MEET THE MAKER SERIES: LUDA

Luda is our longest standing dressmaker in the business. She has been with The Love of Grace since the dawn of time (okay, since the dawn of the label) and beyond, when the company first began as a global lingerie label.

“Some people collect cars. I collect sewing machines.”

Why were you drawn to traditional production?

I like to solve problems, that’s what drives me. In made-to-order, I sew a garment from start to finish. However, in mass production you’re sewing the same seam over and over again – that doesn’t challenge me. I love seeing the entire dress come to life and knowing that someone is going to love and care for it.

What’s your personal style?

I like classic lines and simplicity. My wardrobe doesn’t age and isn’t trend-focused. Some pieces are over ten years old but I still wear them with confidence because they are timeless and are made well. All of the pieces coordinate with each other so I don’t have to think too hard about getting dressed!

What is your personal weakness?

My biggest weakness is buying fabric. I’ve been lucky to travel a lot over the years, and I buy 4m of fabric from every city. My last trip was to San Sebastian – I found a fabric shop in the hills and bought 4m of four different fabrics at 80 euro each! On one of my trips, my suitcase was stolen – I couldn’t have cared less about my wallet but was devastated to have lost my fabrics! 

Do you have any other craft skills?

I like anything that involves making something with my hands. I’ve studied enamelling, embossing, leatherwork, thronging, carpentry, smocking, felting, crochet, patchwork and plaiting. Growing up, I was always encouraged to make something. 

Do you remember the moment you knew you wanted to be a Dressmaker?

I remember the day clearly. I was 8 years old. I had been pleading my Mum for fabric. Without material, I had to get creative. So I cut up the curtains and made a collection of dresses for my dolls. They looked pretty good! Mum was yelling and crying at me when she came home. On the other hand, my Dad was crying because he was so proud of my ingenuity! After that, they bought me some fabric.

Who taught you to sew?

My Mother was a seamstress and my Dad was a builder, so he understood the need to make things with your hands. So it was my Dad who taught me pattern construction. I remember trying to put a sleeve into a doll’s dress but didn’t understand the curve, it was so confusing! Once I finally understood how it needed to be shaped before becoming a garment, it all just fell into place. 

Can you tell us more about your Parents?

Their pilgrimage for a life in Australia was epic. My parents left Russia during the Revolution in 1917 and migrated to China, but they had to leave their home again when a new government came in. They walked for eight days with three children to bypass the Great Wall, and arrived in Shanghai where they all lived in an Orphanage. Once again they had to move to escape Communism. As refugees they landed in the Phillipines and waited to board a ship to Australia. Upon arrival to Australia my mother unimaginably lost the baby she had longed for, but ten years later she finally fell pregnant with me. I was an unexpected surprise but became the apple of my father’s eye. 

What other jobs have you had in the fashion industry?

I taught Garment Construction in Stretch and Swim at the Australian Institute of Creative Design. I loved being in the classroom and seeing the student’s world from a teacher’s perspective. They came from all walks of life and implemented their own experiences into their collections – it’s such a brave and powerful thing to put yourself out there like that. My classes included both men and women who had never sat at a sewing machine. Teaching them to create something from nothing is one of my greatest achievements.

“During high school, I bought fabric every Saturday morning and made my own dress by Saturday night to go out dancing.”

What’s something that The Love of Grace team wouldn’t know about you?

Before I became a mother, I started my own fashion label. With six other designers we presented annual collections in the homes of well-dressed ladies. The runway shows quickly became popular with women flocking from interstate to view our designs. All of the proceeds of the auctions would go to charity. Without the internet at our fingertips, it was the best way to showcase our designs and the customers loved seeing the garments up close. It was a very exciting time.

What’s your secret addiction?

Some people collect cars. I collect sewing machines. I have five industrial machines and two domestic machines in my workroom at home. I can’t imagine ever parting with them. I still play in the workroom and sew every weekend, even though it’s my day job. I need that creative space to just play.

What does the future look like?

I came out of retirement to work at The Love of Grace, purely because I love sewing. I can’t imagine retiring. I’m so lucky that I can still sew and can still see! Even now, I’m still learning, as every fabric is different. At The Love of Grace, the seamstresses all work very closely together; we are constantly sharing tricks and bouncing ideas off each other. As for me, I’m going to continue cooking and gardening on weekends. I often leave yummy treats on the window sills for my neighbours to collect. There’s nothing better than sharing your craft for someone else to enjoy.

ABOUT THE “MEET THE MAKERS” SERIES

“Who Made My Clothes?” is a question we have all been asking since the devastating Rana Plaza incident in 2013. We now know the dangers of industrial chemicals on the environment, and the severely unsafe working conditions behind the mainstream fashion system. It’s an arduous process to shift a billion people into realising the impact that the industrial revolution is having on the planet and our people, but we’ve shifted our thinking before and we can do it again.

Over the coming months we will be introducing you to our incredible team of talented makers, who pattern-make, cut and sew each garment right here in Burleigh, Queensland. Their stories are hilarious, ridiculous, beautiful, heart-felt, honest. We are asking them ALL the questions.

To stay up to date with their fascinating stories, subscribe to our blog

To learn more about the heart-breaking reality of mass production, watch this video.