Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program 2016

Interview with Eileen Braybrook and John Brooks, Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program 2016

0 Comments 23 March 2016






Meet Eileen Braybrook and John Brooks. They are the artistic power duo behind Beast Cult, a unique fashion exhibition showcasing during the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival. After meeting through a textiles course during their academic years, the pair have worked to create a seamless blend of styles and designs by combining garments and fashion with art and design. And now, they’re raising beasts.


Beast Cult fuses fashion and art in a unique, new way, raising questions about the corporate industry of fashion, in comparison to the relative ‘freedom’ of being an artist. What do you think about mass produced fashion as compared to local design?


JB: I don’t know, I guess, it’s two completely different things. I mean I like making videos and objects, and things like that, and I guess you could relate that to fashion. But I didn’t want to be tied into having to have clothes involved. I mean, I love clothes, and I love making clothes – I don’t really like the industry. Like fast fashion. People don’t understand how much clothes really cost, because we’ve got cheap labour and mass production, so I hate making too many of the same thing. And I can’t make anything identically; I just don’t work that way.


EB: I don’t like [fast fashion] personally. I can’t see a world without it, though. I think if you’re going to buy fast fashion, just make sure it’s of a quality… actually, no, that’s not right.


JB: Just don’t buy it (laughs). Seriously, I’ve stopped, it’s easy.


EB: I’ve stopped too – I buy basics that are quality, so they’ll last a long time, or I buy stuff that really speaks to me, and excites me, that I’ll keep in my wardrobe for a really long time. And I think that’s the kind of thing I want to make – both of those things.


How would you describe your personal styles?


EB: Mine changes, day to day. I think if I didn’t work in a corporate office, it would be a bit of a different story. I love comfort; oversized stuff. It changes day by day. I grew up in Broken Hill, so it’s always sunny, really, really bright, stark – and I’d wear bright clothes all the time. And I think when I moved here, I sort of stopped a bit, because you feel kind of funny sometimes. When it’s grey outside, everyone’s in black, and it’s raining, and if you’re in this bright pink fluffy whatever, sometimes you want to blend in a bit.


JB: I find I wear the most colour towards the end of winter when it’s like, “Okay, enough.” [My style] changes so much, like every year or two, it’s just a bit of “Hey, I like this now.” For most of my life I wore black, and only black, and greys. I was a bit of a goth teenager in the nineties. In the last, maybe, year or two, I’ve embraced colour more.


EB: There’s nothing better than opening your wardrobe and it’s just like this crazy clown wardrobe. Although I’ve noticed a lot of navy’s snuck in, and it’s really boring, but I think that’s just for work. But I’m into utility at the same time as having fun things to look at and wear.


JB: If I look like I’m in a cult, I’m happy. I just really like long hemlines. I kind of now and then go through where I like to wear things that are really camp, like a bit of mesh and fake fur, and leather even. I don’t wear as much shag pile as I would like to. I feel like maybe it’s too much.


EB: If it was as cold as it was last winter, we’d totally shag-pile it up.


Beast Cult draws influence from séances, Lovecraftian beast worship, and rituals. What is it about those themes that interest you?


JB: I think it was just talking about how when we were teenagers, we were really into doing séances, and The Craft would have come out when we were, I don’t know, eleven or twelve. We both have crystals, and all of that stuff is kind of carried through. I think it’s just that unsettling feeling of otherworldly presences – like, I believe in a lot of that stuff. I’m a little bit skeptical, but yeah. […]I mean, I go to psychics, I read my horoscope. I think there was a period where, I don’t know, I felt embarrassed by that? I thought it was a little bit shameful. And so this exhibition is kind of just going way over the top with it.


Did you get a psychic reading for the show?


JB: No! We were actually going to get a psychic to come into the space for one of the days we were sitting. But it didn’t happen. Something for next time, I guess.

In the exhibition space there is a wall that showcases both of your initial sketches and some textural offcuts. What was the intention of that wall, what did you want to show?

EB: I just thought people would find it interesting. And, even though the jacquards are made in a factory, I guess, I wanted to be able to show people that I actually did paint those images first, before I digitize them, and before they [were] given to the technician. Those were actually probably the most work out of all of my pieces. The ones that were made by somebody else, which is weird. They took the most time, they were the most expensive, the most time consuming, the most headaches.

JB: Sometimes there’s things that don’t get used, but they still really work, they just never lead to a garment. I did a lot of weavings with googly eyes in them, and I kind of really wanted to show those, even though they didn’t make it to the garments.

What is the future for both of you, and for Beast Cult? Are you looking to explore the connection between art and fashion again, and collaborate, or pursue other projects?

JB: My main focus is art for the moment, definitely. I mean, I’m going to keep trying to have a small business with hand woven pieces, I guess. But at this stage the only kind of fashion related things I want to do are collaborations with Eileen. I don’t really have much interest in doing it professionally, just because I want to enjoy it, so I want to do it on my own terms.

EB: I do want to develop a small label, as I said, and now I’ve done a few of the samples that were in the show so I’ve already started that process. So it would be good to get a little more out of getting all that started. So maybe a small knitwear label that doesn’t necessarily have a new collection every year, but maybe a new garment every year. […] But I definitely love collaborating with John, and would do that again for sure. The process of collaborating has always been really easy with John. I’m always confident that the work will look really good together.

And finally, your garments are made for wearing during rituals, spells, and cults, right – so what sort of beast would you want to conjure?

EB: I would like to conjure some kind of extinct animal, and say sorry on behalf of humanity. I think about it all the time, I really do. Like all the pouches that I use in the show, and the Tasmanian Tiger stripes – I feel so sad for those animals, and for humans, that we don’t have them anymore. How shit is it that we don’t have the Tasmanian Tiger!? So that concerns me, so I would conjure one of those up.

JB: Mine’s probably really selfish. I’d like to conjure something that can just, you know, be my unpaid assistant (laughs). Be at my loom, but [it] really enjoys doing it. Like, I’d feed it, of course.

EB: A craft deity of some sort.

Very good answers. I think your personalities shine through there.

Beast Cult is showcasing at Tinning Street Gallery from 10 March 2016 until 20 March 2016, with garments for sale. Eileen and John will continue to work on their individual projects, and plan to collaborate further, and potentially exhibit work again next VAMFF. Until then, be on the lookout in their studios for any mysterious glimpses of a Tasmanian Tiger tail, or an overworked beast sitting at a loom.

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