White Sands Australia Swimwear 2013 was all blushed cheeks, soft florals, pretty pastels, delicate ruffles, girlish romance. Inspired by designer Leah Madden’s new romance, the collection featured tea roses, pinks, greens, and lavenders, with the occasional muted black and a pink-and-black inkblot print. Balconette bra-style tops were paired with ruffle-hemmed shorts in lime green; a lavender and beige one-piece featured a two-sided, cross-over silhouette. Channeling an emotive vibe (in this instance, romance and femininity and flowers sent by a lover) is one of Madden’s best skills, but for this collection in particular, so was her ability to meld unique patterns—one-pieces that featured a solid on the top half, a pattern on the bottom—and incorporate special details, like the small V-shaped cutout on a mid-rise bottom. We spoke to Madden backstage before the show, where she showed us her patterns and told us about her inspiration and methodology.
MONICA USZEROWICZ - You’re an Australian brand, but travel is a big influence for you. You gain inspiration from the places you go.
LEAH MADDEN - It’s always a little bit from travel. This collection, in particular, was inspired by…that little darling over there; there he is. [Points to her boyfriend] I have a new boyfriend.
MU - That is so romantic!
LM - It is! The collection is really romantic. It’s called the Violet Hour, and the violet hour is that time of day where day becomes night—sunsets, the sky changes color, you get all those pinky tones.
MU - Like the Golden Hour, as well.
LM Yeah, exactly. It’s sort of inspired by sunset cocktails, lovely weekends away, romantic evenings in a hotel room.
MU - The honeymoon phase!
LM Yeah! That’s why it’s so floral and so pretty and so feminine. It’s kind of all about those weekends away with a new love.
MU - So it’s not the destinations you’re going to, but actually a feeling that inspired this. I like that love is the inspiration.
LM Yeah, that’s why it’s so feminine and pretty. That’s why I picked the florals—I’m getting flowers every single week; sometimes twice a week! I’m just all loved up.
MU - You look so rosy and happy! One of the strengths of a lot of your collections is that they’re super-functional. It goes well beyond swimwear; they’re real resort collections. Did you maintain that with this line?
LM - Yeah, I always do. My brand, though, is really more about form than function. It has to fit great, you have to be able to swim in it and feel comfortable. But the design and the aesthetic is way more important than everything else. I design for the girls who want to look amazing and maybe don’t even go in the water.
MU - Right, but they still manage to look so functional.
LM - Of course. Fit is really important. You want to choose a fabric that’s going to hold up. It is swimwear; you’ve got to be able to wear it. But for me, the design, the aesthetic, comes first.
MU - Because this is a very different theme that you’re working for with the collection, did the process—from the inspiration to the actual, technical creation of it—of making it differ from your last one at all? Or do you always follow a particular method?
LM - Well, I guess I do. Sometimes, other things come first—sometimes I’ll design and then choose a print or a color, sometimes I’ll find a print and then design. It’s a long, lengthy process, with a lot of trial and error. I’ll choose colors and then change my mind, or I’ll make a design and then alter it. Usually, I design in the same way, but it is lengthy, always changing and evolving and growing. Up until now, anything can change.
MU - Where did you get those floral prints?
LM - Since the inspiration for those prints was being sent big, beautiful flowers, and having a house full of them, I knew I wanted a floral, and I was really looking for that. I work with a great design house in Sydney. It took me a really long time but I ended up finding a print. It’s a vintage print and it’s perfect.