This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Explore 'The Designers' Guide: Easton Pearson Archive'

Creative People

After a year of preparation, The Designer’s Guide: Easton Pearson Archive, opens at The Museum of Brisbane today, featuring a selection from more than 3,300 garments and over 5,000 objects, accessories and ephemera – the largest collection from a single Australian fashion house ever held by a public institution!

We caught up with Lydia Pearson, one-half of the duo behind this Brisbane-based, internationally-acclaimed fashion house. She reflects on 28-years of pioneering fashion design and technical innovation.

23rd November, 2018

The Designer’s Guide: Easton Pearson Archive is on at The Museum of Brisbane until April 22nd, 2019. Photo – Jono Searle, courtesy of Museum of Brisbane.

Lydia Pearson and Pamelia Easton. Pictured far right is a stand-out garment for Lydia from their label’s epic archive. Photo – Jono Searle, courtesy of Museum of Brisbane.

After closing the house after 28-years in 2016, the archive was acquired by philanthropist, Dr Paul Eliadis, and donated to the Museum of Brisbane. Photo – Jono Searle, courtesy of Museum of Brisbane.

Jo Hoban
Friday 23rd November 2018

‘Hopefully, we have made it seem possible to run a business on your own terms, stay local, and reach the world.’ – Lydia Pearson.

Amid the creative buzz engulfing Brisbane after the World Expo 88, a mutual friend introduced Pamela Easton to Lydia Pearson. The pair instantly bonded over their shared love of op-shopping (which wasn’t exactly the norm in 1989!), traditional making, and elements from costume and tribal dress. Living in a tropical environment, they also loved colour and texture.

The label they launched in 1989, Easton Pearson, went on to produce wearable fashion ranges that shirked seasonal trends and embraced all things eclectic and handcrafted. At their height, they stocked their collections in high-end department stores around the world and had two Australian flagship stores.

For 28 years, Pamela and Lydia were at the forefront of slow style and ethical manufacture, as they worked closely with artists and artisans both locally and across India and Vietnam. ‘Their unique approach referenced art, travel, film, literature and music to create a bold aesthetic characterised by daring patterns, innovative materials, meticulous techniques, and a sustainable ethos,’ tells Museum of Brisbane Director Renai Grace.

I was lucky enough to speak with Lydia Pearson to gain more insight into this iconic Australian brand on the eve of the exhibition opening

What were the key influences that informed the Easton Pearson style?

We both loved easy comfort but exuberant decoration. We did not have a strong affinity for seasonal trends, but liked to be a bit outside the mainstream. The women who related to that way of dressing found it hard to buy, and so they were very loyal.

Once established, what did a year in the life of EP come to look like?

At the start, life was local and relaxed, with the business running between our two houses in Brisbane. By 1998 we were traveling enormously: India for two to three weeks at a time (at least three times a year), Paris twice,and then Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam and the States sporadically.

How frequently were you producing new ranges?

We worked on three collections a year. Once we started the Diffusion label, in 2010, this increased to five or six. We worked together on everything, obsessing over details of fabric and surface decoration, managing the workload of our own workroom, the team in India, and the specialist artisans making in Vietnam. The Indian production team, whilst managed independently, was numerous and worked only for us, so the responsibility to keep them busy all year was an added logistical complication.

As your business evolved what helped you explore your ideas and guide your choices? And how did you see the role of fashion in relation to art, craft, design, and culture?

Our work was so close and first-hand with all the people we worked with. Mainly our team was in the Brisbane workroom, but the team in Mumbai was also an integral part of our daily life. Thanks to Sudha Patel, who organised and sourced many of our raw materials and the artisans who used them, we knew everyone from the artist who drew our screens for printing, to the weavers, to the man who cut the sequins. In such close proximity, ethical practice is almost a default position. It is lack of connection that makes it easier to avoid those issues.

‘Fashion’ is a multi-faceted term, which encompasses everything from the one-million-of-a-style mass-produced garments, to the small independent makers, and everything in between. At its worst, fashion is an aesthetic predator, but at best, it can form a symbiotic relationship with other design and cultural practices, each nurturing the other. We felt a part of our art and cultural community and worked with many local practitioners in our collections.

What are you most proud of achieving together?

It seems like a miracle that we kept the label going for 28 years, stayed relatively sane, and did it from Brisbane. The world changed so much in that time. We are proud of having remained relevant, and true to our vision at the same time.

The Easton Pearson archive ended up comprising more than 3300 garments.  Over the years, how did you approach storing and organising this?

We started consciously keeping garments from about 1996, when a conservation-minded friend suggested it. It became an automatic habit. Eventually, it got so big that we had to extend our workroom to house it. We referred to the garments constantly for our new collections, and came to understand what a valuable resource it was. We stored them by season, with our linesheets to refer to when we wanted something.

