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fashfest designer profile: the darling sisters


Image: The Darling Sisters

Image: The Darling Sisters


Name: Maria Ramsden and Leanne Dempsey

Label: The Darling Sisters

Web address and/or FB address:


Where are you based? 

Gold Creek, Nicholls, ACT

How did you get into fashion and what do you love about it compared to other types of design?

We are not designers but heritage professionals with a strong interest in the social and cultural history of fashion, especially 20th century fashion. For Fashfest we have assembled a curated collection of classic vintage-influenced resort and swimwear. We love fashion because of its social context: it reflects the hard work and achievements of women in the past, while remaining relevant to lifestyles of today.

Who is your target audience?

Our main target market is women in the 22 to 50 age ranges: seeking mid- to high-range styles for daywear, workwear, swim and sportswear, and occasion wear. We appeal to women who love the idea of vintage glamour but may not have worn much vintage style before. In our experience these customers are interested in ethically-made garments, high-quality garments, and exclusively designed garments.

How would you describe your aesthetic, and what can people expect from your collection at FASHFEST 2014?

Our style is ‘wearable heritage’: new pieces based on classic twentieth century styles. Our main historic infuences come from 1900 to around 1960. We are proponents of what we call ‘slow fashion’: classic garments that are made ethically and with care, are immune to the whims of changing fashion, and can be enjoyed for decades. Our Fashfest leisurewear collections are influenced by the styles of the 1930s and the mid-to-late 1940s.

What’s your design philosophy?

We select pieces that reflect the glamour of the past while suiting modern lifestyles. We seek style that has been tested by time: our pieces are classic and will not go out of fashion; and they are so well-made that they can be worn for many decades with the right care. These are pieces that can form the basis of a well-dressed woman’s wardrobe and will always make her feel confident and stylish.

More and more, ideas of sustainability and ethics are explored by fashion designers, how is this reflected in your own label?

We strongly believe in sustainable fashion and in supporting small companies and individual designers. The companies we work with were all started by designers who retain creative control over the products produced. We only work with companies who embrace ethical and fair work practices where garments are either manufactured in their own country, or if manufactured overseas, they are made in small factories where conditions of work are fair.

What do you look for when casting models, and how can a model help articulate a particular ‘feel’ or aesthetic?

We believe that models can convey to an audience the wearability of a garment, and also an aspirational aesthetic. We want people to see our models and think ‘I want what she’s having!’ So we seek models with lovely personalities that shine through. Ideally, we like diverse models, who love the garments they are modelling, are having fun, and can share that essential joie de vivre.

Do you think the Australian fashion industry supports emerging designers?

We think that Fashfest is an excellent example of how the Australian fashion industry is supporting emerging designers, and also working in collaboration with other creative industries. It is a very exciting event, where creative people from all kinds of arts are working together to provide a really incredible opportunity for new and emerging fashion designers.

How can your designs be purchased?

We currently have a small boutique, Darling Central, at Gold Creek in Nicholls: we also have an online boutique at, and we have been very much enjoying our collaboration with the Hustle & Scout Twilight Markets.

Do you have any advice for someone considering fashion design as a career path?        

We would love to encourage would-be designers to consider the commercial efficacy of their designs. In the real world of fashion retail, customers want access to a good size range, including plus sizes. (Sometimes designers forget that plus-sized customers have money to spend and are very stylish!) Customers these days also insist on ethical and sustainable fashion. There is no point creating amazing design if it is not accessible to the customers who want it!

Anything else you’d like to share with Lip’s readers?

We encourage the ideals of ‘slow fashion’. It is so easy these days to acquire a wardrobe full of cheap, mass-produced clothes don’t last and don’t fit. But a smaller, curated wardrobe of ‘slow’ fashion, individually designed and produced, lasts much longer, fits better, is more ethical and more sustainable, and supports local industry. Can any of us really afford to buy cheaply these days?

What night are you on at Fashfest?        

Opening night, Wednesday 30 April.


Fashfest will be held at the Canberra Airport, 30 April to 3 May, in a beautifully designed space, with a massive atrium, stunning architectural elements and a modern industrial look. Tickets are available exclusively from the Fashfest website, and are fast selling out so get a move on, have a great night and support local and home-grown fashion talent!

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