“No one told me it was a good idea,” says designer Lesleigh Jermanus of launching a fashion label during a pandemic. “In fact, most people told me I was crazy.
“I was made redundant; my friends were made redundant. Everyone went back to that primal state of, ‘What do we need? We need food and we need water, and we need shelter. And a lot of toilet paper’,” she says.
“The world does not need another brand. But I thought if we can do it a little bit better, a little more consciously, if we can look at production and our supply chain and the whole circular system with more thought and consideration, then, then it’s relevant.”
Jermanus, who designs pieces from her Sydney studio, brings 20 years of fashion experience working with Aussie heavyweights Zimmermann, Nicholas and Marcs. Here’s what you need to know about Alemais, which launched in October 2020.
Born in Sydney, Alemais exudes an ethereal, feminine aesthetic
Think lace embroidered dresses with blouson sleeves, oversized ’70s-inspired linen print shirts with shell buttons and tiered and gathered layered mini dresses with intricate trim detailing. It’s a stark contrast to the humble leisurewear of 2020.
Lockdown was a source of inspiration
Jermanus says it wasn’t a time to walk away from the industry, rather a time to be proactive. “We don’t want to deprive ourselves of creativity and of art and of clothing that ultimately can change the way you feel,” she says. “So, it felt more important to look at it in a different way.”
Being forced into stillness caused an eruption of creativity
Last year’s lockdown meant the designer had a lot of time to expel pent-up energy. “I just wanted to break out and dance,” she says. “It was a mix between being really still and movement.” The label’s first collection, as a result, is made up of a mix of prints and textiles, with playful, romantic shapes.
Its signature piece? The Cosmos print off-shoulder dress
The dreamy pattern has been specially crafted by a small community in Jaipur, India. These artisans delicately swirl paint onto a cotton-linen cloth. Each one signs their work, meaning no two items are the same.
Alemais pieces are designed to make you feel good
Garments in the collection aren’t designed with particular events in mind – they’re designed to make you feel good. “If I want to wear a big puffy dress at home while I’m cooking dinner, I usually do. And it usually makes me feel really good. So, I hope that there’s someone out there that feels that too.”
Time spent in Kenya provided Jermanus with a deep understanding of the fashion supply chain
In 2017, the designer spent a year in Kenya working directly within the supply chain for Soko Kenya, a female-led manufacturer. She assisted in upskilling local women in sewing and textiles, supplying them with skills to enter the workforce or sell their own handmade goods.
Garments are crafted with natural, durable organic fibres
Hemp. Ramie. Cotton. Linen. “We want to make sure you can either upcycle, reuse, sell or swap [your clothes]. But if by chance it does end up in compost, we want it to decompose as quickly [and] naturally as possible,” says Jermanus, who has fostered relationships with her suppliers in India. She also uses discarded textiles, abandoned as a result of the slow demand during lockdown.
Jermanus is committed to slow fashion
Why? Fresh out of uni, Jermanus travelled to Vietnam to work with local suppliers. “I trained my eye watching them,” she says. “They would pick up a piece of chalk and draw the most perfect shape; well-cut pants directly onto fabric based on my measurements. It was a beautiful process. And that’s why I wanted to stay committed to the slow art of making a garment.” Garments are produced in line with consumer demand.