Jodie Hilton, founder and CEO, The New Garde

Creating something cheap is only a race to bottom dollar and the bottom of the ocean ...

It’s no secret that the fashion industry can be a tough one to crack. For many emerging designers, starting their own label or even getting the right experience seems almost unachievable, and unfortunately many Brisbane creatives feel they need to relocate to Sydney, Melbourne or overseas to get the start they need. Jodie Hilton is here to change all of that. As founder and CEO of The New Garde, Jodie is committed to providing a space for fledgling fashion design talent to flourish, providing them with all of the resources, skills and cheer-squad support required to make their mark on the industry. Drawing on her strong belief in sustainability in fashion, Jodie is teaming up with members of The New Garde to create bespoke garments out of recycled paper materials for Brisbane City Council’s annual Recreate Paper Fashion Show on Friday November 10. Ahead of the show, we sat down with Jodie to discuss the importance of harnessing local talent, our need to boycott ‘trashion’ and what it’s like to pare back your wardrobe to only 13 items.

We like to start at the very beginning and we hear you grew up in a family of rodeo stars … please, tell us a bit more about that!
My father was a bull rider and my mother made custom western shirts. My extended family were in bronc ride and bareback, campdraft. I think we had one of everything – except a rodeo clown but our sense of humour made up for that in spades. My family has always lead a rural lifestyle. I was on a horse as soon as I could walk and have memories of my father putting me on Mr Sheen (my palomino) and directing me how to hold the reigns. We were often on the road, following the rodeo circuit. Mum and Dad doubled as my homeschool teachers between work and competing. I was found trying to find loose change on the ground so that I could spend my time in sideshow alley or trying to eat as much rainbow fairy floss as humanly possible.

How and why The New Garde began?
After graduating from a branded fashion degree I set out to start my career and like many students, I had my sights set on Sydney and Melbourne. After completing internship after internship I grew close to the people I worked with and discovered that moving cities with the idea of greater opportunities was a siren call. I saw how labels worked with global magazines. How sustainable labels could be commercialised and how they communicated with overseas factories. Most of my internships were invaluable experiences but there were a couple of internship programs that weren’t moderated or ‘experience orientated’. This led me to think about every fashion design graduate and the amount of people like me that were taking the same fruitless journey year after year. I wondered why there aren’t enough jobs for us. I examined my industry to discover the problem wasn’t a job shortage, but a skills shortage. We can’t all be runway designers, but many emerging designers were struggling to land work without two or more years’ experience. There was a gap! New designers needed contacts and a network to help them gain experience and avoid mistakes that they normally would if they were going it alone.

The New Garde has become a hub for creativity with a nod to fashion and production. I’m a technical designer that can take designs from ideas to production. Additionally, my skills in a marketing and communication design have afforded me the ability to share my knowledge, build a network and for our designers to all be able to count on each other. There’s a standard of work coming out of The New Garde that builds on educational experience and kits out new designers with a support team that they can call their own – but without the high expense.

Why do you think it is important to encourage local creative talent to stay in Brisbane?
I work with most of the educational institutions in Brisbane and can see first hand the variety of amazing talent that we produce. I also see many of them making the journey to other states and burning out or their wage not affording basic living costs in a role they can’t grow in. Brisbane needs creative talent to build on the industry standard and evolve with tech and innovation. 

What can The New Garde offer Queensland designers that they would struggle to find elsewhere?
Real career support and a cheer squad that will nurture their skills. The New Garde elevates brands and fast tracks designers, increasing their skill levels, marketing know-how and business support. But most importantly, the designers can make a couple of their first mistakes when they are new to the industry and it won’t cripple their careers.

Can you recommend any up-and-coming local designers we should keep an eye out for?
Look for Sofia Moreno-Marcos and sticks + stone, the label. We’re also excited to announce The New Garde is launching a collaborative label in 2018!

You’ll be participating in Brisbane City Council’s Recreate Paper Fashion Show on Friday November 10, where you’ve been given the task to create runway fashion out of paper. What can you tell us about your design?
I have collaborated with Helena Rose and Kristian Qursan to create a look that exemplifies our ethos – diversity and equality. We have used Who Gives A Crap black and white toilet paper wrapping (premium range of course!) to symbolise duality and optimism. To address change in perceptions and challenge opinions. We have a great love of 1980s and see this era as a time of rebellion and strength, especially when it came to rights and identity. And of course THE best permed mullets!

The paper fashion show and twilight market highlights Brisbane’s efforts to be a clean, green and sustainable city. What are your thoughts on sustainability in the fashion industry?
The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter in the world. I hate the idea that we now see fashion as disposable – ‘trashion’ even. I can’t bear to see wastage, or see mistakes in garment making that result in instant landfill. Therefore I can unashamedly say that I discourage starting a label that isn’t meaningful to a huge group of customers and practices that are going to do more harm to the planet than good. I support designers (like sticks + stone) who wish to start out with sustainability as a meaningful alternative to uncherished junk that poses as clothing. ALL labels should be sustainable in some way and I believe that designers should follow an ethical, environmental and/or social responsibility with what they create to go out into the world. Creating something cheap is only a race to bottom dollar and the bottom of the ocean.

What is the most interesting item in your wardrobe?
The spaciousness! More than two years ago I culled my wardrobe back to 13 items (excluding underwear/socks) in my wardrobe. I have seen the cull as a social experiment to see how long I can go with just a core collection. Paying extra for something that will last has paid dividends! Now I can afford smashed avocado and a mortgage! If I have an event to go to I loan it.

Finally, do you have any words of wisdom to share with budding creatives?
Your education is worth it and industry relevant. Keep up momentum when you graduate, because nobody gets snapped up for a dream job because they are Insta-famous anymore. Seek out companies that are genuinely and actively following sustainable methods. Find a small tribe of people you admire and learn from them. If you can’t find them, find The New Garde.

Catch the action at Brisbane City Council’s Recreate Paper Fashion Show and Twilight Market on Friday November 10 from 4:00–9:00 pm at King George Square.


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