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Getting down and dirty with Aussie label DAISY

Inspired by sex, cinematic outlaws and even Renaissance history, meet the label turning heads thanks to its domanatrix milkmaid vibes

Designers Gibson Fox and Renee Warne behind Aussie brand DAISY take traditional 17th century dress and strip back the conservative and oppressive elements in order to create sexy and wearable garments for the empowered 21st century woman. The couple-slash-duo, who also front creative direction and consulting company FeelTheFuture, channelled domanatrix milkmaid vibes for DAISY's first collection Pure Country and have gone medieval goth for Fall. Fitted leather bustiers are sliced and tattered while luxe brocade fabric is aggressively frayed, each garment embodying both lower and upper class styles of dress during the Middle Ages. We spoke to the talented duo about their deep fascination with eroticism, being perceived as almost pornographic in Australia and DAISY's outlaw muses.

What was your first collection Pure Country inspired by?

Renee Warne: We were inspired by cinema and Americana. It's somewhere between a fantasy and reality of a farm. 

Gibson Fox: It was a mix between Natural Born Killers and Badlands.

Renee Warne: We were interested in outlaw movies. We looked at Juliette Lewis in Natural Born Killers, Sissy Spacek in Badlands, Karen Black in Easy Rider and Patricia Arquette in True Romance. All these cinematic adventures, a cinematic wardrobe and someone playing a character is a big part of Pure Country. We also wanted it to feel like you were looking back into your childhood – a playful innocence and feelings of purity. 

Where did the name DAISY come from? Was it originally meant to be all country themed apparel? 

Renee Warne: The name was one of the last things we thought about – we built the wardrobe before we thought about that. Gibson calls me Daisy...that's my nickname. That's why we decided on that cause it's personal but also feminine, youthful and open to interpretation. I don't know if it's a positive or negative, but we don't have a long-term plan or formula. We just work from idea to idea. However, there is an aesthetic that will always be there which is quite nostalgic and character-driven. We like to take people out of the norm which is something we are both naturally drawn to. As for the country or farm stuff, we are both really into that look and it will always be present in our collections.

“DAISY is our vehicle to do what we want without anyone else's opinion interfering. I think we kind of used it as a way to break loose” - Renee Warne

Both collections reference very specific historical and cultural eras – how are you updating traditional clothing to make it more wearable and modern?

Renee Warne: We are bringing things from past eras into a contemporary setting. I thought it would be cool to take the pure and innocent elements of Pure Country and mix it with a bondage element or something darker, which then modernises it. For Human Emotion, there is still a lot of detailing from the first season's foundation like frills and corsetry which are carried through but with a different play on a medieval wardrobe by blending two aesthetics of the aristocracy with the peasantry and bringing in some contemporary elements. Rather than a historically-accurate costume, we are reinterpreting traditional dress to make it more wearable. We keep the element of nostalgia and fantasy but update the looks so you don't feel foolish wearing it. 

It’s interesting that you guys are referencing eras where women were oppressed and stripping back the conservative elements. Are you thinking about empowering women through this?

Renee Warne: I think the element of vulnerability is something visible from the first and second season. I don't think we thought about it in terms of making a statement about feminism, but we greatly admire women who are comfortable with being sexual or having sexuality as an element in the way they dress. We have great respect for that. With season one, we didn't even think it was that subversive or sexualised and people reacted to it like it was us going too far or boundary-pushing. We didn't even think of that consciously. 

Gibson Fox: I showed people who I thought were open-minded and they said we were going to alienate a lot of people with it. They said it was like porn. We just thought it was normal. I know some people try and be controversial, but the reaction was something we didn't think about. We never considered DAISY as making a conscious comment about feminism but the fact that being boldly female and having proud erotic influence feels natural to us is a reflection of how lucky our generation is. That we are free to speak using sexual language and nothing is off limits, thanks to the path already paved by strong voices before us.

Are you interested in or do you look into historical theory when designing?

Renee Warne: We definitely did for Human Emotion. I don't know how we got so fixated on the ideas we came across, but they really shaped this season. We looked back on the Medieval to Renaissance periods where there was a big shift in the way people were living their lives. From survival, feuds and violence to civilised living, with an appreciation of art and creativity as well as contemplation and intelligence. We came across the idea of humanism, which is when people stopped being superstitious but began to explore the idea that life on earth wasn't just a stepping stone to the afterlife or that being human and living in the moment had its own value. The capabilities of humans were recognised and people started to create beautiful things. That's where the title of Human Emotion came from – the shift from basic, raw hardship to emotion and thinking.

Do you have a fascination or interest in eroticism, sex or bondage-inspired clothing? 

Gibson Fox: I never would have thought, but it turns out I'm conservative. Renee is, not on purpose, the one that lifts the skirt higher or I'll be the best man at the wedding and Renee wants to wear a completely sheer dress and I'm like, "Renee you can't wear that" and she's like "why the fuck not?" I think it happens organically, we're not trying to be sexy or trying to "shake things up" intentionally. Our interest in eroticism definitely comes though in our work.

Renee Warne: We do have a fascination with it and it's a big part of our lives. We admire people doing work like that and those who are not afraid of their sexuality. In Australia, that stuff is frowned upon. We struggled a lot with censorship when we were working with other people. There was a lot of work we did that hasn't be published. It's a big element of our own work now that we are doing our own thing, it's what we like and we are proud of girls who are happy to dress that way despite the views of the people around them. 

“But it doesn't matter if some editor doesn't like you, 'cause with the internet and Instagram people are able to find and support you. Your reach is not controlled by the media anymore.” - Renee Warne

Are people quite conservative in Australia?

Renee Warne: Not necessarily the people, but the powers like the agencies publications and media. The actual people working in fashion are modern and open. If someone overseas looked at an Aussie magazine or TV, they would think we are so vanilla. DAISY has been way better received overseas in the UK and US compared to Australia where we have had very little coverage or press. People think it's too risky. But it doesn't matter if some editor doesn't like you, cause with the internet and Instagram people are able to find and support you. Your reach is not controlled by the media anymore. If the openness of the internet didn't exist, we wouldn't receive these opportunities.

Gibson Fox: You no longer have some PR agency telling you their idea of your brand identity or what your demographic is – with the internet, we have been lucky to see DAISY girls come to us. 

How has your experience working in creative direction with FEEL THE FUTURE helped in formulating ideas for DAISY? 

Renee Warne: Immeasurably. A lot of our friendship group comes from our work and we learn about the industry through friends. We have learned a lot about how to interact with publications and press through our work with Feel the Future. I think with DAISY, we felt like a little under-appreciated and repressed for a long time not being able to do what we wanted when working with clients. DAISY is our vehicle to do what we want without anyone else's opinion interfering. I think we kind of used it as a way to break loose.

Gibson Fox: It makes it a lot easier when you can see the whole picture. A lot of other brands bring in other stylists and photographers to shoot their lookbooks, but we are doing everything from start to finish. We know where we are going and how to shoot our clothes, which makes it really easy. 

Can you give us any hints as to what you're planning for next season?

Renee Warne: For season three, it's still going to be very character driven and feminine. It will be summer too, so quite fragile, delicate textures and decorative, but still very sexy.