December 2017

Curated by Deborah Whitford

Deborah is the owner of this gallery and a qualified designer having trained at East Sydney Technical College at the Design Studio, part of the National Art School from 1971 to the end of 1973. Completing a three-year certificate which covered design, life drawing, fashion drawing, rendering in various mediums, history of costume, pattern making and sewing. There were a variety of design subjects – theatre, designs based on influences, coming up with an idea quickly and thinking through how to make the design a reality.

It was great fun, hard work and I loved every moment of it and although the pattern making was hard work, it is an essential skill as if you cannot make a pattern there are so many aspects of the process from drawing the design to the finished garment which you cannot be involved in. 

We also studied silk screen printing and textile design in our last year and I fell in love with the process and it became my main focus for much of the time I was designing my own ranges.

We are looking through a small window of her work which is mainly from her last collection which was sold through her shop in the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney. This shop opened in 1984 and closed a few years later.

Deborah had previously operated her own shops in the Strand Arcade and on Oxford Street Paddington and this first shop was called Noumenon and opened in the late 1970’s.

Deborah was the most successful designer in the Young Innovators section within David Jones in Sydney. A very progressive idea for a department store at the time.

It was great opportunity and a great learning process working within such a prestigious store.  I still apply principles I learnt from being part of the Young Innovators at David Jones to my business.

I started my working life in small boutiques in Adelaide which was great fun and a concept which has now disappeared. My great interest was to work in the theatre and I was given the opportunity to work for the Australia Dance Theatre, cutting edge modern dance. I loved the work and loved working with the dancers.

I worked for one of the few couturiers in Adelaide and it was a glorious time as all of the garments where made by hand and I love hand sewing.

I set up my own business which had been a long-term plan and as a result of one of my garments I was offered a position working for George Gross and Harry Who.

I moved to Sydney and worked for several companies until I could start my own business again.

It was great time to start a clothing design business for as a country we were in an innovative mood, enjoying our native flora and fauna, our wonderful colourful landscape and skies.  It was a time of optimism.

The crash of the 1980’s had a huge impact on Australian design and a more conservative European look and feel became more popular and it has stayed a long time. 

The design world including Australia has again been innovative by taking on the challenges of working sustainably in design from many disciplines and it is a great and necessary change. We are returning to the handmade, unique and more choice and I hope it continues.

Over my working life and a life time of collecting textiles. I started collecting old clothes and textiles when I was about twelve years old and entered East Sydney Technical College when I was fifteen. I have collected all kinds of textile related objects and I have watched the world turn away from the handmade for the mass made. I have seen skills disappear, synthetics replace cotton and wool.  It is the main reason I started Quidditas Textile Museum and Gallery.

The changes we are seeing now are wonderful, again using natural fabrics, hand spun, hand dyed, and I have seen mended blankets and recycled blankets for sale which is great as it is a step further in the right direction.

We are taking up knitting, crotchet, embroidery, sewing and all myriad of crafts for the sheer enjoyment and or practical necessity.

What you buy makes a difference. If the big manufactures cannot sell to us they will change what they make and sell, to keep up with us.

Thank you for attending the exhibition and for reading the information.

Deborah Whitford

I would like to thank the various photographers, and models who are shown in the images. Including Alison Fox and Louise Olsen.

And both books in the cabinet were produced by Elina Mackay.

The Great Aussie Fashion 1984 -85.