The Museum of Brisbane seems a wonderfully fitting home for the archive?

When Dr Paul Eliadis acquired the garments from us and subsequently donated them to the museum, we had discussed potential institutions, but MoB was a perfect choice. It means the collection stays in Brisbane, is still accessible to refer to, and there are opportunities to use it as a teaching tool. Pam and I have donated an additional 5,000 objects, accessories, ephemera, media clippings, photographs and other bits and pieces that help tell the story of the garments’ design and production, and offer insight into running a fashion business.

This first exhibition showcases the ‘most daring’ technical innovations, fabric and embellishment choices of Easton Pearson over its 28 years (1989-2016).

Is there a stand out garment for either of you that embodies the idea particularly well?

Yes, a different one every time we think about it! If daring means difficult to achieve, then perhaps the work we did with the Node women in Kachchh, India. After driving into the desert, with no roads, to visit their remote tribal community, we were only able to sporadically receive the vivid mirror embroidered braids they made. We had to join them together in small pieces to make each garment. It was like a jigsaw, but so satisfying.

The exhibition explores the way that Easton Pearson has impacted Australia’s fashion history – what do you hope is your legacy?

Hopefully, we have made it seem possible to run a business on your own terms, stay local, and reach the world.

As we move into a new conscious era, what are your thoughts about the fashion industry?

This is a wonderfully exciting time to be an independent designer. It feels like the 80s again, with little brands popping up everywhere. Instagram, Etsy, and Shopify have revolutionised this end of the industry.

What do you suggest up-and-coming designers and fashion enthusiasts should keep front of mind?

Buy less, buy better, keep longer, think more.

After years working so closely, do you miss working in the business now? And each other?

Pam is still working in the business with her own brand Pamela Easton, living the dream. I’m teaching fashion at QUT, so living in a future fashion universe. We see each other pretty often, but not for long enough! The exhibition has been a great catalyst.

The Designers’ Guide: Easton Pearson Archive
November 23rd to April 22nd
Museum of Brisbane 
City Hall, 64 Adelaide Street,
Brisbane City, Queensland
Tickets $12/$9, children under 12 free.

Follow @museumofbrisbane for updates. There is a wonderful program of events for kids and adults alike over the school holiday period, including daily kids’ making sessions, and Drawing the Body workshops!.

This Week

Shopping

Meet The Business Creating Fully Customisable Furniture Right Here In Melbourne

We visited Zenn Design at their brand-new Melbourne showroom to learn about their bespoke, luxury furniture offerings!
Christina Karras

News

Visit A New Art Precinct Celebrating Melbourne’s First Nations History

Browse sculptures, installations and projections by renowned artists Reko Rennie, Yhonnie Scarce and more in a new public art walk!
Christina Karras

Interiors

A Contemporary Extension For A Much-Loved Warrandyte Family Home

A sustainable family home addition by Sanctum Homes in Warrandyte, Melbourne embraces its surrounding bush landscape.
1.58

One Room Wonders

Before + After: An Arty + Eclectic Kids Bedroom Transformation

See how we transformed a simple space into a fun and colourful kids bedroom (in just one week!) with Surround by Laminex.

Architecture

A Treehouse Companion For An Architecturally-Significant Noosa Home

An innovative 1983 Gabriel Poole house on the same site inspired this new home by Bark Architects embracing the bushy Noosa landscape.

Interiors

A Vintage Furniture Collector’s Humble Family Home, Filled With Iconic Pieces

IT engineer Trung Tu's Melbourne home hides an enviable collection of designer furniture and art from different eras!
Christina Karras

News

Eva’s New Dining Range Is Sustainably Designed For Everyday Life!

Australian furniture brand Eva debuts their beautiful new dining table and chairs that will become the hub of your home for years to come.
Sponsored

Studio Visit

The Haunting, Shadow-Inspired Paintings Of Melbourne Artist Ella Dunn

How the imaginative banter of two children on a set of swings inspired the artist's latest body of work.
2.25

Art

The NGA’s Cressida Campbell Exhibition Celebrates Her Glorious 40-Year Career

A studio visit with Cressida Campbell, ahead of her exciting survey exhibition at the National Gallery Of Australia.

Interiors

Inside A Striking Two-Storey Addition, Hidden Behind A Heritage Facade

To accommodate their client's need for more space, Altereco has designed a contemporary two-storey addition that lies discreetly behind a be...
Bea Taylor
  6 hours ago

Studio Visit

Why The Internet Is In Love With Libby Haines’ Beautiful Still-Life Paintings

Melbourne artist Libby Haines' works are a wonderfully messy reflection of everyday life - and they sell out on Instagram within seconds!
Christina Karras
  14 hours ago

Architecture

The New Australian Housing Company Creating Customisable Small Homes

Dimensions X aims to be the ‘Tesla of housing’, creating energy-efficient, prefabricated homes that can be assembled in just six weeks.

