Featured Designer: Myrtle & Dove

FK chats to Joanne Rapa about her Byron based fashion label, Myrtle & Dove

Can you tell us the story behind your label name, and what we can expect to find?
I really love the idea that my ancestors, who were originally from an island in the Mediterranean Sea, worshipped a goddess very much like the goddess Aphrodite, before they converted to Christianity. That island is also renowned for its handmade laces and many other traditional crafts. I wanted to pay tribute to the many women in my extended family who wove fabrics, embroidered clothing and hand made laces as a matter of daily life. I chose the name Myrtle & Dove because they are the symbols of Aphrodite.
In keeping with the handmade traditions of my ancestors, at Myrtle and Dove, you will find clothing made by hand in Australia. We use recycled materials such as tapestries, appliqués and embroideries and rework them to feature on garments creating limited edition garments for everyday wear or a special occasion. We also make a basic range using organic cotton jersey in a variety of colours organically grown in India and the fabric and garment is then made in Australia.

What is your background and how did you get started?
I have been sewing since I was about 8 years old. I think the first thing I ever made at school was a gingham tablecloth with the standard white cross-stitch design, (my mother still has it). I loved to create and make things and knew early on that I would always make and design clothes. My mother taught me how to pattern make by draping on the body, which was a great introduction to understanding the female form. I went on to study fashion and then costume design in Sydney and worked in the theatre and film industries on productions at Belvoire St theatre and on films such as Moulin Rouge, Star war and Australia. Recently I decided to make a sea change moving from Sydney to Byron Bay where I started to teach sewing to the local community and began my new Myrtle and Dove adventure

Where do you go online to be inspired?
I really love snooping around online and I love blogs. There are so many design and art blogs around. My favourite is yellowtrace without a doubt. Everyday it sends me on little a journey of either: architecture, art, design or fashion. You never know which it will be and I love it!

What are your favourite parts of Byron Bay, we might not know about?
There are lots of touristy things to do in Byron but for the locals you can’t go past the Top Shop for your morning coffee before you meander down the hill to Clarkes beach for a swim. The Byron shire is “the” home of the local farmer’s market. We practically have one in each town and they are all good but my favourite is the one in Mullumbimby. If you can get there on Friday mornings it’s a treat. Home made bagels, pasta to die for and lots of fresh veggies for the week and you get to catch up with all your friends. For a spot of vintage shopping, I love New Vintage in the Byron arcade or Enzo & Toto for some great designer clothes. To end the day a friend and I love to take my dogs, Ella and Gracie for a sunset walk along the famous Belongil beach and then beer and pizza at the Tree House restaurant.

What is your creative process, and what keeps you motivated?
I rarely stop creating or maybe that’s thinking about creating. My environment inspires me, whether it is film, television, nature, magazines, art, textiles or anything else that might catch my eye. I collect fabrics and materials with the view to use them on my garments one day. When I start on a range I like to draw lots of designs then I will usually start draping and making samples of my ideas until I form a cohesive range. I am really easily distracted by just about anything so I try to be focused rather than motivated. When I am making something new I am easily motivated by the design. If I have to do anything repetitive I will usually listen to music or better still an audio book. It keeps me grounded so that I can be more productive.

How important is being environmentally friendly to you and what steps to do you take?
I am generally an old hand at being environmentally friendly at home. I began taking more care about the environment at home in the late eighties doing really basic things like recycling and reusing as a matter of course. It wasn’t until a friend of mine, encouraged me to start my own label and to do it with environmental awareness that I really took on board what it means to be environmentally friendly in business. It is important to me because I just believe that it is so careless and unnecessarily wasteful not to be environmentally friendly. I guess my basic philosophy is that every little bit counts and you can always do more. If I can buy organically grown fabrics I will. I will always use natural fabrics. I make the effort to consider and use sustainable practices in my business. I find new uses for discarded materials so they don’t end up as landfill. I make limited garment quantities to avoid excess wastage. I just have a really simple common sense approach to being less wasteful in my every day working life. Its not too complicated and the more you consider the environment in your actions the easier it gets.


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