After Elliot Ward-Fear’s Perspex-stalactite adorned army marched the runway at a TAFE group show during Australian Fashion Week earlier this year, bloggers and editors were quick to remark that they’d just witnessed the debut of Australia’s Next Big Thing. Since then, the 21-year-old’s sharp accessories have been regulars in local editorials, and garments from his latest collection are likely to follow suit. Featuring cheeky cut-outs, sixties bunny-inspired lilac faux-fur, and school-girl pleating, Ward-Fear’s ‘Spirit of Clothing’ collection for Autumn Winter 2011 shows a softer, more playful side to his aesthetic.
Elliot Ward-Fear’s footwear is, in a word, notorious, having levelled three models during the course of RAFW 2010. At 45cm-high, the ornately calved wooden platforms in this collection are no exception from the rule. As the fashion industry speculates over what Elliot Ward-Fear will do for his debut solo show at RAFW in 2011, Dazed caught up with the young designer in a Sydney café to talk boys in dresses, eighties sci-fi flicks and commanding the attention of Miucca Prada.
Dazed Digital: What attracted you to a career in fashion?
Elliot Ward-Fear: I didn’t really ever have the intention of getting into fashion, but when I was a kid, I used to wear a lot of dresses. I have this one memory of my sister and I playing with those paper dolls that you fold clothes onto, and I remember thinking, “these clothes are shit,” and making new ones. So I guess I’ve been designing clothes since I was five years old. I think my real passion for it came in my final year of high school, though.
DD: Where you still wearing dresses?
Elliot Ward-Fear: No! Well, I could fit into my sister’s school dress…
DD: How has your father’s career as a set designer [for films like Alien, Mad Max, The Matrix and The Shining] influenced you?
Elliot Ward-Fear: All the main stuff that my dad did was before I was born — he actually moved into art direction for theme parks. I did get to go along when he worked on plays for the theatre though. My dad always encouraged me to do costume design, and once I had applied at Sydney Tech, I didn’t look back — I knew that that’s what I was supposed to be doing.
DD: What did your time at TAFE teach you?
Elliot Ward-Fear: When I first started I was torn to shit. My work was all too conceptual, and I didn’t have the means to pull off what I was trying to do. I learned that it’s sometimes wiser to do something more simplistic and do it really well. I learned to tie disparate elements together within your range, so that it’s something unified. Time management skills are really important too, especially for a designer.
DD: Since the launch of your latest collection, ‘Spirit of Clothing’, you’ve been getting lots of press.
Elliot Ward-Fear: Yeah, ever since I started actually — sometimes negative, sometimes positive. Like, apparently, Miucca Prada told Bryan Boy how great he looked wearing that spiked neckpiece [from SS10/11] at the Miu Miu show. What people need to understand is that I’m creating conceptual ranges right now. They’re made for editorial.
DD: And what was the concept for Autumn Winter 2011?
Elliot Ward-Fear: I was obsessed with this idea of transcending — the idea of moving from life to death. I liked the idea of literally showing transcendence, so I translated that into the spirit of the garment leaving itself, in the form of wavering shapes ‘leaving’ the dress: sliding down the sleeve or flying off the shoulder.
DD: It’s certainly a departure from the aesthetic of your first collection.
Elliot Ward-Fear: It’s far more soft and sensual. Fun even. Spring-Summer was definitely more ‘hard’.
DD: And now you clothes might have that effect on people! So what are the signature elements of your designs?
Elliot Ward-Fear: I couldn’t tell you in words, but I do feel that I’m pretty resolved in my design aesthetic already. Oh no, you ordered that silly crunchy toast! That stuff will rip up your gums. It’s dangerous.
DD: But it looks great - it's not far off your approach to footwear, is it?
Elliot Ward-Fear: [both laugh] I guess not.
Text by Zachary Bayly