Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Interview with Josie of Frances Baker

A few months ago I discovered the designs of the talented designer, Josie, behind the label Frances Baker. She worked on three lovely custom dresses for the shop, inspired by Luella and Lula magazine. She just launched her first made to order collection for SS12, which is inspired by adolescence and filled with beautiful fabrics and Peter Pan collars. If  I lived close to Josie, I think we would be great friends. We both love Nadinoo, Rookie Mag, and The Virgin Suicides. My conversation with the lovely Josie follows below. And be sure to check out her blog and online store here.

Hello Josie! Tell me a little bit about your day today. 
Today I am working on an order for a customer in Sydney. I work in my tiny studio apartment in Melbourne where I live with my boyfriend, and I am constantly getting distracted by the sunny day outside and watching the people down in the street!
What inspired you to create a fashion line?
I have wanted to start my own label for a very long time. The idea to make Frances Baker as the label it is came partly during my travels overseas, where I gathered a lot of inspiration and honed my personal style and interests a bit, partly from my enthusiasm for ethical and handmade fashion, and I was finally pushed over the edge when I decided I simply couldn’t handle working in a job that wasn’t creative anymore! So I took the plunge, not really knowing what would happen, and even though it’s still early days I would definitely say the satisfaction I’ve gotten from it so far makes it is the best thing I’ve ever done.
Where does the name Frances Baker come from?
Frances Baker is the name I came up with for my blog when I first started it about 3 years ago. I sort of came up with it on a whim, combining my middle name Frances with the last name of Josephine Baker, who I’ve had a long running fascination with (partly because I share her first name too). I like it because the name Frances itself means free woman (according to a name book I have at home!) and Josephine Baker was also quite the free, independent and very impressive woman, with a really wonderful flamboyant style to match. She was a civil rights activist and also assisted the French Resistance during World War II, among other things. I’m really inspired by her amazing style as well as her strong convictions and self belief. I’m pretty happy to have a label that pays tribute to someone like that, and I like to think that Frances Baker clothing would appeal to ladies with similar values!
How long have you been designing?
I only started doing it professionally when I started Frances Baker just over two months ago! But I have been sewing since I was in Primary School, and creativity has played an important role in my life since I was very young.
Have you always loved fashion?
Definitely, though in my case I think it would be better to say that I have always loved clothes rather than fashion. I love clothes as a means of creative expression, and the way they make you feel. I like how certain memories can be attached to certain outfits, or the way certain garments can inspire a mood. Clothes are costumes, and they can make you feel confident, change your mood, or help you to express who you feel you are inside to the outside world. A lot of my favourite clothes are inspired by nostalgia. I like to design clothes that remind me of how I felt as a child, or the way I felt when I watched a certain movie or read a certain book. I guess my love of clothes was why I started sewing so young, to try and make the clothes I had in my head! I remember being incredibly inspired after reading The Secret Garden for the first time, and desperately wishing I had a little button up green wool coat, which I was sure would make me feel like Mary Lennox setting off into the mist for an adventure!
What do you love about living in Melbourne? (I visited there twice over the summer I loved it so much.)
I think I like the fact that it feels like there is a lot of creativity going on here! Maybe that's just because a lot of my friends are creative so I'm getting a biased point of view. The cafe and bar culture is also really lovely, there are so many amazing place to go out for breakfast, which happens to be my favourite meal to eat out! Since travelling though, I do sometimes dream about moving to some of the amazing cities I visited for a longer period of time. I love that feeling of starting fresh, being lost in a big city and knowing there is so much to discover.
What are your favorite places in Melbourne?
That is incredibly hard! I am living in the city at the moment which is amazing but I do kind of miss the creative community/student-y vibe of living in Brunswick and the northern suburbs. I have so many favourite cafes and bars but at the moment living where we live we are spending a lot of time eating bagels at Jungle Juice, getting bentos at Ramen Ya and rice paper rolls at Miss Chus. Most of all though I just love to be at home! Can't beat it.
