Fashion label HEW, created by Australian designer Ema Hewitt, is filling men’s closets with colourful prints. After living in Paris and LA, working for such iconic TV shows as Mad Men, Hewitt embarked on her own brand of vibrant menswear. With an innovative and brave identity, HEW is a brand that creates quality products with playful yet timeless designs. We talked with Ema and got to know the mastermind behind the brand.
After studying in Melbourne you moved to Paris and later Los Angeles. How were your experiences working there?
I worked in many different areas overseas, a main area of my practice being within the costume department of TV shows. This era of my life marked my transition from your typical fashion pieces into costume design. Moving to Los Angeles from Paris was a big shock, as both working environments were on totally different spectrums of the fashion industry. In Paris, I worked one-on-one with the designer in an intimate space, and worked solely on sewing and completing garments; in LA, I worked within a large production crew on garment research, history and the development of the pieces.
When did you decide that menswear was the field you were most interested in? Tell us a bit about the origins of HEW.
Returning to Australia in 2012, I once again found myself working in television as part of the costume department on shows such as House Husbands, Neighbours, Dancing with the stars and many more. During my time working in costume design, I found myself constantly struggling to find vibrant menswear pieces that would pop on TV. I saw a gap in the menswear market for bright, vibrant and contemporary prints, so I decided to start designing patterned shirts in collaboration with local graphic designers, which then became a collection.
Your collections are characterized by their colourfulness and graphic designs. What inspires you to create such a strong aesthetic?
I feel that the menswear market lacks bold pattern and colour. I wanted to bring something to menswear that’s currently lacking such as unique and interesting patterns and colours that pop on the wearer. It also gives the wearer the experience of wearing something striking and different to their normal outfits. People that buy our clothes always talk about the reaction people have towards them in a social context. We really love hearing the great responses to our outfits!
Can you describe the creation process of these amazing patterns and prints?
I collaborate with graphic designers and we produce our own prints. We create them in small runs to keep the authenticity and non-reproduced feel of the brand. That way the customer knows they’re wearing a unique and exclusive item. Knowing that what you’re wearing is one of a few brings a feel of exclusivity to our collection which we love. As each piece is loving handcrafted and thought out months before, it becomes a wearable piece!
Is there a certain era or trend that influences your designs? What other designers inspire you?
I like looking back to eras like the 60’s and 70’s for my inspiration. It was a time that I feel was pivotal to men’s fashion, especially the printed shirts and patterns for knitwear. Designers that inspire me now are brands such as Kenzo, Kistuni and Christopher Kane.
What kind of items and garments can we find in your collections?
Our current launch collection, ‘Orlando’, consists mainly of tailored garments such as shirts, suit jackets, chino’s, jumpers and T-shirts. We want the fabric and pattern to be the focus of the item, so our slim fit silhouette is simple and clean in order to not detract from the fabric. We are also looking into introducing accessories, bowties, belts and socks to pair up with the garments in the near future.
I'm very into Australian fashion lately, I think designers like Kiaya Daniels and others are doing great things. What is your take on the Australian fashion scene? Is there a particular brand that you especially admire?
I really love Kaiya Daniels as well; she is a great representation of the transforming menswear market. There’s a lot of new, fresh talent coming out of Australia; especially in Melbourne, and I have several friends who have started their own labels and are receiving really great feedback for them. I also really love Emma Mulholland, Maude studio, NU Swimwear and Discount Universe.
In your opinion, what are the main differences between European, Australian and American design? Do you ever miss living in those continents?
I much prefer European and Australian design to American design, as their aesthetic is more my style. That being said, I like to take my influences and inspiration from American iconic areas and tropes e.g. the ‘Cali guy’ and Hollywood. However after traveling and living in Paris, I can appreciate and understand European fashion more because I can assimilate it to Australian wearable culture. After living away for so long, I really love being back home and it makes me realise how special Melbourne is as a city. Melbourne has some of the best opportunities for an emerging designer, as well as great food and music culture. Although I always love visiting Europe and America, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else but Melbourne!
And lastly...what's next for HEW? Can you tell us about any new projects that you have lined-up?
We’re always looking to collaborate with other emerging creatives as we find this to be a great source of inspiration and further promotes the brand. We are also focused on collaborating with individuals through social media and word of mouth. We are currently designing our winter looks, and foresee the future of HEW as constantly changing. We are introducing new products to HEW as a lifestyle brand, and hopefully can move to a physical shop front in the near future.