Rebel Designer

Posted by Sylvia Olsen on

I think of myself as a bit of a radical. If I were to design a garment that expressed the inner rebel of my imagination it would be deep burnt and slightly tarnished reds, rusts, golds and oranges. It would have chaotic blocks of random shapes. It would be torn and repaired, gathered and stretched with a shredded fringe around the edges. It would flow around and over and between. It would be worn as a wrap, a scarf, harem pants, a blanket… And it would double as a flag for my politics and a sail for the days I take flight.

But by a bit of a radical I mean I had to feed and clothe and survive raising too many kids to be a full out radical. And the vehicle I use to express my internal inventions—my canvas of choice is not chiffon, crepe or cotton gauze it’s wool yarn and my tools are knitting needles. These things bind the ends of possibility just a little. Then I think what about Kaffe Fassett with his blasts of colourful bouquets? And what about the multitudes of shawl designers with their models swirling and sparkling in the sunlight? Would my designs look like these if my soul was truly radical? 


You’ve seen my designs. The bands are straight. The geometrics are symmetrical. The edges have hems. The skirts fit snug. The colours are muted. Are these the signs of convention, of a sensible-shoe-wearing conservative?


But hold on to your seats for my next collection. You will see colour, fringes and slouchy. Little steps, maybe, but a lot of fun. I have a pile of my new designs on my studio table and they are delicious, they make me smile, they love to be touched as much as I love to caress them. They are calling out to me to hurry up and count the stitches and write the instructions. “Tuck in the ends” they holler. "Wear me."  

I am now discovering the creative space between the maverick of my imagination and the structure loving, steady-eddy that emerges from my pencil onto the page and from my knitting needles into garments. And I have found that there is plenty of room in that space for me to be me.

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