Interview: Amanda McCarthy, Leonard St.
Australian brand Leonard St. is the epitome of cool, with simple lines and sophisticated silhouettes. Leonard St. designer Amanda McCarthy loves print, colour and beautiful fabrics and these materials have formed the basis of her designs for over a decade.
This Melbourne based label recently celebrated its 10th year of creating eclectic garments with a whimsical, urban style, inspired by bright happy colors and original prints of both a vintage and modern persuasion.
A self proclaimed fashion label born from doodles and experiments, McCarthy works on the ethos of understated chic and each piece is created to endure years of “frolicking and romance”. With a background in sculpture and fine arts, drape and line are the starting points of McCarthy’s design process, followed by fabrication for form and structure.
The designer does most of her design work by hand in her recently acquired coastal studio.
McCarthy: “A view of the water is a new luxury and certainly helps me to get to that creative zone.”
Her techniques for designing prints can be anything from simple potato cuts (SS10), finger painting with her daughters (SS10), pencil drawings and floral or insect patterns (AW11).
McCarthy: “We have a lot of insects in the garden and my little daughter is fascinated by them. Print design often comes from real life experience, the swallow (SS10-11) started by trying to slow down my husband’s tattoo addiction by trying to get him to research the design more, the swallow is the traditional motif for sailor tattoos as it was the symbol of land close by, yearned for after months at sea. It is all done by hand.”
With the tradition of the ragtrade in her blood, McCarthy’s future was seemingly prewritten – Her grandfather was the first to import Liberty fabrics into Australia and fine linens from Ireland in the 1930s and had a showroom of his brand, Laurie McCarthy, in Flinders Lane for 50 years spanning 1930-1980. Amanda wanted a more ambiguous and nostalgic tone to her brand and named it after Leonard Street in East London where a wild sartorial scene inspired her own playful approach to fashion.
McCarthy worked in retail before moving into buying, visual merchandising and managing film wardrobe departments before turning her hand to design.
Since its inception in 2004 her brand has shown internationally in London and Beijing as well as being regularly shown at Melbourne’s annual Fashion Festival. Leonard St. has also collaborated with Australian high street brand Sportsgirl, producing a capsule collection of playful summer pieces for their 30 stores across Australia during Summer 2013, and Porsche, for whom McCarthy recently designed a signature silk scarf.
Last month Amanda announced the launch of a new childrenswear line, Little Leonard St. The range designed in a selection of her favourite prints, its inception the perfect method for brightening up her own children’s wardrobes. The move into children’s clothing is a natural progression for the label and an excellent way for Amanda to expand herself creatively, giving Leonard St. a unique standing point in an increasingly oversaturated Melbourne fashion market.
McCarthy: “Once I had kids myself a lot people asked me if I would go into kids wear. I didn’t plan to, but after buying product for own kids that stretched or shrunk or ran, and I stated to visualise my prints working on some cute kids pieces, I couldn’t resist!”
It is this creative vision and foresight that has helped sustain Leonard St. over the past decade and will see it through many seasons to come, as well as an excellent way of increasing the longevity of the range of seasonal prints.
McCarthy: "Its sad for me when I put so much work into a print, and it is well received I would like to continue it, if I can increase its shelf life past 6 months, then I’m happy! But I'm careful. I think it’s important to keep fresh product and presence in the store. So with the kids it has allowed me to continue with some of the old favourites, like the Fox or the Deer. And once on the kidswear they work really well."
Amanda confides to Makers that she loves to see her own daughters dressed in Little Leonard St, and takes on board what they like to wear again and again. With the guidance of her children she's added a sunhat and a few more cute dress styles, as well as a boycut tshirt and a little panda print tee to the range, much to the pleasure of her clients.
McCarthy: "The Little Leonard St section does bring a real warm and fuzzy feeling to the store. It evokes lots of smiles and oohs and ahhs, so of course we love that."
Leonard St. and Little Leonard St. are currently available in store and online. Visit the website for all shop and stockist enquiries.