Style Club - Isabelle Hellyer
Isabelle Hellyer, or @Rottwield as you may know her, the self professed Motivational Speaker of her own RottWorld and the brains behind Aussie made label all is a gentle spring aptly describes her style to us as “Laura Ingalls Wilder protagonist drafting sponsored post for Marine Collagen powder.”
Inspired by the enchanting marriage of extravagant historical costume and her gym obsessed lifestyle, Isabelle admits all is a gentle spring is a self indulgent project to fill the gaps in her wardrobe, born from creating garments for herself and her friends. Easy to wear, playful and practical pieces designed for everyday dress-ups. We ask her to tell us more.
In terms of influence, I learned to sew from my Grandma, and she had hundreds and hundreds of patterns—a lot from the 60s, which were her own, but other patterns in good condition dating back to the 1920s from her mother. I remember being obsessed with the 50s most of all—I love a cinched waist and a full skirt. I love a petticoat. That also came from the movies I was watching—Come September, Bathing Beauty, The Pajama Game. From maybe age six to ten or eleven I was just in love with Old Hollywood. I do remember hating that some of the movies were in black and white, not colour, which is funny. And even before that, I was obsessed with 18th century ball gowns with ultra-wide panniers—obviously not knowing any of the terminology at like, age five. But I just drew ball gowns all the time, not sure how they came across my radar. And I had a lot of paper dolls, maybe that had something to do with it. All of this is of course pre-phone, pre-High School, before you learn what you’re allowed to like as a teenager. Anyway, everything I loved as a kid was from the past, to varying degrees. So I think that’s just where my mind goes, even now.
But we can’t dress like that, really, and there are so many things that I love to do that require totally different standards of dress. Working out, mainly. Pumping iron. It’s important. So when it comes to the label, it’s really about marrying my favourite elements of 17th, 18th century dress, and to a lesser extent design tropes of the 50s and 60s, with incredibly flexible, modern fabrics and styles. If not theatrical or fantastical, then good clothes are at least amenable, in that that they make getting dressed easier and faster. I think everything I’ve made is either theatrical or easy.
The prospect of our next season is so exciting, but it’s slow going. I’ve been slightly more ambitious with the scale and scope of the collection, but I’ve also had to save a few ideas for the next next season. We’ve done our own prints this time. There will be more historical silhouettes made with modern, technical fabrics. Expect more gym-wear, more corsets, more dresses. And more day-to-day pieces with medieval graphics, Venetian masks—curing the plague is in. As always, it’ll be made in Australia. I’ve always wanted the label to function as a legitimate umbrella under which more casual experiments could live—one offs with repurposed found fabrics and dead stock materials. I’m looking forward to getting the second collection finished, and then having the freedom to operate a little more off-the-cuff, not worrying about whether a piece can be duplicated or put into production.
Special pieces in my wardrobe include some Gunne Sax prairie dresses I love. Some DAISY pieces, GARBAGEtv stuff, a Maroske Peech leotard. They’re special because they’re all independent Australian projects which have been warmly received by an international audience. And that gives you faith, and makes you proud. Inspired and happy too. Then, of course, my all is a gentle spring pieces. The Pastoral Corset particularly, and the Runes Tee.
I wanna include one caveat: I think it’s important to avoid overstating the importance of personal style. With some exceptions, self-fashioning and personal style are distractions from the threats facing the collective—threats which cannot, in any meaningful way, be offset by style or self-expression. Knife to a gunfight, ya know? So I worry about talking about the way I dress like it’s important. But guess what! I’m doing exactly that!
Anyway. I don't explicitly think about expressing myself when I get dressed—I don’t see myself reflected in my clothes or anything. When I see a dress and say: “This is so me” I don’t mean “This really reflects how I see myself” I just mean, “This is archetypal of the kind of clothes I’m drawn to.” It's more-so about interacting with things I think are nice, hot, novel, etc. When I first started dressing myself I was more trying to emulate things I was obsessed with—as a younger kid, these were things like the dolls I had, or the movies I watched—then it became more about copying things I’d seen online—Tumblr, lookbook.nu, TV show I’d stream. Now, how I dress is more directly impacted by what I’m going to do that day, say whether or not I’m going to the gym, more pragmatic.
I like the way people dress in Melbourne, but I’m probably just saying that about my friends, who I think dress well. The internet too. Or Instagram. The everyday dress of very online people looks a lot like historical costume these days, which I love. I’m thinking of micro-trends like milkmaids, renaissance dress, or bonnets and the like. It’s always fairly undiluted: the fashionable versions of those clothes don’t vary much from the costume-shop versions, except the fashion fabrics are probably more breathable. So I’ll also say Instagram, for enabling, or maybe just encouraging, more narrative dressing.
I’m currently reading Jane Jacob’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the On Politics Newsletter, Keeping Up with the Kontinuity Errors and TheShadeRoom. I’m watching Million Dollar Listing LA and I’m listening mostly to Podcasts like Eating for Free, Call Her Daddy, The Daily, Sober Cast, My Favourite Murder and all the Wondery Podcasts.