Days in isolation featuring 4 designers from the Uncommon store and The New Garde
Wondering how you can stay inspired? or how creatives operate when separated from their team or loved ones? Explore what kept them sane, motivated and their dreams alive!
Death Valley Store
Ashley Conway, Owner and Designer
The energetic owner of Death Valley Store, Ashley Conway, is a newcomer to the United States, temporarily trading Australia’s sunny shores for Colorado’s pure mountain air.
Pre-isolation, her days and nights were jam-packed exploring her new surroundings: hiking the beautiful trails in the area, meeting new friends and checking out the local music scene. Throw a few drinks and consequential late mornings into the mix, and it’s no wonder she found her productivity levels were slumping.
Ashley has since re-focused (perhaps there are some positives to isolation…!), finding a balance between chilling and creating. Discovering new music (she references Ocean Alley, Greta van Fleet and Badflower) while still tuning into old school rock, connecting with local artisans and showing her support for the artistic community through online channels has breathed new life into her own creativity.
Like many of us, Ashley’s screen time has skyrocketed, but it’s justified. She notes, “it’s tough to balance…because it’s the only way to feel connected with people”. Putting her phone on silent and out of reach, usually in another room, helps Ashley to focus and be more productive.
Adjusting to the forced slower pace of life is different for everyone. Some find a strict work timetable keeps them in line, but Ashley has learned not to be too hard on herself in terms of workload. Remembering there will be great days, and others that are more trying is all part of it. It’s taken her some time (like most of us) to realise it’s okay to sleep in, or have a digital-free day and recharge when it all starts feeling a little Groundhog-ish.
Ashley admits that isolation has challenged her in a way she didn’t expect and could never have anticipated. Change was already in the air, as she kick-started life in a new country. However, being in isolation has forced her to think about what it is she really wants to do. “I want to continue to explore this state, and this country as a whole. I want to embrace new people and discover new friendship circles, and not take for granted the importance of connecting with people. This has really put in perspective for me how I tend to be a little withdrawn and watch life from the sidelines. Now, I really just want to dive into things headfirst. To really live passionately,” she says.
But how does a designer style herself in isolation? Ashley’s go-to iso OOTD is a pair of Levi 501 jeans paired with a T-shirt, and she’ll shrug on a jumper if it’s chilly. You’ll never see her without her signature jewellery: two silver cuffs and layered silver necklaces, one with a small heart and a second with wings and an inscription. It’s all the more meaningful that her mum chose the second necklace for her, and sent it all the way from Australia. On most days, she’ll sweep on some makeup, and does her hair for Zoom calls.
SAWYER describes itself as an activist fashion label, creating pieces inspired by today’s social and environmental issues. Lead designer, Emily Hodge, is on a mission to set a new standard for sustainability without compromising on style.
Before the days of isolation, you’d find Emily spending as much time as possible in nature. She’d draw inspiration and strength from visits to her favourite beaches (Little Wategos in Byron or Nelson Park in Sydney are among her faves) and calm from gardening in her back yard.
Emily recently relocated to a new apartment, leaving behind a much bigger house with a wonderful yard that would have served her well during this period of isolation. Adjusting to her new smaller space has been tricky, but she’s taken the opportunity to indulge in nesting.
Meditation is also offering a boost to her mental health, as she “takes time to feel connected to herself at a time where it’s harder to connect with others”. Taking moments to enjoy and appreciate the small things has also taken on a new importance: walking her eight-month-old labradoodle and the daily ritual of preparing coffee are among her favourite tasks.
Bringing fresh flowers into her new apartment feeds her addiction to colour. Her current favourites are tulips and dahlias, and she has an affinity for sunflowers all year round. She shared with us that when she recently celebrated her birthday, her apartment resembled a hothouse with beautiful blooms in every corner from well-meaning friends who couldn’t celebrate with her in person. She’s made the most of the flowers, pressing and framing the most beautiful and making art of them.
Emily’s new apartment is often filled with the comforting aroma of freshly baked goods as she is finding the time to bake and cook. She and her partner started small, baking cookies and have since moved onto more complicated soups and Mediterranean-inspired dishes. “I eat with my eyes”, she says, “and love having vibrant colours on the plate. We add herbs to everything which feeds my obsession with colour and the beauty of vegetables. I find it an almost spiritual experience because growing something to nourish yourself is witnessing the earth’s most pure and rewarding form of growth”.
