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Locally Produced: Trois

Gabrielle Abela is much like her label Trois; welcoming, smart, uncannily beautiful, and a little bit of a tomboy. Gabrielle’s love for hip hop, her background as a dancer and her profile as inner city favourite DJ Gabby colours her approach to fashion with its strong urban vibe. Yet Trois still captures the essence of Sydney glam without beating you over the head with it; a feather here or there, a whisk of natural silk, or a thin band of leather. The collection is elegant without being prissy, functional without being bland, and Gabrielle’s irrepressible energy and sense of humour are ever-present throughout.

Gabrielle’s love of ancient culture presents itself in her designs. Her 09/10 collection, titled Navajo, had a strong Native American influence, while her current collection takes its cues from Africa. By no means does this imply there’s anything kitchy going on; it’s inspiration, not theme. “I like to draw from the natural world. From history, ancient cultures, cultural methods of creating, like beading from Africa,” she says. Logically, this antediluvian world would seem to contradict the current-ness of street culture, but Gabrielle looks beyond the aesthetic and considers the detail, the methods, the textures and the shapes and works with whatever she is drawn to. Her creative brain is more complex than a single influence; her history, her experience and her world are just as intrinsic to her designs. “I love graphic art from the 80s, Keith Herring, Basquiat, that kind of thing. I think I get influenced by that because of my DJing work, and my music and being a dancer and always listening to hip-hop,” she says as she considers her design approach.

Going from making her own clothes to a full production effort hasn’t been without its challenges, especially since Gabrielle was determined to use all natural fabrics and work with Australian craftsmen. She describes the process as difficult but satisfying; “My mother instilled in me the idea that if you do it, it has to be right, the seams have to be perfect, the fabric must be beautiful, so I knew that if I wanted to do this properly the standard of the work had to be really high. It’s taken a long time to find people who I wanted to work with, and who could do it at a price that we could actually sell them in Australia, as it’s such a small market.” Hard it may be, but Gabrielle loves her job. “The thing I love most is when women put [my clothes] on and they check the mirror and they get that look in their eye where they know they look good.”

This passion is reflected in Gabrielle’s vision for her collection. Instead of taking the obvious path, the line was launched and displayed in Darlinghurst’s TAP Art gallery. This was a conscious choice. “It’s more of an emotional connection when you’re creating it. I like to set the pieces up like art, like they’re installations. They’re my work, and that’s how I think of them.”

words: Kristen Hodges


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