Pamela Easton and Lydia Pearson, fashion designers, Easton Pearson
There were a lot of people trying to forge a path – it was a young, exciting time!
Pamela Easton and Lydia Pearson may have spent their childhoods growing up in Queensland thousands of kilometres apart, but the two little trend-setters were extraordinarily in sync. After meeting through friends in Brisbane in the 1970s, the pair clicked immediately and embarked on a lifelong friendship that would ten years later lead to the creation of Easton Pearson. As one of Brisbane’s most prized fashion labels, the brand is now stocked in boutiques around the world as well as its flagship store on James Street. As Pamela and Lydia busy themselves in the final few weeks before Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival launches in Brisbane on Sunday August 23, the creative duo took five to chat fashion shows and Indian shopping missions.
Easton Pearson is set to feature in the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Group Show 2 this year – any hints as to what we can expect to see from the label?
Lydia: Yes, we’ll be showing our spring/summer collection that we’ve just started to put into stores now. For the theme of the collection, we were inspired by a house in Brazil from the 1950s – a house that sat in a jungle garden, so it was a mix of the strength of the architecture and the wildness of the plants.
How did you discover the house?
Lydia: It was featured in a film that came out in the French Film Festival earlier this year.
Do you have a personal favourite piece from the collection?
Lydia: Pam’s got one on, that must be her favourite! She’s got on a fantastic checked coat.
Pam: It is great, but because it’s such an intense process to design the collection it’s not until much later that you really decide that you have a favourite – or that you actually like very much of it!
Lydia: I was pretty in love with the off-the-shoulder floral smock when Jesinta Campbell wore it down the runway for David Jones last week.
Are there any emerging Brisbane labels or designers you have your eye on?
Pam: There’s a label called Soot, the designer came through QUT and she’s doing very interesting things and I think is very successful.
Lydia: There were two other girls who came through QUT last year as well, Thea Blocksidge and Linda Nguyen who have a label called TLC (Thea X Linda Collaboration) and they’re doing some really interesting things too – they have little pop-up shops in different places, they’ve had quite a few in Melbourne. They’re quite edgy, architectural kind of designers; they’re doing really great things. I’m also really looking forward to The Fleet Store that QUT runs every year in conjunction with MBFF. The students and just-past students make things to sell in the shop; they tend not to do full clothes but they make accessories and scarves, and it’s always really interesting to see what they’re up to!
Do you think Brisbane has a distinctive sense of style?
Pam: I don’t think it does, I think it’s probably more an ‘east coast style’. I think we wear a lot more colour than in other places and I guess in Queensland the light is quite different so we’re able to wear stronger colour here. I guess the lifestyle is much more relaxed – and that doesn’t mean it’s not sophisticated, but it’s just not so corporate and we can get away with more relaxed and slightly individual things.
Lydia: I think we’re much braver with colour because the light is so hard. If you look around at hot countries everywhere, people tend to dress in a more colourful way, and I suppose when you look around, the landscape is more colourful too.
You both grew up in Queensland, what were your childhood dreams – did you always want to be fashion designers?
Pam: Not when I was very young, but I guess I knew when I was at school that I wanted to work in fashion somehow.
Lydia: I didn’t imagine that I could ever be a fashion designer, it wasn’t on my radar at all. But when I look back, it’s such an obvious thing because I was obsessed with making clothes for my dolls, and then later on making clothes for myself, and op-shopping and making clothes for friends. But it just wasn’t something I considered a career choice until much later on.
How did you meet?
Lydia: We met in about 1977. We met through friends, Brisbane was a very small place back then.
And did you click immediately?
Lydia: Yes, we were in a group of friends and we liked similar things. But then we led very separate lives for a long time. Pam went to live in Melbourne and I went away and came back to Brisbane. So it wasn’t for another decade or so that we actually got together.
How did you arrive at the decision to launch a label together? We heard you both wrote lists about what you wanted from your careers and lives, and they matched up almost perfectly …
Lydia: Yes that was Pam, who’s very organised, who decided that was a good idea. When she said it, I thought it was a great idea but I never would have thought of it myself – ever!
What were the biggest challenges in setting up the label – was it intimidating, or were you too excited to waste time worrying?
Pam: I guess when we started we didn’t ever imagine that we’d still be doing it now. We just wanted to design and sell, and we had ideas that we thought would work, and things we wanted to experiment with. We needed it to make money and succeed, so I guess it was a bit of a risk but we were fairly confident about what we were doing. Lydia had experience with her label and I’d been working at Sportsgirl as a buyer, so we both came at it from slightly different backgrounds, so it was a good balance.
And having each other for support too; no doubt that gives you a little extra confidence.
Lydia: Yeah, it’s a lot easier to do it with two of you – much easier. And also Brisbane was an easy place to start – it was hard in some ways because we were a bit isolated, but it’s still a very friendly, comfortable, community kind of place to be. And in the circles that we moved in, people weren’t judged by how brilliant their careers had been in the last six months so it was easier to take the time to do something. There were a lot of people trying to forge a path – it was a young, exciting time!
And now, what’s a typical day like for you? Is there a typical day?
Lydia: Well it goes in cycles, but we’re always in the office and we’re almost on a design cycle now because we’ve got such a fantastic team of people who take care of the daily business that we have the absolute luxury of focusing on designing. We’re doing quite a few side projects; we’re working on some new designer rugs. We also just did a little project, which we never would have had time to do previously, which was a whole series of coats made out of hand-woven brocade and all hand-embroidered. They were very limited edition, they were one of one, or one of two. We had a little art gallery opening for them, it was a roaring success, it was really fantastic – people appreciated it so much. Our clients are so wonderful and so loyal up here; they knew it would be the only chance to ever get something like this. It took a long time to collect the fabric and work out each piece and colour each one separately, but it was such a rewarding thing to do. It was a bit of a risk, but it paid off really, really well.
Do you have any more side projects in the pipeline?
Lydia: Oh I’m sure we will! We’re thinking about what we can follow up with …
You spend a fair bit of working time over in India too, we hear?
Pam: Yes, we do. We work with a couple of companies there and we’ve worked with the same embroidery workroom for 20-something years. They only do work for us, so we’re very connected to them – we’ve learnt a lot from them and they’ve learnt a lot from us. We understand each other incredibly well, so they can interpret our needs beautifully and we spend quite a bit of time there. It’s pretty rewarding.
In 2009, GOMA hosted a retrospective exhibition to honour your label – that must have been a huge honour?
Pam: Yes, it was incredible! There were about 75 outfits.
Lydia: It was in that great big main area of GOMA – it took up the whole gallery! It was sort of like, well what do we do now? Do we just retire?!
FAVOURITE WEEKEND SPOT TO:
Perk up … Lydia: It has to be Jamie’s Espresso Bar in Fortitude Valley. You always have a good conversation whenever you go there.
Relax … Pam: at home.
Dine … Lydia: Sourced Grocer, Teneriffe – I am obsessed with their pancakes and their poached eggs, they are amazing.
Be inspired … Pam: the world!