Second Skin

Sagittarians are renowned for their honesty, their intellect, and their sense of adventure. They never blindly accept popular opinion, rather preferring to carve their own philosophical standing. Kacey Devlin is one such woman. A young fashion designer based in Sydney, her self-titled label was born from a reaction to the trend-driven fashion industry of mass-consumption that has surfaced. The ‘act of dressing’ is a notion to which Devlin constantly returns, an art that she claims should be an expression of one’s core identity.

Her close-knit family origins translate seamlessly into how her business operates; she welcomes collaboration between team members and invites her audience to join her in questioning what clothing can mean to all of us as contemporary consumers. After gaining her Bachelor of Design from the University of Technology in Sydney, Devlin’s initial knowledge was rooted in fashion PR, an experience that taught her priceless lessons about the potential possibilities and purpose of her label.

A woman of supreme intellect, Devlin is a maker of ideas and concepts as much as tangible garments, and her debut collection, UNDONE, is an exploration of concepts made manifest. Inspired by the unconscious decisions we make when dressing, the collection actively engages our senses; dressing is about feel and individuation and not social perception. KACEY/DEVLIN also remains environmentally conscious, and strives for sustainable and locally sourced fabrics. Devlin has employed a kind of infinite tailoring in her garments, with no fastenings, zips, buttons or studs defining their limits. She is inviting you to feel, to allow your body to move within. Devlin is definitely a leader. May she continue to aim her arrow upwards. At this stage, her burgeoning young label knows no limits.

Hall of Furs: Firstly, can you tell me a little about yourself? Can you describe your childhood?

Kacey Devlin: I’m 25, I live in Sydney, I’m a Sagittarian and I love beer. I grew up in a costal town in a house my parents built with my cousins living right next door. We had our own tribe growing up. We would put on weekly dance concerts from our chubby house verandah. I was a seasoned performer to A Whole New World from Aladdin sung by my older cousin. We had special close-knit family bond that has stuck with us growing up.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in design? Did you study?

It wasn’t until my final year of high school. I had always enjoyed the creative subjects and was very privileged to have an inspiring teacher in my final year of high school that opened my eyes to the career prospects of design. I had always loved to make things, growing up I was obsessed with sewing zipper pencil cases. Needless to say I had the coolest pencil case going around… Or so I thought anyway. I went on from school to study a Bachelor of Design in Fashion and Textiles at the University of Technology [in Sydney].

How did your label come to be? What are the origins of KACEY/DEVLIN?

Having my own label became more of a reality in my 3rd of study. I knew that there was something more I wanted to say about the scope of design and fashion that required me developing a vehicle to do so. Creating conservation around the role of clothing was something that I have always been inspired by.

KACEY/DEVLIN started loosely from frustrations I had with the industry when I was studying. The volumes of mass consumption overwhelmed me, buying new trend driven wardrobes each season and then disposing. As a collective we all ended up dressing the same. I felt there was a sense of a pack mentality that was developing; we were dressing a certain way because that was what was expected because history or tradition implied that we do. I was convinced that as consumers we had forgotten about the importance of the act of dressing and it was something that we did unconsciously, without thinking. In my opinion clothing should be your second skin and should emulate the core of who you are.

Post university I worked full time in fashion PR, where I learnt some of the most valuable lessons to date. It was these two years that were crucial foundations to the purpose and possibilities of the brand. It was being able develop a brand that invites you to question the act of dressing. It is a brand that extends beyond creating a physical collection each season. Rather it is about exploring a collection of ideas about the contemporary body and the role of dress.

What is your personal definition of beauty? Do you aim to create it through your designs? Where do you seek to find it?

Beauty for me is raw and simple. Beauty is authenticity. The label aims to personify a sense of raw beauty through its minimal and relaxed approach.

Your designs are quite conceptual at their core. Where do you draw inspiration?

The body is the core inspiration for the label. It is the one constant that is present in every season. The labels inspiration comes directly from observation. Noticing movements, alterations and intricacies non-verbally explains the contemporary body’s perception of self and its surroundings. It was through the first series of film installation that exposed and laid the foundation for the brands design practice. Wearers were blindfolded and asked to get dressed using deconstructed western tailored garments. When you remove ones sight, not only of themselves but also of the actual article of clothing the act of dressing becomes an exploration, where the bodies’ senses are actively invited to engage. It becomes a process that is solely about how the body feels not about how it is seen or perceived by others.