What's on your fall wish list?
Well at the moment here it is Summer so I am pretty distracted by sundresses and the like but lately I have been finding myself drawn to corduroy for cooler weather.
What are you looking forward to doing over the holiday season?
Hopefully making some things! Doing Christmas craft is a very long standing tradition with my sister and I and it's ridiculous how much I enjoy it. I am also hoping to spend lots of time at the beach this Summer, because that really makes it feel like Christmas holidays for me, but I don't usually find the time to fit a swim in very often.
Australia is known for the arts and has a really strong fashion scene. What do you think of all the up and coming designers out of Australia and who is your favorite?
Well Lover and Secret Squirrel are pretty lovely, but I have to be honest and say that most of my favourite labels from this part of the world are from New Zealand. Labels such as Twenty Seven Names, Juliette Hogan and Karen Walker. I have a bit of an obsession with New Zealand, I just really want to go on a road trip there this Summer and visit the beautiful beaches and see all the amazing landscapes. I'm sure I'll make it one day, it's not exactly far! In terms of the fashion scene though, I think Indigo Clarke gave a pretty interesting description of Antipodean style in her interview on (a really great interview, definitely worth checking out!): “Perhaps because Australia and New Zealand are so removed from the rest of the world, and are seasonally opposite to the fashion centres of London, Paris, NY, our style is somewhat unique ... I also put it down to antipodeans having a real understanding, and need of, a quality lifestyle – we love nature, beaches, the outdoors and the way we dress reflects this – we tend to wear comfortable, practical but also interesting and optimistic clothing and colours. So our clothing is very much reflective of the way we live, not just aesthetic taste.” Though I'm not sure if Australian fashion is terribly unique or not, I found that comment really thoughtful, and I do think the way I dress is very much influenced by my lifestyle here.
Who are your favorite designers?
I am always really inspired by Orla Kiely and Dear Creatures, they're amazing! I also love Nadinoo's use of pattern in her designs. TBA make some pretty incredible clothes, and Family Affairs, and lately I have been coveting the Goldie London collection.
What was your favorite SS12 show?
Karen Walker.
If you could see any celebrity wearing your dress who would it be and why?
I have no idea! I guess it's hard because I don't really have any celebrity muses. The people who inspire me are other bloggers whose style I admire, people on the street, characters from film & TV, etc. Oh no wait, I have a definite girl crush at the moment on Hailee Steinfeld. I would probably lose my mind if I ever saw her in one of my dresses!
Who is your style icon?
I am utterly inspired by Hannah Metz, I think her style is incredible. I have also been quite enjoying Tavi Levinson's outfits of late. Other than the blog world I really love Anna Karina, Mia Farrow, Brigitte Bardot and of course Josephine Baker is an old favourite.
What are your favorite books and magazines for inspiration?
The Secret Garden is a really big influence for me in terms of books. I don't know why it's stuck with me so much, but it has! My favourite magazine to read is The Gentlewoman, which I find inspiring in so many ways. The photos in Lula are incredible, and I also read Russh and Frankie on a pretty regular basis, depending on the issues. Having a taste for children's style, I've lately found myself drawn to the editorials in a children's fashion magazine called Papier Mache.
What is your favorite fairy tale?
The Paper Bag Princess!
What are your favorite films for fashion?
I love a lot of French New Wave films, such as A Woman is a Woman and Breathless. French New Wave heroines were all about embodying a simple, natural style in comparison to older actresses of the time. I love how young and fresh it feels. Lately I have been inspired by The Virgin Suicides, as well as Reality Bites, Little Women, and How to Make an American Quilt (I've been on a Winona Ryder kick!)
What are your favorite Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly films or looks they have worn?
Of Audrey's film I really love Charade, and though I find Funny Face horribly sexist I do love the beautiful outfits (plus I have a soft spot for musicals). For Grace, I would definitely have to say Rear Window.
What is the future like for you and your line?
At the moment I'm working on a collaboration with a shoemaker friend of mine, which I am incredibly excited about! I've also just released my Summer collection for this year, which is made entirely from sustainable fabrics: hemp and beautiful soft bamboo textiles. I guess I'll see where it goes...!

 All photos courtesy of Josie- featuring her SS12 collection and one adorable photo of the lady herself!