In slowing down, Emily has focused on painting with watercolour and acrylic, anything from still life, nature-inspired murals to line drawings and exploring ways of drawing the female form. Her favourite artists are all modern painters who have changed the human form in their work using bold colour to express themselves. She also enjoys reading instead of spending her time in front of a screen, she just finished reading “Girl Woman Other” and “Three Women” and is beginning to read “Economics for Bad Times” and is looking to re-read “Little Women”. For something different, she enjoys reading blogs, especially ones on architecture, interiors or permaculture
When working from home, you’ll find Emily in one of two OOTD. When she feels particularly unmotivated but needs to work, she will be ridiculously over-the-top dressed, wearing something like the Kimberly Top paired with the Fortescue Trousers. This puts her in the mindset of a powerful business woman. Otherwise, she slips into track pants or boyfriend jeans and one of her oldest, most comfortable T-shirts.
Sallyanne is the owner and designer of Astille: a high-end women’s wear label that focuses on top-notch tailoring and quality. She describes her pieces as “vintage-inspired and personality-fuelled and with a European edge”.
On a normal day prior to isolation, you would find Sallyanne spending quite a bit of time at the gym or with her daughter, Phoebe, and her 10-week-old baby boy, Freddie. She also loves to spend time hanging with her friends or taking her poodle, Audrey, to the park. She works hard keeping her finger firmly on the fashion pulse, researching ideas for new collections and designs, browsing WGSN, reading fashion articles, trending sights, and watching what is being worn on the streets.
Since isolation, her routine has stayed is almost unaffected, as she adapts to these changes. She has set up a home gym and subscribed to online versions of her favorite exercise classes. A couple of times a week Zooms her friends and visits her daughter and grandson. Apart from establishing more healthy routines to stay fit and motivated and spending more quality time with her husband, her life remains almost the same.
Isolation does, however, call for more careful planning, reflection and deep thought for the future. Sallyanne has been busy planning and strategising for the future of Astille. She has spent a lot of time perfecting tasks she was not happy with such as CADS and learning to render properly in Illustrator. She has also focused on compiling a list of influencers and public figures that Astille could be a good fit for.
Taking another step forward, Sallyanne has invested in a print course and believes it will be a great way to experiment and build up inspiration for future collections. On top of that, she has also enrolled in the MOMA Fashion and Design Course.
Sallyanne’s iso OOTD is an effortlessly chic combination of jeans, a classic t-shirt and sneakers. She switches it up when venturing out, choosing to slip into a boiler-suit or something equally comfy. Though she loves to design dresses, she only wears them herself on special occasions.
Helena Rose is a bespoke bridal and headwear designer. In her free time during isolation she finds that she is doing the same things – just with much more time!
Her excitement and motivation for this borrowed time has her days filled with….
- Swimming which she feels keeps her sane
- Exercising and taking walks between tasks
- Enjoying never-ending beadwork at night over a movie or MasterChef episode
- Making head pieces
- Playing around with new floristry ideas
- Editing behind-the-scenes videos
- Focusing on refining her cooking, learning to make more complex meals, individual components from scratch such as mushroom sauce or dishes from her Lebanese heritage and recording some cooking videos to share!
If anything, she’s still short of time! If she had more of it, she’d take the opportunity to sort out her never-ending supply of materials. She recently began building her beading wall/crafting desk, sorting materials and taking pleasure in organising beads and Swarovski crystals by in colour, size, and even collection and placing them into individual drawers.
She explains, “this will help with creating a smooth and efficient production line when things pick up again. I have even managed to rope in the neighbours’ kids to help with the sorting! (A crystal or two may have been promised in exchange)”.
Eagerly planning her next holidays also keeps her motivated. She’s hoping to visit a friend in New Zealand and travel to Vancouver and Calgary. She has always wanted to visit Banff National Park and hopes to be inspired for future collections from these two trips.
Helena has created a routine to help her stay motivated, and has started new practices such as contacting at least one friend or colleague a day to stay in touch (and sane) and to undertake one new thing from her to-do list (no matter how small the task) each day.
It’s almost like a Covid-19 bucket list while in lockdown! “This helps me to feel productive and keeps me accountable,” she says. To keep those creative juices flowing, she has her collections hung on the walls of her house as a little reminder of hope and why she began this amazing journey. Rose shares her thoughts….
“I think back to the start of the design journey of each headpiece and how I can relate the feelings I had then to now. There was a lot of uncertainty, I spent many hours with great patience and persistence, creating each piece with no guarantee my idea would be a success, and yet I never gave up. I am reminded I will come out of this pandemic with something magical waiting for me on the other side. Seeing all my work on the walls helps me not to give up or forget how far I have come as a designer.”
Helena Rose’s iso OOTD really depends on her schedule. You might catch her swimwear or gym gear paired with an oversized t-shirt. She likes to join conference calls spontaneously around her schedule so depending on what time the call is, she could still be in her togs, drying off from the pool or settling into her beadwork for the day wearing a Swarovski crown and comfy oversized T-shirt.
Check out her favourite pieces from her Le Pétale collection here.
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