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Beyond the Bale : Oct 07 - Nov 07
PROFILE Longina Phillips Textile designer Colouring our world with print magic Longina Phillips unfurls a tightly rolled ball of fabric she was carrying under her arm. Revealed is a top made from the finest, sheerest 100 per cent Merino wool. It stretches, it rolls into a compact ball but most stunningly, it is printed with the most intricate floral design. Longina sees the garment as a showpiece to illustrate how technology can benefit natural fibres, such as wool, which once posed a printing challenge and were hard to sell in summer ranges. Twenty years ago Longina Phillips was a graphic designer experimenting with textile designs.Today she runs Longina Phillips Pty Ltd, Australia's largest textile design firm, employing 20 staff there and at its division, Direct Digital Print. She has an office in New York and regularly takes sites at trade shows in Europe and the US. The company is also one of Australia's largest operators of ink jet printing technology using reactive, acid and disperse dyes, which print fabrics using equipment similar to a desktop printer, doing away with the traditional messy and labour- Australian Wool Innovation Limited AWI, GPO Box 4177, Sydney NSW 2001 intensive screen-printing process. Internationally, the textile industry is still based on the flat or rotary-screen-print system, but Longina's ink jet equipment fills a niche -- for small orders, or for designers wanting to create a sample range to test on buyers -- because it can print directly from a computer image. "If necessary, it's now a three-day turnaround," she says. "A designer can come in here with an idea, we can create the design, print the fabric and then have it back to them within three days as a made-up garment sample.Traditionally you have to commission the design, then have screens engraved and strike-off done, which can take up to six weeks." The printers are installed at Longina's second-floor studio in Sydney's inner city on timber floorboards and surrounded by graphic designers working on computers. It is a clean, environmentally friendly process using less water and less electricity than traditional methods, and producing little waste. There are three elements to the business: design commissions, seasonal design collections (viewed by designers), and the Longina label, the company's fashion arm, which began by accident when a range of clothing was made up for a retail trade show to showcase what digital printing can achieve and orders were placed. The company works with the full spectrum of the market, having recently printed short runs of 100 per cent Merino wool for leading designer Akira Isogawa, right through to designing the prints for pyjamas in Best & Less. Designs always start as an original drawing created by company artists, which is scanned, then coloured up and manipulated on a computer.The Australian fashion industry is very sophisticated, demanding new concepts all the time. Longina Phillips seeks most of its wool fabric through Sydney-based manufacturer DPK and applauds them for their innovative work. "I particularly have to thank Steven Brender who has been extremely supportive with our wool projects," Longina says. "The fabrics are beautiful and with inkjet technology the prints are photographic quality. It was impossible to print fine line-work or multiple colours on wool before. Because wool fabrics can be produced much whiter the potential for greater colour use is tremendous. If the trend is pastel, then we can do pastel because we no longer have that yellow tone to worry about." Working with leading designers is something Longina encourages the wool industry to foster. "The top designers can afford to take risks.Their collections are relatively small and they can try something new. If it works then the trickle-down effect comes in with the rest of the retail market following. "I love the young designers.They are adventurous and they have no pre-conceived ideas because they have grown up in a world where everything is possible.This technology allows them much more individuality." While at times Longina says it is difficult to predict trends, she feels environmental concerns will drive purchasers' fashion decisions. "Consumers are also looking for fluid fabrics with lots of drape and a luxurious feel -- wool certainly offers that without any of the bulkiness of the past." -- KELLIE PENFOLD More information: www.longinaphillipsdesigns.com.au; www.directdigitalprint.com.au; www.longina.com.au PHOTO: KELLIE PENFOLD
Aug 07 - Sep 07 Supplement
Dec - Jan 08