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Lucy Dickinson Is Bringing Underground Culture to The Streets of Melbourne

Lucy Dickinson is a 22-year-old artist that was born in London and grew up in Newcastle, near Sydney. After moving to Melbourne to study fashion, Dickinson put down roots, and graduated six months ago from RMIT. She’s a suburban punk designer bringing underground culture into the light, with garments that stunt the streets covered in contrasting reds, blacks, and whites. To celebrate her stick-it-to-the-man aesthetic, Dickinson photographed a series of punk-inspired yearbook shots, exclusively for Milk.xyz. Then, we sat down with the designer to talk more about DIY wearables, community through fashion, and, above all else, sticking to your guns and being your own artist. 

How did you get into making wearables?

I started customizing clothes when I was a teenager because I couldn’t find band shirts that I wanted to wear. When I got into punk I couldn’t find any tee shirts of David Bowie or the Clash where I lived so I started making them. I would screen print and distress pieces to sell too, my aesthetic hasn’t changed much since then I still use a lot of the same techniques.

When did you make the shift from making it for yourself to doing it professionally?

I started selling pretty early on, something I really like about making clothes is how people style it and have their own experiences in the garments. There isn’t anything else I could see myself doing except maybe art, which I really incorporate into most of the clothes I make anyway. It’s nice to be able to combine the two.

I find it so cool that you take your own imagery on your media page, do you usually shoot the pieces yourself?

I’ve worked with a lot of photographers, which has been great, but I love the control of shooting my own work and being able to capture exactly what I want. Its so much fun being able to shoot my friends in my clothes when they are really feeling it.

It’s sometimes so much more authentic that way because your style of photos translate the same culture you reference in your designs. I think it would be awkward if you have these grunge designs shot in a pristine studio. Speaking of which, how would you describe your aesthetic?

I try and do punk and subculture in a new way. Someone called me punk-infused sportswear awhile ago and I was like, “I haven’t done anything sporty in my life so its funny to be called me that.” I did a lot of suits, which aren’t that sporty.

That’s so funny, it’s like, “What are you talking about I’m the least athletic.”

[Laughs] Yeah. It’s hard to describe your own aesthetic but I would call it DIY. Like a punk that doesn’t know what they are doing, you know?

What motivated your recent collection?

I was developing it for awhile from my past experiences. This was inspired by the techniques that are used for customization within subcultures. Particularly these punks that had all these secrets about customizing clothes using weird materials that you would have no idea of outside of the community. I knew a crust punk who would use dental floss to repair her pants. It was inspiring how they didn’t have any money but would work around it to make these really incredible outfits. It was about developing ideas. It was hard to research because there is hardly any information online. I’m so into fashion outside of the industry and people making clothes for themselves. My club kids friends will sew an outfit in a day for that night and it would be okay if it fell apart because after two hours they would have taken it off and lost it anyways. It’s such a beautiful and personal concept creating exactly what you want for yourself.

It’s kind of the whole, “I don’t care if I went home naked because my clothes was sewn up from dental floss anyways.”

Yeah, exactly.

There’s something so relatable about your work, where you can see it in your own community but it’s also so relevant internationally within every sphere of youth culture.

Definitely, the need to dress up and be in this look you did all by yourself. More about being confident in that DIY look than spending money for an outfit.

What inspired your views as an artist?

I was really into Vivienne Westwood as a designer and in the way that she’s created fashion out of an underground culture. My recent fave is Charles Jeffrey in London, people that create the whole vibe around club nights.

Kind of like that idea of making that cross between club wear and everyday scenarios. That boldness of wearing it in daylight.

I really want it to make clothes that sit on different genders. I was disheartened about making one of each garment and making it for size 8 models (xs or size 4 in the US). I don’t want my clothes to be presented on only one size of person so all of them are really adjustable. I wanted it to be accessible as a brand and an image.

I can totally feel that from your work, instead of, “Here’s this model that I had to fit my clothes to,” it’s more like, “Here’s my friend that I wanted to see rocking this outfit and feeling good in it.”

Yeah, it’s so good. There’s this recent shoot I’ve posted of two boys in my clothes and after that we kinda went from being club friends to day friends. I find a lot of my models in clubs and our shoots are always fun.

How would you define your own identity within the community that you are a part of?

I would definitely describe myself as queer. Melbourne has an amazing queer club community, everyone is so creative and super stoked on what each other is doing.  It just is really the things I’ve been involved with more. Fashion is becoming so diverse and seeing people wearing such different things.

Fashion and queer identity is seeing people as people now and not having the body be this one definable thing.

It’s exciting. I love it.

How would you describe the pattern you use in your work?

Distorted houndstooth.

I love it because it reminds me of taking something that used to be a cheesy punk pattern that was thrown away and reinventing it into such a statement piece. It gives it new life.

Yeah! I moved it across a photocopier as a reference to punk printmaking and zine culture. I wanted to put it on suits because traditionally it would be a conservative print and I wanted to take that away. Have a garment that used to be worn by conservative men and present it in a different way.

You do a lot of interdisciplinary work, how do you incorporate all the illustration and embroidery in your work and what got you into taking that approach in your practice?

I was so excited by all these techniques that I wanted to do everything! I wanted to incorporate as much as I could possibly do in the collection. I have a distinct aesthetic so everything kinda works together. Everything I tried was great, I’ve got 3D printing and laser cutting throughout, it was so cool I was like how can I not bring this in.

How has it been post-graduation for you?

I think it’s always going to be a bit draining post uni, but at the end of the year last year I won the Australian Fashion Foundation scholarship, which comes with 20 grand and an internship overseas which is still being organized. I also got into a few fashion shows and just got back from New Zealand showing my collection. Its hard getting a job in fashion so I’ve been making pieces to sell. Mostly the less exciting pieces of my collection, so much of it really isn’t viable to make commercially since it takes so long to make.

What are your hopes and goals as a designer?

My future plans are to work for other people for a few years and hopefully start my own label eventually.

What message would you say to yourself that you want to uphold as an artist?

Stick to your guns. I was really disheartened not getting into a big fashion show halfway through last year but they were actually so restrictive so not being in it allowed me to do whatever I wanted. They had all these rules like no swearing or no politics.

No politics? Fashion is so political.

Yeah! It was like, “Fuck you, I’m going to do what I want.” If people don’t like it, they don’t like it. I can still feel good about my own work. It’s all about trusting what you want to do.

Images courtesy of Lucy Dickinson

Stay tuned to Milk for more queer fashion.

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