Fashion / Fashion News

When Isabelle Hellyer took all is a gentle spring to Heaven

Isabelle Hellyer interview. Heaven x all is a gentle spring. Shot by Bec Martin.

Late last year, all is a gentle spring launched a capsule with Heaven by Marc Jacobs. Maybe you noticed it? With hindsight the connection seems inevitable. Both labels leverage ideas from the past without giving in entirely to nostalgia, the pair have cultivated devout audiences, and yes, with Isabelle Hellyer behind gentle spring and Ava Nirui the mother of Heaven, they share an Australian pedigree.

While the offering is simple – together they've reimagined the sultry corselette and mini skirt that all is a gentle spring debuted during AAFW in 2022 – the construction is anything but. Soft bubblegum satin-back-crêpe is whipped into shape with Petersham ribbon, waist stays and thin spiral steel boning that's bound "to set of a metal detector" says Hellyer. It's a level of care that's missing from our garments these days, the kind that Hellyer is adamant on retaining throughout her thoughtful and spirited label.

To celebrate the occasion, RUSSH caught up with Hellyer. Below, the designer talks her favourite Madonna lyrics, her desire to bolster Australian garment manufacturing, and her plans for all is a gentle spring in 2024.

Isabelle Hellyer interview. Maya Laner shot by Bec Martinn.

What was on the moodboard for the collaboration?

To take gentle spring to Heaven, we just had to spin it out of cotton candy.


Who do you imagine wearing the capsule?

Well, True Blue, who wears the capsule here. I’ve been feeling very simpatico with Maya lately. She wrote a song called Airplane Mode that I’ve been listening to a lot. She wrote me a note about it: “Airplane Mode = tapping into yourself when you have a big dream,” which also reminds me of one of my favourite Madonna lyrics: “It's a beautiful dream, but a dream is earned.” I like Maya’s idea of this quiet trip inward. It works for me. I’m really focused at the moment. Also: there’s a Vogue Italia editorial from September 1995 about gowns. It’s Stella Tennant. Washed, muted. I imagine Stella in that story. 


How do you think the worlds of Heaven and all is a gentle spring speak to each other?

We’re connected to the audience. With Heaven, as with all is a gentle spring, there’s a level of mutual understanding –an investment – between the audience and the label, which a lot of other capital-B Brands just can’t conjure. This label is really an experiment, asking questions I myself don’t know the answers to: is there a ready-to-wear appetite for clothing of this quality, at this price? Can it all be made in Australia, at scale? Can we communicate Australian prestige, the quality of our craftspeople and our fibres, to the world? Can we turn back time? I think people understand that by engaging with the label, they’re a part of the experiment.


Heaven is also the brainchild of Australian Ava Nirui, you both represent Australian excellence. Do you think the perception of Australian creativity and design has evolved?

I had lunch with Ava for the first time a couple of weeks ago. She wore an all is a gentle spring miniskirt – naturally, I was delighted. Ava has certainly lifted Australian brands onto equal footing with their international peers. She’s prescient, she’s a genuine fan and collector, and that comes through in Heaven. You feel an enthusiasm, which makes it feel young and alive. With all is a gentle spring, too it’s not this cold, lifeless thing, carried onwards by the market, by the parent company. I hope people can feel the life force that wills this project onwards. We have nothing if not spirit.

Maya Laner in Heaven x all is a gentle spring shot by Bec Martin.

Tell me about the construction of each piece in the capsule? There’s a real emphasis on traditional and historical techniques.

For Heaven, we reissued two favourites: The Corselette and The Miniskirt. The Corselette uses a waist stay, a little dressmaking trick that used to appear in almost all Victorian bodices, but now tends to pop up most often in wedding gowns. It’s a ribbon belt sewn into the lining of the garment which you fasten around your waist, before closing the zipper. This is a neat triple-threat: cinching the waist, taking some of the pressure off of the zipper making it easier to close, and holding the garment in place around the midbody, so it doesn’t ride up. Handy, no? The boning is spiral steel, which is borrowed from a slightly later period. Hard-wearing but exceptionally flexible. We had the boning for these garments fabricated to emulate the exceptionally thin spiral steel used in vintage Dior gowns. Ours is five millimetres wide, applied along all waist seams, for a dozen bones in total. There are almost three metres of steel in every Corselette. You’re sure to set off a metal detector. 

The Miniskirt uses a Petersham ribbon facing at the waist; this is the waistband you’ll see when you turn it inside out. This was an idea from Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques, which I think was intended as a guide for home seamstresses but has become a favourite resource of mine. Petersham ribbon is most commonly used in millinery because it can be guided around smooth curves: like the skull, or our gently sloping waistlines.

The fabric comes from Elsegood Silks. They’re the exact sort of business I hope we can preserve in Australia: experts, obsessives, stewards. They’re still a family business, celebrating their 70th anniversary. They aren’t engaged in this race-to-bottom to sell the cheapest imaginable bolt of polyester satin lining. If they’re selling polyester, which they must, it will feel as close to silk as any synthetic could. They care about the quality of the fibre, and they know Fashion.

Maya Laner in Heaven x all is a gentle spring shot by Bec Martin.

Why is it important that you manufacture in Australia?

I’m interested in preserving manufacturing jobs and crafts; not as hobbies, but as careers. There’s so much inexpensive clothing, and we talk about the myriad ways these garments damage the planet. My twin concern is that consumers have become accustomed to prices too low to sustain any sort of dignified working life. My great-great-grandmother was a dressmaker and draper in Melbourne for decades and raised two children from the trade. So there’s the dream: to make beautiful clothing that offers a family life. I want a future that’s more like the past, where the garment industry in Australia is as vibrant as it is well-rewarded. Granted, it might all be too late.

Off the high horse and on to the balance sheet, manufacturing in Australia is more expensive than manufacturing in neighbouring countries like Indonesia or Sri Lanka. Australian brands producing their garments in developing countries, through clean, safe factories, are still able to capitalise on the strength of our dollar. An Indonesian garment worker may earn an average monthly wage of $350AUD, which an Australian garment worker could earn in a day. Brands acquire far more inventory for their dollar by manufacturing outside of Australia. This is how they can afford to give away so many clothes for free. Mass influencer marketing requires these obscene margins. It's a bubble that is sure to burst.


What can we expect from all is a gentle spring in 2024?

Simple, easy-to-wear things. Elaborate, firm, sexy things you’ll want help getting into. Our world will open up. Where possible, some of the prices will come down. And all synthetic fibres will be eradicated.


all is a gentle spring x Heaven by Marc Jacobs is available to shop in store at Heaven Los Angeles and London.


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