A fashion retrospective
Published 14 October 2017 by Collins234
Travelling through time is easy with Jill Gould. As the co-founder of Melbourne-made fashion label Indigo, a chat with Jill will take you places even the Internet will struggle to find.
From trekking through 1970s Afghanistan gathering embroidered wedding dresses and carpet bags, to strolling through Chapel Street in handmade denim flares, and sitting in the audience of the Fashion Design Council parades in the 80s, Indigo has been there through it all.
“The Design Council parades were the beginnings of Melbourne Fashion week. They were totally for the up and coming designers and were always raw and real,” says Jill.
“We participated in those first Melbourne Fashion parades until they became more commercial.”
Jill and and her business partner John Brien have deliberately charted their own course in the fashion industry for over four decades. In the age of fast fashion and global chain stores that appear overnight, this is a serious accomplishment. Yet, Jill sees it all as an integral part of living a creative life. Experimenting, being yourself and walking to the beat of your own drum are ideals that have served the pair, and their label, well.
“When we started our first store on Chapel Street in the ’70s it was a fairly industrial place where the rent was cheap. Fast fashion hadn’t arrived and there was a huge focus on creativity and people just giving things a go,” says Jill.
When Indigo opened its first store they had only a couple of sewing machines and the simple mission to make great jeans and jackets in denim and moleskin.
“We made classic styles plus embellishments of embroidery, studs & many colours of stitching. We even pre-shrunk the fabric at the local Laundromat!”
“We had absolutely no business experience at all. We just made clothes we liked and people responded,” says Jill.
Inspired by trips to places like Afghanistan and India, Jill’s creative and business partner started to bring back garments few people would ever see. It wasn’t long before word was out that Indigo was the place to go for something truly unique.
“People would line up when new deliveries arrived to find something unusual in what we’d sourced from these very remote, distant places. We still hold fast to that same idea of bringing the genuine craft of beautiful, special things to our store in Collins Street,” says Jill.
While so many stores today overflow with the promise of having something for everyone, Indigo has stayed true to stocking only what’s really special. Jill and her team select items that meet the Indigo criteria of pieces you can fall in love with. They purchase individual pieces from their favourite designers and also create their own designs.
“We have experimented with having our clothing made elsewhere but we have settled on Australian-made pieces while sourcing our fabrics mainly from France,” says Jill.
“We have customers that have been with us from the beginning. They’re now bringing their children and nieces into the store to find that extra special piece. To stand the test of time in the way the fashion scene is now is a privilege. Things have changed, but we love the idea that we’re here to bring real individuality and high quality to an often disposable world.“
Here are a few of her favourite fashion moments from four decades of inspiring and dressing Melbourne:
1. An ’80s Staff Photo
“Our Indigo staff in 1988. It was a birthday present to me at the time with the girls all wearing our sell-out dress of the season.”
2. Classic ’90s Photoshoots
“I loved these dresses and styling. It was the mid-90s and there was a real mixture of traditional, almost nostalgic femininity alongside dark, rich colours. There was a kind of fantasy element going on that was fun.”
3. Claudia in our knit for Fashion Week
“This is Claudia Schiffer in our knit in early years of Melbourne fashion parades. I still love this piece.”
4. Late ’80s Photoshoots
“This jersey was knitted by a local Melbourne knitting mill. We actually found many wonderful old patterns in an old filing cabinet tucked away in a corner there one visit. It was like a treasure chest! The owner, a wonderful man who was more than happy to enable us to achieve our dreams with his decades old patterns, knitted up metres and metres of some of the best patterned jerseys I’ve seen to this day.”
Patchwork skirt of lace and various prints with hand crocheted bolero top and linen jacket.
5. Timeless Fabrics
“This fabric is indicative of the beautiful pieces you can find if you look hard enough. It’s a dress from just a few years ago that seemed to suit so many people and could be elegant and practical in equal measure.”