Runways are dandy, but the Pale Blue Eyes Creative Conference hosted by Melbourne icons Fat was something altogether different. Ruby Assembly Consultants  attended this unique conference held at The Toff on Tuesday 15th March. It was a terrific opportunity learn about both the creative and business sides of the design industry. Here’s Ruby Assembly’s review on the day, and what we garnered from some truly inspiring local heroes.

After being well fed and watered by Choo Choo’s asian inspired flavours courtesy of Fat, a bustling and VERY fashion forward crowd (consisting of many RMIT students, we think) sat down to enjoy an introductory film by Tim Hillier exploring the design spaces worked in by Life With Bird, Claude Maus and Asuza.

MC’d by Ben Irakoff from Fat Marketing, the afternoon started off with a brief talk and Q&A Session from designers Huw Bennett of Vanishing Elephant and Carly Hunter (own label, image inset below).

Huw spoke about his background which was in accounting – which initially appears an odd fit. On the contrary, Huw’s strong accounting background has allowed Vanishing Elephant to be well-grounded, and is now a label with over 100 accounts. Impressive for a men’s brand which started in the market in 2009. Huw said that market research was integral to business success – Vanishing Elephant’s brief was to have purpose, to be designed well, and to be at an accessible price point. He re-iterated that only 10% of their time is spent on the actual design of the clothes… the rest is spent focussing ‘on’ the business rather than working ‘in’ it.

Carly Hunter spoke about how she oversees the whole of her business. She likes to understand the process from the beginning through to the product being on the rack. Carly said that parties, catalogues etcetera were important to any fashion brand. It’s imperative that clients don’t forget about you, and you can help to encourage their business by following them up. Having good relationships with sponsors is also important.

Next on the running sheet were Creatives, including Tin&ed (image inset, above) and Barrie Barton of Right Angle Studio. For Ruby Assembly, this was by far the most exciting part of the Pale Blue Eyes Conference. Both Tin&ed and Barrie/Right Angle Studio are concept builders, who work in a variety of mediums collaboratively with experts in a range of fields. Ruby Assembly love this approach to working, a kind of synthesis of skills to create a whole new ‘thing’.

Tin&ed (Tin Nguyen and Edward Cutting) met at Swinburne (an experience of education neither of them suggest is formative in their own business’ success). Post degree, they fell into a job together and organically started their studio. They are illustrators, photographers, sculpture and installation specialists – they’re provocateurs! Tin&ed made it clear that much of their work comes from the community they already work in. They represent very high-calibre organisations including The Melbourne International Design Festival, American Express, MTV and the Australian Ballet. These guys are the ultimate ‘youth-whisperers’ if such a thing exists.

Barrie Barton began his entertaining talk by telling us how his beginnings started in a sacking from Moonlight Cinema. Lucky he went onto create his own at Rooftop Cinema, Curtin House. Barrie has a diverse background in studying law and philosophy. Similarly to Huw Bennett of Vanishing Elephant, the background skills Barrie brings to Right Angle Studio assist in enriching its global view. His inspirations for creating his business were a) His love for Melbourne b) his love for publishing and c) his love for his brother. Awesome. He began indie-publication, which is Melbourne’s premiere guide to interesting events. Barrie says his approach to business is fluid, and he has an amazing stable of clients to vindicate his design philosophy including Hermes, Nike and Puma. His greatest piece of advice was that businesses should work out if a client is a good match for them. This self-awareness can avoid conceptual disagreements down the line. He also mentioned that he felt that fashion is an industry of contradictions – incredibly forward thinking looks but really backwards business models. In light of eco-awareness, Barrie suggests that the idea of seasonality in fashion needs to be re-addressed.

The next element to the Pale Blue Eyes Conference was delving into the world of new mediums in Media. We had the pleasure of hearing from Penny Modra, Editor of and Jo Walker, Editor of Frankie magazine.

Penny pulls off Ramones chic with gay aplomb. She’s been at the helm of since 2005 when the magazine started off as a Tin&ed designed newsletter. Penny explained that Mondays meant the meeting of 4 writers, all deciding on what the coming week’s ‘Scoop’ should be. Her days (which seem coffee fuelled and with early starts and late finishes) are filled with uploading and sending material. However she also writes a visual arts column for The Age in her spare time. Penny notes that written tone is important to gauge depending on both the publication and the audience, and calls the tone a ‘call to action’ rather than the more pared back Age approach. Writing in the morning is the time Penny says she feels the least paranoid and the most bold. Some publications that Penny admires include the New York Magazine, Gayletter, Wooo and Vice Magazine’s precursor Big Brother. I just checked out some scans of Big Brother and it’s pretty hardcore with guides to suicide etc. Now I feel like a weak-assed chardonnay socialist who’s become conservative in their dotage. Nonetheless, Penny’s insights were valuable and entertaining.

Up next was Jo Walker, editor of Frankie. Jo has been with Frankie for 6 years. She says that Frankie is a magazine for women (and people) who’ve probably learned how to reach orgasm themselves without having to consult a glossy guide to do so. It’s a general interest magazine, which Jo describes as a mix tape of topics. Jo’s top pics for publications include Sassy magazine, NME, Melody Maker and Bust. Jo discussed social media and Frankie, saying that the increased interaction from mediums such as micro-blogging site Twitter was double-edged. Jo and Penny both noted that there are a lots of anonymous haters who will diss your work – they’re best to be ignored.

So that’s that. My review of Pale Blue Eyes. The lovely ladies of Fat themselves then did go on to have a brief discussion piece,  but by that time Ruby Assembly had to get to another gig. We hope this blog is informative and assist point you in the ‘write’ (oops, I had to – it was so tempting) direction for Melbourne’s best creators, writers and designers.