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Phoebe Paradise

Phoebe Paradise, artist and designer

I think the reward of being able to fully commit myself to my dream job has far outweighed the stresses of running a business ...

In Short ...

It didn’t take long for Phoebe Paradise to become one of the must-have labels of the season, but it’s a testament to the garment’s aesthetic and attitude that it has caught on so quickly. The brainchild of artist-turned-designer Phoebe Sheehy, Phoebe Paradise combines engaging prints with stellar silhouettes for its coveted collections. Phoebe Paradise recently celebrated the launch of its latest collection Hot Mess, so we thought it would be a great time to catch up with Phoebe herself to talk art inspirations, the formation of her visual style, the leap from visual art to clothing and where we can find her out and about.

Your style, from your art to your clothing range, is quite vivid and striking – do you remember the first piece of art that resonated and struck you in a formative way?
Thank you so much! I don’t remember the specific piece, but I remember the exhibition. I went to the QAGOMA‘s 5th Asia Pacific Triennial in 2006 on a high school trip when I was 14 and it had a pretty significant impact on me. Namely, going to a massive scale exhibition where illustrations were treated with the same respect as oil paintings and traditional sculpture works. I always had this idea that drawing was seen as a low art form, but the pieces at APT5 really gave me a momentum that I appreciate to this day.  

Who were some of your early artistic inspirations when you were honing your craft?
I had lots! To name a few of my teen crushes – Del Kathryn Barton, Albert Reyes, Raymond Pettibon, Alex Ziv, WishCandy, Matt Furie and Winnie Truong. I spent a lot of time on Tumblr whilst trying to configure my style and interests as a teenager.

What would you say was their impact on how they shaped your style – in aesthetics and attitude?
I think one of the connecting themes for artists I aspired to be like was that they weren’t bound by the exhibition circuit. In addition to their art shows they would also be doing commissioned works for musicians, or creating products like zines and badges. Again, I think these makers helped me shirk latent ideas of what being a working artist looked like.

We absolutely love the clothing you’ve been making with your label! Can you tell us about what prompted you to take the leap from visual art to creating tangible, wearable pieces?
Totally! This is probably the most perfect timing as I got a Facebook memory less than a week ago reminding me of how this whole thing started. I was doing markets selling my zines and prints, but wanted to make some hand-drawn tees for people to buy too, so I bought some t-shirts from Kmart and drew pizzas on them with Nikko pens. They ended up selling like crazy at the market and on Facebook, so I decided to get some screen-printed. I had people that loved my art, but couldn’t afford an original or didn’t have the place for a framed print. It just made sense for me to take my illustrations to wearable garments.

What was the biggest challenge and subsequent reward of getting the label up and running?
I think without a doubt the biggest challenge was taking the leap to quit my day job and focus full-time on the label. Not having a stable income for years has been at times a little terrifying, but I think the reward of being able to fully commit myself to my dream job has far outweighed the stresses of running a business. Throwing myself into the deep end meant that I had to learn very quickly how to get things done, and it’s made me a lot savvier and confident in my abilities. 

Talk us through the creation of your latest range Hot Mess! What creative influences helped spark the aesthetic inspiration of the collection?
Hot Mess has been a bit of a biographical term for me (laughs). There’s a bit of a mixed bag aesthetically in this collection, but the theme that runs throughout is suffering through the summer. The Hot Mess and Sweat Dream prints are night and day variations – the sweltering days and sleepless balmy nights. I used cartoonish imagery, partially inspired by 80s sun safety campaigns and advertisements. The other side of the collection – the Tumble prints – were inspired by feeling like a sweaty piece of crap on the couch watching the Olympics and the gods and goddesses on the screens flinging themselves through the air in the diving comps. It became something of a figure study. I had a lot of fun with these prints!

What direction would you like to take the label in the future?
We want to keep expanding the label and testing the boundaries of our abilities. I’m really interested in pushing the label to be a multi-dimensional art form, and not just printed clothing. We’ve got some exciting projects coming up in the next 12 months that I can’t talk about just yet, but keep your eyes peeled! Until then, we’ll be doing another pop up shop this year in Brisbane and hopefully another in Melbourne before Christmas, as well as releasing another wild collection.

We love to know what makes people tick! What would you consider to be your major driving forces in life and work?
Partially I feel like I’m making up for lost time a fair bit. I spent a lot of my teens and early twenties depressed and drunk a lot. Starting my day now at 7:00 am doing something I really give a shit about makes up for all the weeks spent waking up at four in the afternoon. Sometimes I stress thinking about the years I could have spent working on my arts practice or finishing University, but I don’t think I’d have the ambition or aesthetic style I do now without the bad stuff that preceded it. I constantly want to push myself in new directions, and I feel so lucky to be able to do this. 

As a Brisbane local, we’d love to get your opinion on the best spots in town. Where do you love to eat, drink, party and play?
As far as eat, our pals at Southside Tea Room in Morningside make an A+ huevos rancheros for brekkie, and the $5.50 tofu banh mi at Kim Thanh Hot Bread in West End has had me coming back roughly ten times a month. Some great pals just opened a cafe in Springbrook called Rosellas which has a crazy good roast cauliflower soup which I’m still trying to get the recipe for, and I have been tucking into Hai Hai Ramen’s tofu steamed buns more than I’d like to admit.

Most nights out I find myself at The Bearded Lady in West End or The Foundry in the Valley, but recently I have been to a couple of shows at the Coronation Hotel in Ipswich, which is my new favourite venue and I rate the shit out of it. It has 2007-priced drinks and puts on great punk shows every month or so. They sell papers behind the bar and there is a Chinese takeaway place next door serving everything the body needs.

For partying I recommend staying home. We’re so lucky in Brisbane to have houses with big overgrown backyards – mostly my partying time is spent with friends at their houses or mine, having a BBQ or just getting drunk on the deck listening to records. Serenity! But each to their own.

Finally, Netherworld, which has just emerged from the carcass of the Underdog, is bloody excellent! They don’t have any cheap beers but all games are only a couple of bucks and the food also rules hard. I have spent way too long playing Point Blank (Gun Bullet) there, reliving my after-school dreams. Last year for my birthday I went to Wintergarden to play laser-tag because I am secretly twelve, but it was really fun and I am absolutely doing it again this year.

You can get your hands on Phoebe Paradise’s latest collection online or in store at Violent Green in The City, Junky Comics in West End and at artisan in Fortitude Valley.

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