Jillian Boustred and what her creative process looks like, day to day. 

Rosie Dalton: How did you first get into fashion Jillian?
Jiillian Boustred: I studied Fashion at uni, doing a Bachelor of Design in Textiles at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). I was also working in retail the whole way through uni and, once I finished, I worked at Ellery for a little bit. After that, I launched my own label, which was in December 2015. 

Rosie: It has been a little while now then, how are you finding running your own brand?
Jillian: It has been really good. I am learning a lot and because I didn’t have much experience when I started the label, I have been slowly figuring out how everything works. I wear a lot of different hats, which is good for me, because it keeps me stimulated. And it’s good to feel like I’m learning all the time. But it has been a bit of a crazy ride, full of lots of mistakes. 

Rosie: Yeah, but I think that’s actually so important, because you’ve got to make mistakes to evolve. And they say the first three years are really tough but formative.
: I would definitely say so. People say that the five-year mark is when you should feel like things are settling down and you’ve developed a stable business. So I still have two years [laughs]. 

Image: designer Jillian Boustred.

Rosie: I imagine you have to wear lots of different hats day-to- day. What is an average day like for you usually?
: Every day is really different for me and each week is also really different, depending on what I’m working on. Day to day I will usually jump between things like marketing, fabric sourcing, design, customer service and packing orders, all within the space of an hour. I have had to try train myself to just focus on one thing at a time. I also spend a lot of time speaking to my makers and going out to them to drop off/pick up styles that they’ve been working on. Communication with them is really important, because some styles are quite complicated and it’s up to me to explain to them how the garment is meant to look and how the hems need to be finished.

Rosie: Can you tell us a bit about your studio environment and the different people that help bring your pieces to life?
: My studio is in Chippendale and I love the area; it’s very buzzy and there are quite a few design studios around. I have a couple of interns who help me out who are amazing with a really great, fresh energy. I also outsource some of my resources and work with a lot of amazing pattern makers, seamstresses and cutters. They each play a huge role in the whole process.

Rosie: Can you run us through your production process, from concept to creation?
Jillian: My production process normally starts with mood boarding and fabric sourcing, which plays a huge role. You might have a great concept but if you can’t find the fabrics you need, then it’s really hard to bring it to life. I often work on my silhouettes first with sketches and will then start with toiling and pattern making as soon as possible. I find a sketch is really just the starting point and you can’t actually picture the garment clearly until it starts to become 3D.  

Once the sampling process is complete, I’ll start to work on production, which involves a lot of various people including my pattern maker, cutter and seamstresses. For me, each stage is separate, so my pattern maker will grade the sizes and then pass them on to the pattern cutter, who will cut all the garments. Then I’ll pass all the cutwork onto my makers, who sew the garments together. It’s a very step-by-step process, which I don’t think a lot of people realise.

Image: inside Jillian Boustred’s Chippendale studio.

Rosie: How do you seek to incorporate responsible production processes into your brand?
: For me, responsible production processes is all about being in touch with all my outsourced resources and overseeing the whole process from start to finish. My pieces are all made locally and I have a really good relationship with everyone I work with – from the fabric suppliers, to pattern makers and seamstresses. I have a lot of respect for them and I think this is what makes the production process responsible.

Rosie: And how would you describe the Jillian Boustred aesthetic?
 I’d say the Jillian Boustred aesthetic is quite casual and feminine, but with a slightly sophisticated edge. I like to design pieces that can be worn with sneakers and then with heels, because I always consider the ‘casual customer’ and the more ‘corporate customer’. I love simple, classic shapes and, in that sense, I’d say my aesthetic is quite minimal – but I do like to include at couple of quirky elements, whether it’s a fun fabric or a design detail, to keep things interesting. 

Rosie: In what ways does this reflect your personal style do you think?
Jillian: My personal style is very practical, minimal and quite casual. I wear a lot of black, because I’m in the studio all the time and it’s so easy. I am always thinking about different designs for the label, so I don’t like to have to think too much about my own outfits of a morning. On the weekends, I tend to wear something a bit more fun and interesting. No matter the day, though, I am all about wearing (and making) clothes that are flattering. So for me personally, this means pieces that come in at the waist, or really well fitting jeans. 

Image: designer Jillian Boustred.

Rosie: Why do you believe it is so important to support locally made fashion in Australia right now?
: It’s important to support locally made, independent labels, as their garments are generally better quality and more sustainable. There’s also a unique feel to these type of labels, which I think is really valuable in today’s environment – where everyone just tends to wear the same things from chain stores like Zara. More importantly, though, fashion production in Australia is getting smaller, as more brands move offshore. This makes it hard to have garments produced here at all. A lot of family-owned business are having to shut down, for example, because there’s just not enough demand for their services. So it’s really important to support Australian made labels in order to keep the industry alive. 

Rosie: Finally, what advice would you give to your customers about simple ways that they can make more responsible wardrobe choices?
: I would just ask questions about where and how things are made. If you’re buying from a shop, then you should be able to ask whoever is working there. If you’re purchasing online, you could always email the label to find out more about their production processes. If their approach is a responsible one, then they should know their supply chain inside out, so should be able to give you plenty of information.

Image: inside Jillian Boustred’s Chippendale studio. 

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