Monday, 11 November 2013

Interview with Katherine from Whirling Turban .

Here is my interview with the one and only, Katherine Robinson, Whirling Turban’s founder & creative director. Personally to me Katherine is a true artist; she continues to keep alive the precision of old hollywood style bespoke dress crafting.

Katherine’s dresses bring so much joy to people’s lives, Whirling Turban to me is not only exquisitely crafted dresses, it’s the companies whole ethos,  the integrity to a era, an era of care, not only for its customer but especially to the way a dress is constructed.

This is such a rare thing these days in the garment business, most dresses are mass produced and machine made in minutes. Whirling Turban's dresses have had time, love & care breathed into them, this clearly shows in each & every one of their dresses.

When I met Katherine in person she made a big impact, her story is inspirational & what’s even more wonderful is she is just a good old fashioned down to earth lovely person.

Were there certain events in your childhood that led you into fashion designing?
I was always an artsy type from my earliest memory, I loved drawing painting and making things with my hands. I grew up in sort of a hick town, but for some reason was always interested in edgy fashion.

I started sewing when I was 12 as a hobby but really got rolling when I was about 14 and couldn't get any of the kinds of clothes I wanted in my hometown, so I would make them. I became an avid seamstress then and never stopped.
I think one reason I was drawn to fashion as a means of expression was that I was a bit shy. I could use my clothes to say what my words would not.
Your dresses are coveted by so many women, what makes Whirling turban dresses unique?
I worked in Hollywood making costumes for 12 years before I moved to Bali to start Whirling Turban.

In modern-day Hollywood, authenticity is everything and designers will go to the ends of the earth to make the costumes for which they are responsible authentic. Historical clothes in high budget movies are not similar; they are exactly the same as the clothes from that time period.

During the time I worked in Hollywood I gained tremendous respect for the manner in which historical clothes were constructed, including the materials of course. (The underwear is as critical to a vintage or historical look as the garments themselves.)
Unless the garment is actually from the time period, the word vintage now is practically meaningless.

Fashion has always looked at previous decades and centuries and other cultures for inspiration. Taking a detail here or there from a previous decade and incorporating it into a new garment does not make the garment “vintage”, “just like vintage” or a vintage reproduction. It's simply a modern garment that has taken some inspiration from a past decade.

Whirling Turbans are made exactly like movie costumes for a story set in mid-century. I have never seen any other modern manufacturers make clothes with the faithfulness and authenticity of Hollywood.
We also make a very closely-fit garment without stretch in most cases. This involves individual personalization of fit that modern garments- which have to fit many body shapes- just can’t have so it isn’t practical for factory-made garments.

And by the way, vintage sewing patterns were designed for the home sewer as are modern sewing patterns. They are cut with lots of extra room in them so they will fit people with different postures and bodily eccentricities. They are not anywhere as fitted as we make our dresses. So simply using a vintage sewing pattern is not going to give you this type of fit.
So our “Movie Star Fit” and authenticity make Whirling Turbans look different. The only thing with the same kind of impact as a Whirling Turban would be a primo-condition vintage garment in one of the most sought after mid-century styles that happens to fit you perfectly in whatever you consider to be your most flattering color. Difficult to find but WONDERFUL if you do.

How do you stay motivated as a designer, I've noticed you are constantly coming up with  new designs.
Motivation isn’t an issue with me, I’m an obsessed person. My only regret is that management takes so much time away from what I love doing which is working with the fabrics, making patterns and designing. 

How long does it usually take for you to construct a piece & where do you source your fabrics from?
Any high quality fashion company makes a pattern several times until they come up with the right construction and engineering solutions and gets the lines right.
It’s a myth or just a stroke of luck that a one-off will have a successful result. This is why the Chinese Knock off Wedding dress is infamous for disappointing.

They will not make it five times to resolve the pattern and construction techniques before they make the dress you have torn from a magazine and asked them to copy. They will make it once and you’ll get a prototype, not a polished garment. 

We will make something about 5 times before we feel we can make it for a customer. Then our actual garments take a week or more to sew, they are complicated and have several layers for structure, boning, and lots of seams.
The average, modern factory-made garment takes under one hour.
I try to use fabrics I can get in Indonesia and don’t have to import. We have many of our own fabrics custom woven on traditional looms, and we design and screen print many of our own prints.
How important is it to you to have a sustainable, ethical company?
It’s easy for us to be sustainable, we use a lot of natural sunlight and need almost no heat or air conditioning. My staff uses motorbikes instead of cars and I walk to work.
But honestly I am more passionate about ethics. I think people should be able to be happy at work and feel appreciated and cared for. I think people should be challenged, do something that suits and appeals to them and they should feel like they are growing at work.

I had some creepy bosses earlier in my working life so I try instead to treat others as I would like to be treated. I’m fanatic about love and happiness at work. 
I feel like I should enable my customer to get good value for their money, I would be ashamed if they didn’t. I know Whirling Turbans are considered expensive but this is because people don’t really know how much more we give them for their money.

I know what couture designers charge, who fit and construct dresses the way we do.
So I can say we actually give people a great deal. Just sayin’.

Is there a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
Exactly what I’m doing now, I always dreamed of having my own line and making beautiful things for people with whom I had some personal interaction.
In fact I tried and failed many times throughout my life to start my own line before I finally succeeded. But my dream now would be to have someone else manage and promote, so I can continue to focus on design.

1 comment:

  1. *Thank you*, Kim! We definitely have a mutual admiration society; you are an inspiration in so many ways. Hope to see you next time in EGYPT! xxx