Flying the vintage flag
Bright idea: Ruth Kirkland of Whisky Bravo with her Rescue scarf. Photo: Marco Del Grande
Carolyn Maloney admits that when her older sister was into vintage clothing back in the 1980s - crocheted hippie vests and 1950s swing dresses, all bought at op shops - she was baffled.
''I thought they were actually pretty daggy,'' she says. ''But they were really beautiful fabrics.''
Now the Sydney-based designer is a retro convert, having recently launched Shoe Love, a line of vintage-inspired accessories such as shoe inserts and tote bags using fabrics by American designer Amy Butler, who is known for cheerful colours and floral-heavy motifs.
The shoe inserts are inspired by a grey silk pair from the Embroiderers Guild of South Australia, which Maloney's sister gave her 10 years ago. She hopes reviving this old-fashioned item will help stop a great sartorial crime of our time: ruining beautiful designer shoes out of laziness.
''A lot of the women I know spend all their money on shoes, and then they put them at the bottom of the wardrobe or they get on the bus with their thongs on and stuff them into their handbag. It's just not great,'' Maloney says.
She is not alone in championing old-fashioned feminine accessories considered tired not so long ago.
This year, Australian Vogue featured a gauzy blue and white scarf on its must-buy list - the sort Grace Kelly once wore - to channel the ''Dolce Vita'' look of Dolce & Gabbana's latest advertising campaign. And Australian handkerchief company Rosdale, which has, since 1958, traditionally sold its wares to those aged 50 and over, has updated its image with ''pocket art'' hankies that appeal to a younger demographic.
Inspired by timeless children's stories, such as Alice in Wonderland, The Owl and the Pussycat, and Little Red Riding Hood, the range is a collaboration between Rosdale and Sonia Brit, a designer from Bendigo in Victoria who creates the artwork. Brit, who sells the hankies at her shop, Bob Boutique, says she has been surprised by their popularity, particularly among the 15-to-30 age group.
''They're one of our bestsellers online,'' she says.
''I think it's a sentimental thing. People are looking back to what their nannas used to own. Everyone had a hanky in their pocket back then.''
Older customers also buy the pocket art range, often as gifts, while younger people use them creatively, to wrap around their wrist or tie onto a bag. Brit always has a hanky on hand. ''I carry around a few of my nanna's. There's something nice about fabric, to grab something that's not going to fall apart.''
Ruth Kirkland, a teacher at the Billy Blue College of Design in Sydney, is a fan of the headscarf, particularly in vibrant colours.
''I love wearing them for a lot of reasons,'' she says. ''Scarves finish an outfit, they make a statement when the costume is quiet or neutral, and they make jeans and a T-shirt look chic.''
She had trouble finding bright scarves to suit her complexion, so she decided to create her own. In January, she launched Whisky Bravo, a limited-edition silk twill range with aeronautical action themes.
Each of the five scarves has a distinctive ''landscape'', as Kirkland describes it. ''There's stories about rescuing animals, about helicopter rescue, and heroic planes,'' she says, referring to the Catalina flying boat, which was used by the RAAF during the Second World War.
The Catalina is housed at Bankstown Airport, in south-west Sydney, and Kirkland photographed it to reproduce on her scarves. Her designs blend photo images and geometric vector graphics in a collage style, printed digitally with acid inks. Despite these modern techniques, Kirkland's inspiration comes from a romantic view of the past. ''Every scarf is a story about love or heroism,'' she says.
She believes older accessories evoke a more optimistic era, which adds to their appeal.
Carolyn Maloney says items with a story or a sense of history are more valued now. ''Maybe people are getting a bit tired of this throw-away society,'' she says.