DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT: INTERVIEW WITH LEIGH DUFFY, DESIGNER BEHIND LEIGH DUFFY
My love for Leigh Duffy's designs started with versatility. The garments are clean cut, simple, edgy and flirty, as well as being easy to mix and match together and with pieces I already have in my wardrobe. His colour pallet is amazing too, with soft colours mixed with delicate yet edgy prints, to balance a strong feminine line. To be completely honest, I think what I like most is that Leigh Duffy pieces aren't figure hugging, which means if there are bumps and lumps you want hidden, this label has a sure way of glamifying them!
Designer Leigh started his journey into the design world as a graphic designer and ascended into the life of fashion in 2013, and we should all be thankful that he did!
What sparked your interest in fashion growing up?
As a creative child I loved to sketch and draw. Over time I began to transfer my designs onto teeshirts, creating one-off screen prints. I love the idea of wearable design so it’s been a natural progression toward fashion.
When did you decide to pursue a career in fashion?
In 2012, after more than a decade as a graphic designer I wanted to transfer my digital design skills into creating three dimensional work. Transforming my ideas from sketches and screen graphics to tangible items of clothing has been a new way to explore shape and texture.
Are you self-taught or did you study fashion?
A little bit of both. Whilst I've always had an eye for design and detail, I undertook a one year design course at Melbourne Fashion Institute to learn about range planning and forecasting. I don't adhere to trend forecasts, but I can see how they're important to the major retailers and the broader market. I still have a lot to learn about the industry.
What defining moments in your life have shaped your design aesthetic?
I think it’s important to maintain a progressive approach to life so after years of designing in a two dimensional world I reached a point where I wanted to bring my design to life and fashion had always appealed. My passion for design elements such as form, light, pattern and texture has certainly influenced my aesthetic and it’s been an incredible experience to see my ideas evolve from concept to construction. The support and feedback I've received has validated the decision to try my hand in a new design arena.
What struggles did you face launching your own label?
The struggles are too many to count, but honestly the biggest would have to be the initial resistance I met from within myself. At each hurdle, you need to ask yourself if you have what it takes to get over the mental, physical and emotional hurdles. I think sometimes our greatest challenge is our own self doubt and overcoming that can be tough – but achievable.
Who or what is your greatest inspiration?
I draw great deal of inspiration from nature and the environment. I try to consciously observe the beauty in natural things, in light, shape and form. I think it’s about recognising an element that makes something unique and drawing from that to create new designs.
What do you think your niche is as a designer?
The sculptural form, light and shade created by folding a piece of fabric is what makes designing special for me. To drape and pin something that can then be interpreted or incorporated into a worn piece is exciting. I also love fabric combinations that can make an outfit come alive. I believe a good designer is one who can make even the most lacklustre fabric into something special through a drape, cut and fold that has not yet been explored.
If your designs could speak, what would they say?
I think my designs would make a statement about quiet confidence, understated expression and a subtle desire to be noticed in a crowded room.
What has been your biggest achievement?
I've had the privilege of dressing some talented Australian performers for live events which is really exciting. There's a real buzz when stylists and photographers approach me to include my pieces in their work. It's an honour to be acknowledged in such a way.
What do you plan to achieve in the near future?
As well as building my brand and finding my 'designer voice', I'd love to work with more stylists and photographers on higher end editorial shoots. The creative talent in this country is amazing and the future is really exciting. I'm also very much looking forward to showing my range on the Dress Collective VAMFF runway in February.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
Yes, I would have researched and set in place a solid marketing strategy prior to launching. Like many, I approached my business from a purely design perspective. I figured if I make it, it will sell. We, as emerging designers, are trying to establish ourselves in an overwhelmingly large market, locally and offshore. Building relationships is incredibly important too and I need to work on getting myself out there.
What advice would you give to emerging designers?
A label is a lot more than just producing a garment or a range and if no one knows who you are, you'll struggle to be noticed. It's also something that is difficult to undertake alone, so don't be afraid to ask for help and advice while you're still learning.
What motto do you live by?
If you care about something you have to protect it. If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it. - John Irving.
When you’re not running your label, what do you enjoy doing?
Whilst I love working on my label, switching off is important so I take time out to exercise. Street running is a great way to keep active and explore new places too. There's also nothing better than getting out of the city occasionally to appreciate the natural beauty of this country.