AN investment in something she loves paid off for south-west Victorian woman Jemma Saunders last night with a win in the 2015 Australasian Young Designers Wool Award at Hamilton’s Sheepvention expo.
Jemma, 30, worked in several positions before recently returning to what she has always wanted to do – fashion design.
Since leaving secondary school, Jemma worked as a quality manager for a UK wind turbine for five years, studied business and marketing at University of Ballarat, and worked in Portland for WestVic Staffing Solutions.
“Ever since I was a young girl I wanted to be a designer – I come from a really creative family so I always wanted to be a fashion designer.
“But just knowing the arts is not always financially viable, life took me in a different direction,” she said.
“But I just decided that I wanted to be true to myself and you can’t ignore that after too long, so I went back to study.”
Now in her second year of the advanced diploma in fashion technology at the Gordon Institute of TAFE in Geelong – and two weeks before her birthday on August 15 — Jemma won the prestigious award and a $10,500 Handbury Scholarship to study at the Instituto Marangoni in Milan.
Her woollen creation — also the winning entry in the corporate wear section of the competition — was named Meraki; an adjective in the Greek language.
“It means to do something with soul, creativity and passion, and to put something of yourself in your work – that was really my concept.”
“It just really about the essence of me and my design – it was kind of free range,” Jemma said
The young designer said she was “so blind-sided” by her win.
“I had no idea; I was completely caught off my guard and I was so honoured.
“There was so much amazing talent and everyone put up such incredible work.”
Her winning 60’s inspired two-piece corporate collection — a cropped top with bell sleeves and wide-legged pants made from pure wool suiting – modelled under an oversize warm woollen jacket with a double-folded revere collar, bucket pockets and a chartreuse-coloured lining. Chartreuse is the colour of Jemma’s birthstone, the peridot.
“That’s why I used that colour lining because it was very personal to myself, which is what my whole design was about – it is quite a personal piece.
“I really wanted the essence of myself in my work,” Jemma said.
Melbourne designer and young designers wool awards judge Wendy Voon said she and co-judge Robyn Black were inspired and impressed by the high standard of the entries.
Ace Radio Victorian chairman’s Rowley Patterson said the awards gave woolgrowers like himself “great optimism that wool, fashion, and young designers all go together.”