Homes

An Elegant Art Deco Apartment Rental With Water Views

Jill McCormick's fashionable home for one, in Sydney's dreamy Elizabeth Bay.

News

Step Inside Some Of Tasmania’s Most Unique Homes At Open House Hobart

Your chance to visit Hobart’s best homes and buildings on November 12 – 13!
Sponsored

Interiors

A Contemporary New Home Grounded In An Earthy, Natural Palette

Inspired by his client's extensive art collection, interior designer Brahman Perera creates a stunning, timeless home.

Similar Stories

Art

Hello Marimekko

A blockbuster exhibition ‘Marimekko: Design Icon 1951-2018’ opens at Bendigo Art Gallery.
Elle Murrell

Creative People

An Exhibition Of Never-Before-Seen Works By Mirka Mora

The new exhibition at Heide Museum of Modern Art, 'Mirka Mora: Pas de Deux – Drawings and Dolls', exploring the artist's enchanting univer...

This Week

Interiors

A Contemporary Extension For A Much-Loved Warrandyte Family Home

A sustainable family home addition by Sanctum Homes in Warrandyte, Melbourne embraces its surrounding bush landscape.

Shopping

Meet The Business Creating Fully Customisable Furniture Right Here In Melbourne

We visited Zenn Design at their brand-new Melbourne showroom to learn about their bespoke, luxury furniture offerings!
Christina Karras
1.58

One Room Wonders

Before + After: An Arty + Eclectic Kids Bedroom Transformation

See how we transformed a simple space into a fun and colourful kids bedroom (in just one week!) with Surround by Laminex.

Studio Visit

The Haunting, Shadow-Inspired Paintings Of Melbourne Artist Ella Dunn

How the imaginative banter of two children on a set of swings inspired the artist's latest body of work.

Interiors

A Contemporary New Home Grounded In An Earthy, Natural Palette

Inspired by his client's extensive art collection, interior designer Brahman Perera creates a stunning, timeless home.

News

Step Inside Some Of Tasmania’s Most Unique Homes At Open House Hobart

Your chance to visit Hobart’s best homes and buildings on November 12 – 13!
Sponsored

Architecture

The New Australian Housing Company Creating Customisable Small Homes

Dimensions X aims to be the ‘Tesla of housing’, creating energy-efficient, prefabricated homes that can be assembled in just six weeks.

News

Eva’s New Dining Range Is Sustainably Designed For Everyday Life!

Australian furniture brand Eva debuts their beautiful new dining table and chairs that will become the hub of your home for years to come.
Sponsored

Studio Visit

Why The Internet Is In Love With Libby Haines’ Beautiful Still-Life Paintings

Melbourne artist Libby Haines' works are a wonderfully messy reflection of everyday life - and they sell out on Instagram within seconds!
Christina Karras
  14 hours ago

Architecture

A Treehouse Companion For An Architecturally-Significant Noosa Home

An innovative 1983 Gabriel Poole house on the same site inspired this new home by Bark Architects embracing the bushy Noosa landscape.

News

Visit A New Art Precinct Celebrating Melbourne’s First Nations History

Browse sculptures, installations and projections by renowned artists Reko Rennie, Yhonnie Scarce and more in a new public art walk!
Christina Karras

Homes

An Elegant Art Deco Apartment Rental With Water Views

Jill McCormick's fashionable home for one, in Sydney's dreamy Elizabeth Bay.

Interiors

Inside A Striking Two-Storey Addition, Hidden Behind A Heritage Facade

To accommodate their client's need for more space, Altereco has designed a contemporary two-storey addition that lies discreetly behind a be...
Bea Taylor
  6 hours ago

Interiors

A Vintage Furniture Collector’s Humble Family Home, Filled With Iconic Pieces

IT engineer Trung Tu's Melbourne home hides an enviable collection of designer furniture and art from different eras!
Christina Karras
2.25

Art

The NGA’s Cressida Campbell Exhibition Celebrates Her Glorious 40-Year Career

A studio visit with Cressida Campbell, ahead of her exciting survey exhibition at the National Gallery Of Australia.

Similar Stories

Art

Hello Marimekko

A blockbuster exhibition ‘Marimekko: Design Icon 1951-2018’ opens at Bendigo Art Gallery.
Elle Murrell

Creative People

An Exhibition Of Never-Before-Seen Works By Mirka Mora

The new exhibition at Heide Museum of Modern Art, 'Mirka Mora: Pas de Deux – Drawings and Dolls', exploring the artist's enchanting univer...

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net