Claudia Williams is the artist-turned-designer behind wearable art label Llani Creative. Her handbags made from recycled tyre tubes have taken Townsville (and beyond) by storm and her incredible pieces fashioned from reclaimed materials are netting her some serious cred on runways across the country.
Where did your interest in wearable art come from?
I’ve always had an interest from probably 10 years ago. But there was no movement in wearable art, there was nothing happening on the horizon. It was just people doing it for shows or fancy dress or something like that. There’s so many designers that are stepping outside the square by using recycled materials or using different materials in their works, it’s sort of making a movement in itself as all of those works starting to come onto the big catwalks; so they’re incorporating wearable art into fashion lines and with that you see innovation in fashion. Because they’re physically the Gods of Fashion – other designers start to piece all these things together and they go “Oh, I might just add a little bit of plastic into my turtleneck top, or a bit of plastic strip into the bodice or a recycled tyre tube slash into the side-seam of a shirt. It starts to become normal.
How does the trickle-down effect work from runway to wardrobe?
They [the Gods] do this wow thing and designers than see it and think Oh I like that they’re using recycled materials or plastic or metal and they think how can we put that into today’s fashion, which is fast fashion – it’s just so quickly that things are turning over. And I think that’s where my practice is I’m sort of trying to bend the rules a bit using tyre tubes and plastic because I want to see it used in today’s fashion, I want to see a strip of plastic, I want to see a bit of tyre tube somewhere so that’s my aim.
Where do your tyre bags fit in?
I went to work at the Drill Hall Studio and I was talking to Sue [the owner] about my collection of fashion and I was really concerned about how I could actually put it into the gallery because people wanted to know what I did as a resident. Sue said “why don’t you make some stuff out of your tube?” That was basically the brainwave and it just went from there. They first bags sold straight away and I can’t keep up now!
Other than bags, what pieces are you working on?
I’m doing belts and I’m doing harnesses. The harness collection is new and will be on the catwalk for Townsville Fashion Festival. I’m teaming them with everyday wear so people can again wear my designs every day. The harnesses will be really good coming into the cooler months for Townsville; it’s a bit classy and I want to see people wearing their suits with their jackets and their tailored dresses, but also just casually with their jeans. I’m going to keep developing the tube line, using the tube as my material at the moment, my bags, my belts and my harnesses and just bringing them together so I can go into more fashion lines, bigger houses, maybe Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane. I’d really like to see my bags in Myer -that’s my goal.
How would that change your production process?
As an artist and designer it goes sort of goes against my grain to go overseas to get manufactured. I think that we’ve already taken so much away from creative industries and I think that we need to have manufacturing and some fashion here. So I would like to do it here if it was feasible and profitable, but then when it comes with that, of course it comes with a price tag. We’re all so used to buying a bag for $100, and so these bags might have to be $300 because we’re paying for Australian workers to make the bags or the harnesses. I think there is some possibilities, I just have to keep testing the market really. Again, people have to be aware that if they buy something Australian made it’s going to be a bit dearer.
What doors has Instagram opened for you?
I’ve sold so many bags on Instagram it’s not funny – with PayPal you can make a sale anywhere. I also met one of the Wella educators in Sydney through Instagram. He was putting on a big show in Melbourne for Pop Up Hair Expo and asked me to do all of his garments. After the invitation, I got off the phone and honestly, I just cried. I still get nervous when I’m making his stuff because it’s so different.
Do you think regional creatives have opportunities they wouldn’t necessarily get in the capital cities?
I think that’s the best thing about being in a smaller community – you can talk to someone about your ideas and they can give you feedback so you can move forward. It tests the market as well, and I think being in a smaller place sort of grounds you, too, so you can really put your head down and get your work done. I think if I was in a bigger city it would take me so much longer to produce these works because I wouldn’t be able to find all the people that I need to network with.