An innovative applied research project is giving the next generation of fashion professionals the chance to delve into sought-after heritage tailoring techniques.
The project is a collaboration between education provider Holmesglen Institute and open-air museum Sovereign Hill, which has connected education and industry for the successful recreation of iconic 40th Regiment of Foot garments.
The project started when Sovereign Hill approached Holmesglen to help with the revival of three uniforms – solider, officer and drummer. Sovereign Hill Costume Manager and former Holmesglen educator Erin Santamaria worked with Holmesglen fashion teacher Ryan Euinton to recreate and preserve the legacy of the impressive 19th century British military garments.
Euinton quickly spotted the invaluable learning resources for fashion students that the applied research project could provide.
"From the very beginning, we saw the value in documenting the process. It was not only about remanufacturing the jackets, but also archiving the construction for use in an education setting. I think it’s really important for the industry and the public to see that what we do in the Holmesglen fashion department is strongly linked to industry," Euinton says.
Using extensive body camera footage, the project adopted a master and apprentice model of documentation. The cameras were set-up to give students a bird’s-eye view of the stitching techniques used during the garment reconstruction.
The construction followed three years of extensive research, to ensure the exactness of the recreated uniforms. Santamaria investigated the fabrics and trims used, looking at materials such as silk twill, doeskin and specific Melton wool. She also had to research dyeing techniques of the period to accurately match the “redcoat” red of the original garments.
"The documentation of the tailoring techniques of these garments will benefit students because they will have access [to them]. They’ll be able to learn heritage techniques, and interpret and innovate them in a contemporary setting that can inform new work in fashion. The legacy of this research will be assured," Santamaria says.
Project support and film funding also came from the Holmesglen Centre for Applied Research and Innovation. Euinton hopes the project can be a catalyst for future learning opportunities, with plans to arrange hands-on workshops for students and the public.
The military uniforms were launched at a special event hosted at Holmesglen’s St Kilda Road campus, as part of the 2019 Melbourne Fashion Week. Guests were treated to a presentation and Q&A with Euinton and Santamaria, as well as an exclusive viewing of the redcoats collection.
"The heritage of tailoring is quite strong in Australia, we have a very particular history in this area. It’s been really impressive to see how the public has reacted and come together to witness the project," Euinton says.
Holmesglen has an ongoing involvement with Melbourne Fashion Week. Students are regular participants at the annual event. This year, five BFD16 Bachelor of Fashion Design students premiered their latest collections at the official student runway, held at Melbourne Town Hall.
Underpinning Holmesglen’s fashion courses is the close connection to industry. For Sovereign Hill, the chance to connect with an education provider has given them an opportunity to support the next wave of designers and tailors.
"I think industry links into education are important for industry to be contributing and investing in [these] institutions," Santamaria says.
The recreated 40th Regiment of Foot garments will be displayed at Sovereign Hill’s Gold Museum.
To find out more about Holmesglen’s links to the fashion industry and the opportunities available to students, visit holmesglen.edu.au.