Comfort the Disturbed | Disturb the Comfortable
Alabama Blonde came out of a moment of heartbreak which flowed into a long period of complete insomnia.
Everything seemed normal.
I was sitting in the living room sketching the heartbreak I thought I knew, which up until this moment had involved the suicide of a dear friend when I was 14, the death of my grandfather and the sudden death of my father. My boyfriend of 3.5 years stepped out of the shower and announced he was leaving me because he wasn’t in love with my anymore, that he realised he would always be in my shadow and he needed to find himself.
It was weird. It wasn’t like a death I understood because he was standing in front of me.
It was a choice.
Which he made to my face
in an instant
standing in front of me in a towel.
I went to the doctor the next morning because I couldn’t breathe and thought maybe there was a pill I could take to force myself to breathe deeply and fully, to sleep, to make sense of what was happening to my world, to my mind, to my image of myself, and to my heart.
Fast forward through recklessly swallowing 8 pills instead of 1, to sleeping, to waking up and wanting to be asleep again, to drinking and calling him inappropriately asking for answers, asking his friends for answers, to drying out the skin on my cheeks from the water that just didn’t seem to stop falling from my eyes… to trying to find the answers to what was wrong with me.
What was so wrong with me and the way I loved?
Who was I now?
Would anyone ever love me?
Who was I now (again)?
Would I ever play music again?
Would I ever love myself as much as I needed someone else to?
I had started designing a collection of pieces, which I ended up calling Valium. I had written a small book of poetry when I was living in New York in my early 20’s and had experienced heartbreak for the first time. This time I truly needed to make sense of this nonsensical non-sleep… This feeling of feeling so much. Yet feeling nothing at all. I could watch trashy tv, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write… all I could do was create garments, most of them directly on the stand.
From this small collection of garments, I was offered to showcase my collection in an underground group runway show in Melbourne. I just needed to finish the collection of garments in 3 weeks. Which was fine. Sleep was irrelevant. Everything was irrelevant except for the work.
I started the remainder of this collection by drawing my heart. Which was broken, but sacred, because I had put this sacred heart back together before and was determined to put it back together again, in the most beautiful way possible. I starting embroidering the hearts onto a fabric I had been experimenting with for most of the year. I didn’t really understand what my personal connection to latex was - until in a moment I saw the latex as skin. I felt disconnected and angry at my skin, and I felt pain. I started to gently pierce the latex with sharp needles, embroidering these broken scared hearts onto the surface of the garments, and essentially embedding the fabric with the sting that my heart was beating with.
I needed 8 looks for this collection. As I now have noticed with myself and my work… you ask for 8, you’ll get 16 or more… You’ll get as much as I need to tell my story, as much as I need to exhale out the entirety of what I am trying to say, what I am trying to fully express and understand through that collection of pieces. Often raw, often unfinished, often broken. But perfect in conveying the emotions that my existence is working through at that time.
I finished the Valium collection, which was a collection attempting to articulate the juxtaposition of extreme constriction vs extreme release via an exploration of both materiality and emotion. ‘Can we embed emotion into fabric and garments and collections of garments?’ Without a doubt.
Following the Valium collection presentation, I didn’t create anything new for a year. I didn’t feel like the creatives working on the show were communicating or working towards the same goal. I felt like no one felt the emotion of the collection as deeply as I had intended. I felt like the pain was lost and everyone was making creative choices to impress instead of to move people and make them feel something. Something other than a potential purchase, or the fact that the clothing was a bit ‘out there’.
I began to feel like fashion was probably not the right fit for me as the expectation seemed complacent and underwhelming. I craved more. People seemed satisfied too easily and voices seemed muted and even contrived. And that was not fulfilling to me. I wanted to make noise. I guess that’s what you get growing up in punk bands, falling in love, feeling injustice in your own life and in the lives of your friends and family.
No wonder people were struggling with identity – no one seemed to be offering people a safe space and the inspiration to push their identity, their expression of self, their sexuality, their gender, there was a room or space or true encouragement to unapologetically explore, experiment, embrace, and love.
People needed a shakeup, and at that time I wasn’t sure if fashion was the correct path for me to take to explore and express my own voice.