My name is Penelope and I started this business in 2007, but I think from a very early age I knew that I wanted to eventually one day be a fashion designer. I started sewing with my Mum when I was five years old and it grew from there.
While I studied at fashion school, and after I graduated, I created a lot of my own wardrobe, and I would receive comments every time I wore my own designs. I had found employment in fashion, in Sydney, to have very little involvement in creativity, and more to do with office admin. So I felt very disappointed with the options left for me, and I needed to find out for myself what I wanted to do with my life. I travelled around America and Europe, and once I arrived in Paris it was the turning point I needed... It was the city where I fell in love with Art Nouveau, and where I decided my dreams of becoming a fashion designer. I guess with so much beauty surrounding you in a city, you can't help but be inspired! I can remember thinking to myself; if all of these artisans who created these beautiful masterpieces could dream, then why can't I?
I had been tossing up what career path I wanted before I left for my European trip. I was thinking of studying a teacher's degree, or coming home and starting my own label while working part time somewhere. You can guess where what my heart truly wanted! Paris was like a beacon yelling out to me, "this is what you MUST do!” I fell in love with so many different types of art and architecture while in Paris and in the other European cities I visited. When I view my designs now, it is easy to see what inspires me; even my customers say my designs look more European than Australian.
I started the business by attending two of Sydney’s most famous markets, Paddington Markets on Oxford Street, then The Rocks Markets, and eventually selling online.
My style is always inspired by vintage silhouettes- I grew up watching old Hollywood movie stars, such as Rita Hayworth, Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, with my Dad- but I like to mix this with my modern sensibilities. I was once known at Paddington Markets for corsets and catsuits, and I had a knack for creating very fitted garments out of woven material. Now I love exploring different designs in jersey knit, flared sleeves, pencil skirts, and dresses. When I started selling I didn't use jersey knit, but now it is my primary seller. I think it just shows that its great to experiment, because you never know what will happen!
I am involved in every step of the creative process in my business, I get to do all the things I love (and a few things I don’t love too). I am a self confessed fabriholic- I honestly can’t hold back when it comes to a fabulous fabric, so I pride myself on amazing prints and good quality textiles. A lot of my designs, in my collection, have been made from vintage finds, which I compliment with the latest fashion fabrics.
I mainly design my one of a kind designs as I cut them out, since its usually due to not having a large amount of the one fabric- something that I could never do if I created designs in bulk or worked for someone else. In an industry that is almost entirely created off-shore, I am pleased to say that every step is conducted in Sydney, from image in my head to the finished product.
For the first 5 years I created and sewed every single product, but recently I have not been able to keep up with the demand and my imagination. I currently now have help from Lina, who is a semi-retired machinist, and she has over 30 years experience. I currently design, pattern-make, and cut every single Penelope Red garment.
I love the freedom of creativity that Penelope Red gives me; I love the freedom of working when I want to work, and when you have a little boy to look after this makes all the difference!
When I first started the ultimate goal was to eventually open a Penelope Red retail shop, however now I believe this is an old fashioned idea with the current economic climate and choices that we have available today. Now I am aiming to grow my online presence, as well as create Penelope Red shopping events in Sydney (and hopefully other cities added eventually!) that will also give me the freedom to explore more design ideas but also have a beautiful family life with my hubby and son.
I hope that when a customer receives a Penelope Red parcel they are delighted and amazed… delighted that it looks and feels better on than they expected, and amazed at the craftsmanship and quality. I enjoy so much of what I do, and its a wonderful feeling to know that others are enjoying my designs too.
When creating my designs I am influenced by many varied things. My key inspirations, that I think about year after year, are things like my fabrics in my ever growing collection, my love for vintage fashion and old Hollywood glamour, and my loyal customers.
Then each season I use other influences, such as the latest exhibition, or a movie, or a costume era or an artist- I get to combine all the things I love!