Friday, 1 September 2017


The countdown is on until the style elite descend on Canberra for FASHFEST. In the lead up I caught up with Canberra designer Yumi Morrissey who is the creative genius behind Zilpah Tart and its strong colourful unique prints that I am excited to see sashay down the runway. 
Image: Andrew Donato

Where about's did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Canberra

What sparked your interest in fashion?
I decided when I was 7 years old that I wanted to be a fashion designer, and never changed my mind. I spent my time as a child making outfits for my troll dolls.

What personal history has(if any) influenced your views on fashion or your design aesthetic ?
I’ve always been a very girly girl so my designs are very feminine. I’ve also always found individuality important, even when I was a child, and so this is part of the way I design. The clothing stands out in a crowd, through the use of bright colours/prints and beautiful flattering shapes. It’s not designed to blend in, and the designs are not trend based.

How did you get to where you are now? Where did you study?
I studied a Bachelor of Fashion Design at Canberra Institute of Technology, graduating in 2007. My label at this point was just a hobby, while working in the public service. After my son was born in 2013, I quit my public service job to take my business full time. This was the time when I really started on the journey, working out what my true aesthetic and business direction was.

I am super excited to see the Canberra Institute of Technology, I adore the creativity of students and their willingness to push the envelope. How did you come up with the name for your label?
The name Zilpah tart was my grandmother’s name. Zilpah was her first name, and Tart was her maiden name. After she passed away, we were going through her things and I found a 1930s brooch of a penny farthing. At that point, I decided to use her name for the label and the image of the penny farthing for the logo.

Yumi Morrissey designer of Zilpah Tart Image: Holly Morrison

How many people are in your team?
Just me, myself and I. I outsource a small amount of production here in Canberra, but everything else is created by me.

That really impresses me that you are so hands on with your work in all fascists. What is your favourite material to work with?
I use stretch jersey. I love using jersey for the comfort and fit. Particularly after having a child, comfort and being able to move easily (bending down picking up a child etc) became super important. But I like to look good, and generally jersey doesn’t fit that category. So I use design to be able to make beautiful clothing that is also comfortable.

Everyone has one material that they absolutely detest working with, what is your least favourite material to work with and why?
That’s a hard one… but probably chiffon. It’s slippery, it moves on the grain, and is tricky to cut and sew. I generally avoid it at all costs.

I love your use of colour in your designs can you describe your collection in 3 words?
Bright, floral, feminine.

What is your inspiration for creating?
For each collection I design three new fabric prints based on Canberra photographs. I choose a theme and this theme directs the photographs that I take to create the fabric prints. 

I love creating clothing that is beautiful and unique, and not only makes someone feel good wearing them, but through the use of photographic prints, creates a personal connection for the wearer as well.

I agree that clothing should empower you and make you feel great. What or who is your motivation?
My main motivation is being able to do what I love. I think following your passion in life is so important, and I’m motivated to make my dream a reality.

Image: Anthony Caffery

In the lead up to FASHFEST could you share a little about what I and the crowd may see?
The new collection is full of colour. I used photographs from several years of Floriade (pulled them from my Floriade photo collection). I followed a sort of garden nymph vibe, and this will continue through the makeup and hairstyling for Fashfest as well.

You use wonderful digital printed fabrics from inspiration you have captured around Canberra, what is your first memory of using a camera?
My interest in photography is definitely something that developed later on in life. It’s something I really enjoy, but I’ve only really gotten into it over the last seven years or so.

What makes you passionate about fashion and the women you dress?
The most important thing for me is being able to make someone absolutely LOVE what they have bought and are wearing. I want to be able to make women feel good and special when they are wearing a Zilpah tart dress. This has many levels too. Not just the aesthetics of the dresses – I use shapes that tend to flatter most body shapes – but the comfort, the easy care instructions, the versatility (being able to wear the dress with a blazer for work, with sandals on the weekend, and with heals to a cocktail party), knowing that they are wearing a cool photo, quite often cleverly hidden in a pattern – this creates talking points too. Then there’s the local aspect. My customers know they are supporting a local designer. They know that the product is made in Australia by me and they end up with a personal connection to me and to the clothing. It’s makes it more special than a mass-produced piece with no identity.

What are you looking forward to at FASHFEST, besides your designs on the runway?
This will be the launch of my collection so I’m super excited to finally show the new designs, but I love being able to work with other creative people involved in the show, from hair and makeup, models, musicians, and just seeing the whole event come together.

You have been involved with FASHFEST for a few years now. Can you tell me how the festival has changed over the years?
I started at Fashfest in its second year (I was eight months pregnant when Fashfest first launched or would have applied that year also). The show has grown enormously, and it’s really developed its own identity. There are more designers and It’s earned its spot as a major Canberra fashion event.

Image: Tina Nikolovski

Can you describe what runs through your mind when you see your designs walk down the runway?
I love being able to see the designs come to life as a collection. I don’t normally get to see the full collection all together on people at once so It’s great to be able to see that. I also love being able to create a total image using the hair and makeup and seeing it as a show. I’m really excited about the hair and makeup concepts for this year. It’s an opportunity to be really creative.

What type of woman do you envisage wearing your pieces when you create them?
My customers are professional women, aged 25 to 40. They are confident and have a keen interest in unique styles and love to look and feel good.

Where would you like to see Zilpah Tart in 5 years?
My main focus at the moment is trying to expand into the Melbourne market. I now stock at Design A Space in Manchester Lane and Windsor. I hope to be able to build on my customer base there, and then when that market is at a sustainable point, to perhaps expand into the Sydney market.

What advice would you give to an aspiring designer?
Think about what you can provide your customers. What do they do? What do they find important? What do they want/need? Think about how your product can appeal to them on different levels. For example, my customers always tell me they love how easy the dresses are to wash and dry and that they don’t need ironing. Many professional women are busy and travel a lot. They love to be able to throw a versatile dress in a suitcase, and not have to worry about needing to iron it in a hotel room.

One thing I should see or do whilst I am in Canberra?
One of my favourite places to go is the National Arboretum. The views are spectacular, you don’t want to miss it. Sunrise there is incredible if you are an early riser.

You’ll also be in Canberra at the only time of the year when Tulip Top gardens (just outside Canberra on the Hume Highway) are open. They are incredible. I’ve used photos from Tulip Top in a previous collection. Floods of blossom trees all in bloom, tulips, and amazing views.

GFASHCOLLECTIVE: Thank you for the travel recommendations and giving me a little insight into your world. I look forward to seeing Zilpah Tart strut down the runway on closing night at FASHFEST and wish you all the best for the collection. 

Tickets are on sale now at:

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