Friday, 9 April 2010

Introducing... Elizabeth Yong of PRIMOEZA

Autumn is upon us and what better way to embrace the season than through an interview with the wonderful Elizabeth Yong of knitwear label PRIMOEZA!

Elizabeth's delicate knits are all hand machine-knitted in her bayside studio and we've currently got a lovely selection of scarves and accessories awaiting your perusal here at COUNTER. But judging by Elizabeth's experiments, we can't wait to see what she comes up with for her next collection!

For more information, be sure to visit the PRIMOEZA website as well as Elizabeth's blog - it's a great read!

Happy Friday everyone, see you at Craft Hatch tomorrow!

How did your interest in textiles all begin?

Some of my earliest memories are of sleeping over at my best friend's house. Her family lived in a mansion-like house that was filled with antique wooden furniture, cracked leather chaise lounges, heavy, earthy tableware, crisp white cottons and English garden floral prints. I was so young but I had a real appreciation for those objects, the craftsmanship and the beautiful materials they were made from.

I don't know why I'm drawn to textiles in particular. I do notice though, that textile people seem to be quiet, introspective, love to travel and are appreciative of little details, which maybe describes me.

Could you please tell us about PRIMOEZA and how it all began?
Coming to set up my label has been a very long process. When I finished school, I put myself through many years of study, trying to find something I could apply myself to. I was very, very dissatisfied for so long but thank goodness, I finally had an epiphany and enrolled in the Studio Textiles course at RMIT.

Over a further five years of part time study, I worked my way through all the electives – weave, print, experimental textiles, but felt a real affinity for knit. I had never seen a knitting machine before, and it was a love/hate experience at first. The machines can be quite intimidating, noisy and grimy. I have always loved knit as a medium but I'm not much of a hand knitter so when I discovered what you can do with them, I was hooked.

Concurrently, I was working with a small business that imports the most luxurious fabric from Europe. This really fed me, showed me what amazing contemporary products you can make with traditional techniques, and the exposure educated my eye and feel for quality materials.

Ironically, I have not fully completed the Textiles diploma. It was a course that I thoroughly enjoyed, but I could feel it welling up inside that I was ready to go out and do my own thing. When I finally took the plunge I still needed a lot of encouragement from my partner and friends. I closed my eyes really tight and jumped!

One day I may have some of my pieces made at a knitting mill. You can do a lot on a big commercial machine that you can't do on a small hand operated machine and vice-versa. However, knitting up the samples is an integral part of my process and I can't imagine designing without being hands on the machine.

Some fabric samples

Being a fashion label, how important do you think it is to respond to current trends?
Trends can be used very constructively. They can open you to new ideas and ways of looking at things, doing things. On a practical level, they can make you more accessible. On the other hand I love designers who find an unoccupied niche and then go for it. Designers with a unique vision are usually the most inspiring.

Experimental pieces

What are some things that you draw inspiration from?
The environment has a huge impact on how I feel. My current apartment and workspace has nurtured me through a lot. It's a lovely place and there's lots of green around. The beach is at the end of the street. I'm very lucky.

For each collection thus far, I collect ideas, imagery and objects to help give the collection cohesion. My greater inspiration though is guided by a feeling of melancholy, nostalgia or whimsy and a strong sense of practicality and utility.

Whose work do you admire?
I love the textile patterns and colour palettes from the Art and Crafts and Art Nouveau periods.
The knitwear of Yohji Yamamoto. His pieces can be simultaneously rustic and naive yet contemporary and complex. The design teams behind the more textile driven fashion houses like Marni, Dries van Noten, Mina Perhonen, Eley Kishimoto and Mociun.

I'm becoming more and more interested in embroidery and stitching. I am finding a lot of work I like by young, contemporary designers like Susie Cowie.

Locally, I admire Nikki Gabriel and Katherine Bowman's work because it's just so beautiful, and to watch the set up and progress of textile printers Ink and Spindle on their blog has been fascinating.

But I admire of lot of people's work. I post these regularly on my blog.

More experimental pieces

What future plans do you have for PRIMOEZA?
I have a lot of dreams for PRIMOEZA. My next step is to start constructing garments. I'm a perfectionist though, so sampling will take me a bit of time. An important goal though is to enjoy what I have and not get too anxious about the future.

Elizabeth's workspace

Knitting machine

At last but not least, tell us a bit about your lovely cats. We hear that PRIMOEZA is a combination of their names!
Primo is a red Burmese. My partner and I had just came back from a trip to Italy and someone was looking for a home for him. I ran all the way to go and get him! His name means first in Italian. Ezra (or Eza) is a smokey black Devon Rex. He's way too smart for his own good. His name means helper in Hebrew and we got him because Primo was lonely on his own.

I was stuck for a label name for ages. I was trying to think of all these interesting names but I got sick of it and so started thinking about all the things that are dear to me. I had a joke with myself that I didn't want to call it after my partner so I'd name it after my pets!

People always ask me how to say it – it's PREE-MOE-ZA.

Sometimes I think those cats are actually goblins! There is always something happening. They are both remarkably clumsy and act like dogs. Ezra in particular loves craft and craft materials. His biggest adventure was going to the emergency room at midnight after he ate a lot of cotton and wool – he does admit that it wasn't one of his smarter decisions.


Kate Morgan said...

What an articulate and sensitive interviewee!
Elizabeth Yong is a very talented designer with a clear and individual design ethic.

Anonymous said...

great interview. her work and her blog are unique and beautiful to watch.