Lauren Cassar

Lauren is the woman behind charming Australian womenswear label, Mirador.

Tell us about your journey from Kuwaii, to the Australian Ballet, to now Mirador. Looking back on this journey, do any significant lessons stand out?

An important lesson I have learned is that no matter who you are, or where you work, you should always be open to learning. Being educated while you work is, honestly, priceless. I believe that in order to make the most of this, you really need to take your time when deciding how you want to participate within your industry. For me, this was particularly relevant to how I wanted to approach design. I made a decision as soon as I graduated that I only wanted my future place of employment to have values and aesthetic choices that would refine my own—that would develop and guide my design style and continue to educate me. I embraced Bruno Munari’s philosophy: that my responsibility as a designer was to create with a sense of aesthetic and through meaningful choices; to hopefully encourage better taste and awareness of beauty in the world.

My opportunity with Kuwaii came along first. I sent an email with a link to my folio, and it all just fell into place. Very early on, Kristy (the designer) asked me to design a print for Kuwaii, which I had never done before. I completely fell in love with the process, and it saw my two great loves—fashion and art—fused together. It was then that my future became clear to me and I felt hungry for more. Kristy and I both still love that first print I ever created. I have since seen my artworks on the catwalk and on the street, and I still get giddy when I see my very own paint brush strokes sitting on a body.

During my time at Kuwaii, I also worked at the Australian ballet three days a week. Going between a three woman team at Kuwaii, to a gigantic operation at the ballet was such an extreme contrast. I worked in a very fast paced marketing team at the ballet—I was blown away by the passion and whole-life-dedication of the dancers, and learned key marketing skills from the team. I’m so grateful for both of these opportunities.

“Mirador sits amongst the small, independent businesses of Australian fashion and contributes to a nicer way of living, providing customers with only long lasting, high quality garments, locally made and genuinely hand crafted.” How have your personal values shaped your business?

I feel very humbled to have created, albeit a small entity, something that encapsulates everything I am passionate about. Mirador is quite a personal project; each textile print is a reflection of my values. I don’t think I could create an outcome I feel proud of otherwise. I always have a focal point that is relevant to my personal life, and hopefully to a lot of other women's lives too—nature, independence, quality, strength, career, maternity, pottery, food, conversation, power. My values stem from these points, which in turn shape Mirador’s values too.

What does Slow Fashion mean to you, and how does Mirador engage in this movement?

Mirador participates in this really exciting movement by designing garments to be worn year after year. I aim to maintain the quality and beauty of each piece by sourcing high quality fabrics and embracing simple and classic design (such as the much loved staples: the sarong and the kimono). These are guaranteed to surpass trends and contribute to the longevity of the garment, making it a timeless piece. I invest in keeping traditional methods of garment and textile making and printing techniques alive and in Australia. I hope this gives some vibrancy and significance to the items we produce!

Everything we make is part of a very small run using traditional cuts, and some pieces are made-to-order. My dear maker Jimmy takes pride in everything he sews; each item is really quite special.

Lauren Cassar

“I take my time with my clothing. To fold here, to tuck there, to tie a knot this way or that.”

How would you describe your relationship with clothing / style?

A very intimate, slow and long lasting one. I am so proud to be a feminist who loves and embraces fashion as an art form and a self-expressive, independent choice that I make every day. Dressing only for me, I take my time with my clothing. To fold here, to tuck there, to tie a knot this way or that. To choose from one of my loved pieces and combine it with another to create a special shape; to think about the silhouette. The Suffragette movement embraced fashion as political statement—they wore the three colours green for GIVE, white for WOMAN and violet for VOTE. Coco Chanel also used fashion to challenge ideas of gender. It is such a powerful tool, and I choose to be as confident and in love with it as possible.

Has your attitude towards fashion changed as you've aged?

Thankfully, growing up in Tasmania didn’t offer me many fast fashion outlets, or any real distractions from a slow paced way of living. I never got caught in the trap of seasonal purchases. That said, I have most certainly refined my taste of quality and design over the years, and while I’m not perfect, I try to be conscious of ethics when I’m weighing up a purchase.

Who / what do you look to for style cues and why?

For my personal style, I love the way hands-on creatives dress for work in the studio—opting for hardy, long lasting fabrics. Like the Austrian potter Lucie Rie, for example, who wore lighter, natural tones of linen. It was almost as though she was dressing to match the off-white of the stoneware clay she loved working with.

I also have David Byrne of Talking Heads to thank for my love affair of tonal outfits: a sundry of fabrics dyed in the same pigment. He came up with the idea for the band to wear a ‘medium grey’ colour from top to bottom purely for practical reasons; it was a way for them to each appear equal on stage. How lovely is that. My painterly and clothing choices are dictated by the respectful use of tones.

What is your personal uniform?

I mostly wear linen. I have a beautiful collection from op shops, and pieces from different parts of the world. I love soft cotton tees, linen pants or a sarong, styled with a pair of derbys.

Is there a garment that has had a special place in your life or is linked to a treasured moment?

My beautiful nan gifted me her tailored emerald green, stiff velvet dress which she wore to her engagement to my grandfather. I own this dress now, it fits me perfectly, and I care for it dearly.

Lauren Cassar

"One reason for remaining onshore is that it nurtures young creatives such as myself. It gives us the opportunity to manage everything at our doorstep; I can make sure everyone is getting paid properly, and that they are healthy and happy in their workplace."

Looking at the fashion system itself, is there something in particular that you feel needs to change?

I hope that it becomes an everyday thing for consumers to ask themselves, “Who made my clothes?” If we put pressure on brands to produce in accordance to ethical standards, where makers are paid a living wage, they will have no option but to do better! Fashion Revolution is a pretty powerful force that encourages consumers to ask that exact question and communicate directly to the brand. I find it terribly disheartening that we use our privileged upbringing to take advantage of those less fortunate. In the long run, it is to everyone’s disadvantage—you spend money on a cheap garment that you may only wear once; you throw it out and contribute to landfill and damage the planet even more; then you buy a replacement and continue the cycle... It is a rotten cycle that is ultimately doomed, we have to change it!

Why have you chosen to produce onshore and also explore accreditation with Ethical Clothing Australia?

There is a small pocket of people left in Australia who are incredibly determined to keep the garment and textile industry alive here. One reason for remaining onshore is that it nurtures young creatives such as myself! It gives us the opportunity to manage everything at our doorstep; I can make sure everyone is getting paid properly, and that they are healthy and happy in their workplace. My maker Jimmy has no minimums, either does my printer, Chole, which gives me the option to be extremely creative. I am so very appreciative of them. It also makes my venture much more affordable, as I don’t have to order a large quantity. Keeping it small and slow means no wastage. If I sell out, generally, they can have a second run in my hands within two weeks, which is something I could never achieve overseas.

I am proud of my efforts, and an Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) accreditation will help communicate this to my customers in a meaningful way. People are right to be wary of claims about ethical standards coming from brands, and ECA gives them something independent to place trust in.

When you look to the future of fashion, what do you see? What excites you most about being an emerging label?

I am most excited about collaboration. I brought Mirador to life as a way of introducing my textile design style to the industry. I have met so many inspiring people in the past year who are all deeply passionate about their own ventures and pursuits; we all excite each other. I have incredibly supportive stockists, like Ally at Kinobi, who I am so grateful for. I have a group of inspiring friends, and we all collaborate and share our passions with one another. Stay tuned throughout the year, as Mirador has a number of print collaborations popping up. It is all very thrilling.

Photography Claire Summers
Production and Creative Sigrid McCarthy
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