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Emma Mulholland

Showing at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week earlier this year, the young designer pairs ornate decor with neon colours in reference to 90s surf culture

Emma Mulholland is one of Australia’s most optimistic and promising young designers. She creates vibrantly coloured, ornately decorated clothing and accessories inspired by Australiana and 90s surf culture, which have caught the eyes of local editors and designers alike. Mulholland is one of four young designers selected to be a part of the TAFE New Innovators show at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week this year, and based on some of the ideas she’s throwing around, she’s expected to make waves.  

Dazed Digital: What attracted you to a career in fashion?
Emma Mulholland:
I guess I always dressed up when I was little, but for a long time I wanted to be a nurse. Then I realised that I’d have to deal with all those sick people, around the time that someone suggested I go into fashion. I’m still not sure why. I dressed like a Tom Boy. Growing up on the South Coast, everyone was quite mainstream, so I think they suggested it because I looked a bit different.

DD: What did your time studying fashion at TAFE teach you?
Emma Mulholland: I failed heaps of classes in my first year, so it taught me to persevere. Once I got my shit together, stuff started to happen. They teach you the basics, but you’ve got to put in the time to work out a lot of things for yourself.

DD: Do they teach you much about the business of owning a fashion label?
Emma Mulholland: They did try to… I find that most people who are creative aren’t very business minded, which is why I think we all struggle. It’s a shame, but that’s how it is. I find it hard to design with producible things in mind. The other day I found this incredible fabric—and I love it—but it’s going to take an hour to sew twenty centimeters of it, so I guess I’m still struggling to find the right balance between using things that I love and using things that are practical.

DD: What inspired your latest collection?
Emma Mulholland: It was called ‘Cruel Summer’, which is a song by Bananarama. It was everything I’ve grown up around. My dad surfs a lot on the coast, and I watch a lot of surfing movies, so I used a lot of the colours you see on the beach. ‘Surf’ might not have been on trend, but I just wanted to do something that reminded me of my childhood. When you’re at TAFE you design according to other people’s briefs, so I’ve wanted to get this out of my system for a while. I didn’t mean for it to feel so ‘under the sea’, but I do get a lot of inspiration from animals and nature. Next season I think I want to create a safari feel.

DD: Do you think Australiana and surf references will be a regular motif in your collections?
Emma Mulholland: I’ll definitely keep a sporty surf feel. And yeah, I want to keep everything quite Australian. I hope that people on an international level appreciate it, because our style is pretty different to anything else out there. You’ll notice a big difference in my accessories though, which I think will be a nice change. I want things to be—not darker—but not as bright either.

DD: Do you ever feel a sense of cultural cringe over anything Australian?
Emma Mulholland: Yeah, but I love it at the same time.

Photos by Byron Spencer