They call it "mystical earth wear for spiritual beings." They are Jedda-Dasiy Culley and Caroline Wels, the duo behind the rebirth of the Australian label Desert Designs. RUSSH Editor In Chief Jess Blanch talked with the girls for Style.com's Style Map, read the full interview below.
The DD redux was inspired by Jedda's connection to the brand…. when and how did the initial idea strike to revive the label?
Culley: I was finishing my Master of Fine Arts at the time and was up to my eyeballs in contextualizing and analyzing, stretching my mind, finding ways to solve the world’s problems, when Dad and Caroline approached me with the idea of restarting the label. Because of where my head was at, I thought that through Desert Designs, we could find a way of solving our relationship with the natural world. I was attracted to the idea of adapting the cosmology of our indigenous peoples and enlightening the entire planet with the philosophy behind the Dreamtime. Insofar as fashion can serve as a gateway to alternative thinking, Desert Designs is committed to inspiring people to discover this for themselves and adapt these concepts into our everyday living. I hope that through this indigenous knowledge we can learn how to live in harmony with nature. The bigger concept is similar to the simple answer. People now more than ever wish to represent a homegrown culture.
Wels: I had previously worked in fashion and vowed never to go there again. I had taken up a course in fine arts and was thoroughly enjoying myself but was still seeking more. It was about three years ago, a group of us were helping Jedda set up for her first MFA exhibition, and Steve (Jedda’s Dad) had been sharing his stories of Jimmy Pike and Desert Designs over the years. I consider myself to be quite the opportunist, whatever the cost might be, and my proposal to Steve to give it another shot just popped out of my mouth. With such a strong history behind it, it seemed far more than just a fashion brand, something I could really sink my teeth into, an opportunity to explore design, print, colour and challenge the conceptual side of my creative nature.
And what was the driving force in reinvigorating the brand?
Culley: Life-long passion. For some of us there has been a life-long desire to enrich the world with the magic of Jimmy’s imagery. Also at the heart of the company is the desire to find avenues through which to introduce people who may not be aware of the culture of indigenous Australians.
Wels: Steve is very much the driving force behind the project, coming from the lifelong passion and love he holds for his special friendship with Jimmy Pike. This driving force has been shared and inspired through all who are now involved, I believe there is a certain kind of magic in JP’s works that resonate and speaks to the new generation; a long lost connection to nature that we’re striving to reclaim.
Tell me what's so special about this spot in Centennial Park…
Culley: You can’t see it from the photograph but just over to the right is the best climbing tree. Caroline and I have been climbing that tree together for over ten years. From the top of the tree you look out onto this grassy spot and the wattle trees.
Wels: Nostalgia and friendship - there is a huge tree here we’ve spent hours/years climbing, sitting and mulling over life in. A little spot of paradise nestled amongst the chaos.
Desert Designs: River swimming, rainbow mountain, iridescent sea, violet sunrise, eucalyptus breeze, red dirt road, starry night, wattle tree, magic pudding, marmalade skies, indigo pools, numbat dreaming and gumnut babies.
Describe the DD aesthetic in five words…
Desert Designs: Mystical earth wear for spiritual beings
What's Jimmy Pike's place in Australian culture and what do you see as his legacy?
Culley: Jimmy is pretty famous and his work is part of the collections in all of the major Australian galleries. He was able to describe his culture to an outside world. His knowledge of the desert and his spirituality transform an isolated place into an accessible experience and a rare encounter with its beauty and sacredness. Jimmy’s paintings of the physical and spiritual nature of his country added a new energy to the central position of landscape in Australian art.
Wels: I believe Jimmy is Australia’s most influential Indigenous artist; his story is dark and light, speaks truth and resonates timelessly. I hope to see Desert Designs continue to evolve, carrying on his story to more eyes and ears around our planet, giving people a rare insight into a scared ancient culture.
Friendship is a key theme through the history of the brand, describe yours in five words.
Desert Designs: Double Rainbow Over Distant Mountain.
Who would you like to see wearing DD?
Desert Designs: Bart Simpson and David Bowie.