A new year brings with it fresh perspectives, renewed optimism and increased energy. For Heidi Middleton, it also brings with it a new adventure — a piece of her imagination brought to life.
Middleton’s Artclub is an online platform for slow fashion, both original and vintage, her own artworks and future collaborations with other creatively minded people. In some ways it’s the antithesis of the fashion juggernaut Sass & Bide, which she and co-founder Sarah-Jane Clarke built up over 15 years and which made and bore their (nick)names.
“That traditional (fashion) business model has been flipped on its head,” Middleton tells The Australian of her new endeavour, adding it was as much about what she didn’t want to do as what she did.
“It’s all about the creating. I didn’t want any seasons, any collections, any range plans, I didn’t want overseas fashion shows. For me, it’s all about the pure essence of creating in a way that was going to improve the environment and impact people in a positive way.”
In keeping with her sustainable and ethical approach, Artclub features Middleton’s designs and selected vintage pieces from her archives, mostly sourced in Paris. The original designs manufactured locally using 80 per cent remnant fabrics; additional fabrics include organic cottons and recycled yarns. Given the nature of remnant fabrics, pieces will be in limited runs and each piece will be numbered (2/20, for example) and include “a little ‘meet the maker’ tag inside”, naming the seamstress who created the garment.
Middleton is one of a handful of Australian designers who once headed up large mainstream fashion businesses that followed the churn of the global fashion schedule but have now turned to more manageable, positive-impact enterprises. These include Clarke, who has launched Sarah-Jane Clarke: Made for Travel; another best friend, Kit Willow, who founded Willow and now runs KitX; and former Easton Pearson designer Pamela Easton, who has launched an eponymous line.
“At every touchpoint, we’re aligning ourselves with sustainability, the slow fashion movement, doing things in a way that can enhance rather than drain or damage the planet or people in the process,” says Middleton.
Part of the joy in that, for Middleton, is that her fashion designs can go from sketch to sale in just a couple of weeks, rather than the previous six-month lead time of larger, traditional fashion operations.
Glynis Traill-Nash, Fashion Editor of The Australian