FAWN TALKS: AZALEA JAMES
Fearlessly clashing feminine aesthetics with a bold masculinity, sisters Tilly and Tessa have formed the attitude-packed fashion label Azalea James. We hit them up about the inspiration behind their first collection, the risky business of working with family, and the emotional journey of seeing their designs take to the runway for the first time.
Q: How and why did you choose the name Azalea James?
A (Tilly): In June 2012 I had a bad accident. Tessa was by my bed at the Royal and said to me, “When you’re out of here we are going to start up our label.” Not too long after, we were thinking about names and in August 2012 we lost someone very close to us, Darren James. After such a volatile time we were feeling fairly wounded. The meaning to give someone an azalea flower is to say, “take care of yourself for me”, and James was a tribute to Darren James.
Q: Your first collection Soldiers of Fortune debuted in August this year. What is the inspiration behind the collection?
A (Tilly): We wanted the collection to be bold yet feminine with lush fabrics, warm hues and contrasting textures. We fell for the gold Portofino linen that we sourced from Altamira Fabrics in Melbourne and things started to escalate from there. We envisioned Egyptian sands and soft warm silk skies… I guess the fabric spoke and we listened!
(Tessa): In a way we felt like soldiers of fortune. Having been through some recent hardships, we valued our freedom and ability to do whatever we liked and had a surge of courage to do something we had dreamt of doing since we were kids. There was a feeling of strength and courage that transpired into our first collection.
Q: You describe the range as “empowering” with items that “encourage the whimsical, unique and unbridled part of a woman out.” How is each piece designed in this way?
A (Tessa): It’s how we felt when we were designing each piece and we really hoped that would transcribe.
Q: What was it like to see your designs take to the runway for the first time at the Melbourne RAW artists show?
A (Tilly): We were proud of each other and ourselves, it was wonderful to give the collection wings and show it off.
(Tessa): I felt a surge of emotions to see Tilly open the show! It was amazing to see it come to life on the runway. I’m looking forward to future catwalk shows – you can really show how the garments are designed to be worn and the attitude behind each collection.
Q: In your range a bold aesthetic is combined with a playful femininity. Was this your intention and why?
A (Tessa): Yes that was our intention that is very much a part of our nature. We wanted the collection to be strong and have an edge of masculinity with strong tailoring and bold cuts. Yet we still wanted there to be a feminine girly feeling underlying. We love that feeling of wearing tough boots with a girly dress, or boyfriend jeans and a slouchy t-shirt with heels – that juxtaposition is empowering and fun.
Q: Caps, hoods and headscarves play a large role in the collection, what do you think they add to an outfit?
A (Tilly): Aside from their practical sense, they add a feeling, a comfort.
(Tessa): I’ve always been partial to a hat. They just add so much to a look and can dress up a simple outfit. We have some amazing leather caps coming out very soon!
Q: It can sometimes be risky working with family. As sisters, how do you find it working together?
A (Tilly): So they say. We’re tight.
(Tessa): We both have different strengths so we have to use that to our advantage. We have always been close and we are not afraid to tell each other if something is bothering us! The key is communication.
Q: If you had to choose one celebrity that would best suit your label, who would it be and why?
A (Tessa): I would really like to see some of my style icons wearing our designs. To name a few Kate Moss, Alexa Chung, Jess Hart, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Cara Delevingne.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A (Tilly): We have our Winter 14 collection underway and it’s looking cosy.
(Tessa): Yes Winter 2014 is going to be amazing. We have taken a different direction and the collection will be very street, very New York but the bold aesthetics with the feminine edge will still play a big part of our designs.
Words by Natalie Claire King.