• Tatiana Collier

Fashion Forward

Artist, art teacher and now fashion designer, Jo Hall has been planning her fashion line since she was four years old.

“The first piece of clothing I ever loved was a crocheted, pastel rainbow dress my Nana knitted. I felt so wonderful every time I wore it that it sparked my lifelong desire for dressing in clothes that brought me joy.”

Decades later, that love and wonderment is at the forefront of Jo’s creations. With an emphasis on slow, sustainable fashion, Jo designs a range of cloaks, jackets, tops and wraps that aim to bring joy and fun into our everyday wardrobe.

“We should aim to wear clothes that are more than just functional, they should excite us and make us smile in a tumultuous time, where it is more important than ever before, to celebrate the simpler joys of life.”

In a time where the fashion world seems to be playing it safe, Jo’s creations challenge the wearer to be different and stand out from the crowd. Each piece is unique and designed to make a statement, and this is what Jo encourages her customers to embrace.

“In our modern times of playing multiple roles – mother, career woman, active woman, wife - we can end up with a wardrobe that’s functional, yet lifeless and uninspiring. It’s influenced a more comfortable and casual approach to dressing.

“My items are designed to be worn over the top of the comfortable and casual and immediately elevate the look. Then they can be thrown over a chair with your handbag when needed.

“It’s a bit of glamour to go with your favourite jeans. Or pair it with a flowy dress and you have a whole new look. When you put a statement piece with your everyday staples, you suddenly have a wow factor.”

Jo’s bold designs and desire to challenge and empower her customers comes from a long-standing admiration of female strength. She has drawn inspiration from historic and modern figures, both real and fictional, from Marilyn Monroe and Anna Wintour to Wonder Woman and Xena Princess Warrior.

“My Nana is another major influence. She was a beautiful and elegant woman who took great pride in her appearance. Our modern lives may leave us more time poor, but I want that same feeling of pride in one’s appearance for our amazing hard-working women of today.”

Yet it’s not just strong women that speak to Jo – it’s also the fabric. Jo’s process for creating is to work with the fabric, allowing it to fall and fold in a natural way.

“I feel like a textile whisperer. I let the material tell me how it can look its best. I don’t ever have a preconceived design in mind - I source fabrics that excite me and want to tell me a story.

“Sometimes the stories and images are there instantly, and sometimes they take a little longer to come to life. If that happens, I drape the fabric over a mannequin and leave it there for a couple of days. Each time I walk past, I’ll make slight adjustments. It always reveals an idea that emphasises its best attributes.

“Working with the fabric in this way creates beautiful lines and flow. It also means minimal waste. If I don’t love it, it gets repurposed. I redesign it until I’m happy with it, and if there are any off-cuts, I’ll make them into a scarf or belt.

“I aim for zero waste in creating every piece.”

Jo is a big supporter of the slow fashion movement, which is becoming increasingly popular in bigger cities. Instead of mass-produced items, slow fashion places emphasis on well-constructed, long-lasting designs that are made to order. The result is a unique, high-quality product and a significant reduction in waste and overflow that ends up in landfill.

“None of us can afford to keep replacing our whole wardrobe to follow the latest trends, and the environment can’t afford it either. We need quality clothes that will not become waste in a year.

“On-trend clothes end up in landfill. Fashion lasts a lifetime and that’s what I’m making - something that people will continue to love and keep. I use top quality fabric that will stand the test of time.”

“I have items ready-made and pieces that are made to order. This helps me to achieve my goal of zero waste, and ensures the customer has a piece that fits perfectly.”

Jo is particularly passionate about building a team of seamstresses that endeavours to help solve an alarming issue in our society – the forgotten women.

“One in three women over 60 are single and living in poverty. At 65, they retire with about one third of the superannuation that men have. These are the mothers that have given so much to our community and now find themselves alone and unemployable. Yet all of them have multiple skills – sewing often being one of them.

“The house of Jo & Co will be a community hub of women supporting one another by providing flexible employment. It will a place of encouragement, creativity, inspiration, companionship, and fun.

“Ballarat is a community that looks after one another, and in starting a business here, it’s important for me to make a significant contribution by helping the women who have always been the backbone of rural communities.”

For more information about Jo & Co visit the website and follow Jo & Co on Instagram. The store is located at 425 Sturt Street, Ballarat and is open Thursday to Sunday, 11am to 3pm, or by appointment. Jo welcomes customers to come in and experience her clothes for themselves.

“There is no pressure to buy. I want you to come in and enjoy trying the clothes on like young girls playing dress-ups. It is as empowering and fun now as it was back then.

“It’s time we enjoyed dressing up again. Every day should be celebrated as a special occasion.”

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