Who are some of your icons? Are there any designers whose practice you find particularly influential?

Louise Bourgeois is a pillar of inspiration. Though her work she explored countless ideas about the body and the idea of refuge and escape. It is these ideas that I find influential when thinking about the role of clothing on the body.

Can you explain the concept of ‘the undone’?

UNDONE was born from the first series of film installations. A collection inspired by the unconscious decisions we make when getting dressed. Noticing clear patterns in each individual’s method of dress and interaction alongside with the physical deconstructed garments were used to inform the collections design decisions and pattern cutting. Each garment infinite with no formal fastening, zips, buttons, or studs. Allowing for no permanence, but to allow the body to feel and move within. UNDONE encourages us to explore, and above all, to really feel the act of getting dressed.

You use the exposed body as a starting point for your designs. What can the exposed body teach us about dressing and about inherent style?

It teaches us necessity. When you strip the body back to its core, it becomes vulnerable and you discover the why. Through the process of exposing the body through the film installations it became clear that above all clothing is about protection and security. Clothing in essence should be a second skin that allows the body to be at ease.

How would you describe your team? Would you say it’s quite close-knit?

Having assembled a team has been crucial in the early stages. On a day-to-day basis it is generally me in the studio. I do work really closely with my maker and my pattern cutter, one of whom I have know and worked with for over 8 years now. She comes baring so much knowledge about garment construction and production methods. For me it is really important to engage anyone that works with me on the label as a member of the team. Their skills and knowledge are equally as important [as] what I have done.

Who is the archetypal Kacey Devlin woman? Do you design with any particular woman in mind?

She is raw, authentic and honest. For me it is not necessarily about designing with a woman in mind, I design more with the outcome of the garment in mind. It is important to design pieces that are about delivering a second skin. It is about delivering a piece that allows the body to be at ease, to be raw, to be honest and to be authentic.

Sustainable fibres are the foundation of your garments. Where do you source your fabrics?

Having a sustainable footprint is very important for the label. I try to source the fabrics locally. However, with a lot of brands moving [their] production and manufacturing off shore, so have suppliers. This season I have worked a lot with Tencel, it is a fibre that I was introduced to while studying. Tencel is considered one of the most sustainable fibres in the industry at the moment. It has a fascinating handle, comes in a variety of weights and shares very similar properties to that of silk.

Your aim for your customers is that they become “no longer passive consumers but rather active co-creators”. Can you explain this notion?

For me understanding the role that clothing plays in every day life is integral and communicating that role is equally important. It is about generating conversation around the role of clothing and opening the consumers mind to other possibilities. To be passive is to not question and to just accept. KACEY/DEVLIN is about opening a new space, where bodies can traverse freely, question and explore. It is about exploring through deconstruction, movement and the unexpected. Pieces may not be traditional or identifiable as a jacket [or a] pair of pants, however in doing so it allows the wearer to actively engage with an item of clothing and to rediscover the relationship that a garment and the unfamiliar have with the body.

Is travel a major component of what you do? Where is one place that you’ve found particularly stirring?

Travel is something that I haven’t really explored. I went straight from High School to University and then from University into full time work and starting the label. I am hoping over the next 6 months that there will be some room to move and explore textile manufactures overseas in Europe. There have been cameo trips taken to Byron Bay in between busy work periods to regroup and reflect. For me it is a timeless place, where time moves slower and deadlines don’t matter. It is always refreshing and I come back with a renewed perspective.

Where is one place in the world you would love to visit?

I wouldn’t know where to start. There are too many places on my bucket list.

What is next for Kacey Devlin? Where do you see your label in a few years time?

The labels sights are set abroad. It is important to have a solid foundation here in Australia, which we have been working on since inception. We have picked up some incredible stockists and have been completely humbled with the reaction to the collection. Locally, I have some big plans to grow the label in terms of its retail expression and activation. It is important to be dynamic in the industry and it is important to ensure that alongside delivering a collection each season that invites more people to the brand to engage with the brand’s philosophy and perspective.

Words: Sophie Flecknoe

Images courtesy of KACEY/DEVLIN

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