The Designer Interview: Amy Jones from Mia Fratino
Creative Director of Mia Fratino Amy Jones
A thoughtful amalgamation of luxury fabrication and timeless silhouettes effectively elucidate the signature aesthetic of Australian knitwear label Mia Fratino.
Finding its roots as a label designed “to stand proud and make a difference,” Mia Fratino distinguishes itself amongst the growing saturation of knitwear labels, providing a no- nonsense, minimalist, and sustainable approach to knitwear design and production–an approach that has garnered the label a dedicated customer base both at home and internationally.
Mia Fratino–Esperanto for ‘My Sister’–is a name chosen to represent the notion of global sisterhood, a core foundation for the brand and a guiding principle for Director Tim Fitzpatrick and Creative Director Amy Jones.
In conversation with The Forme, Creative Director and Head Designer for the label, Amy Jones discusses her design process, Mia Fratino’s approach to sustainability and the slow fashion mindset, and why you should not be afraid to add colour to your wardrobe.
Mia Fratino has become synonymous with high quality knitwear that’s produced with a high attention to design details. Where did your passion for creating knitwear begin?
“Naaw thanks. This is very kind. Well this one is easy. I was raised on the floor of a knitwear factory in Melbourne. Not literally, but almost. The business was started by my grandparents and managed in later years by my parents. I then went onto work in the business for many years before starting Mia Fratino. My earliest memories were of playing hide and seek with my brother in the large knitted body panels, fresh off the machines or warm press in this factory... I still remember the smell. When I was 6, I remember sitting with my dad, being shown the new Stoll design system my grandfather had just bought which was linked to a knitting machine. You could draw a picture onto a tablet screen with a pen similar to an iPad today, then get the machine to knit it as a jacquard. I didn’t understand why my dad wouldn’t knit the picture I drew of a teddy in a hot air balloon. I spent the next 20 years working towards achieving that goal.”
How do you approach the design process each season? What inspires you to create?
“It’s hard to explain what inspires me. It can sometimes be a silhouette, that prompts a series of pieces that end up talking back to each other. I am very driven by simple clean lines and functional shapes. It can be a colour, that evolves into an entire story or palette ~ which has happened this season as colour has been the driving force behind our newest collections. It can be a practical desire to fulfil a need in the market driven by retail requests. I usually travel to Germany each year for inspiration. I have spent a lot of time in Germany over the last 20 years. It is a market that inspires me and I hold in very high regard, particularly with their approach to art, knitwear and culture. I find it refreshing. While it could be a great artwork from Europe... the design process can also be driven by my production manager kicking my ass that specs are due to our factory by Friday. There is no doubt that the best pieces always seem to come at the very last minute!”
Mia Fratino maintains a refined, contemporary aesthetic achieved via collections of core basic styles in neutral and pop colours. How important is colour within your design process?
“Colour is everything. Not only in my collection but also in my home & personal wardrobe. I LIVE for colour. My friends say my house is in a “kinder-garden” theme, laden with bright colours everywhere... in my eyes colour makes the world go around. And can equally break things very quickly if it is not well executed. A slightly wrong hue can prevent the whole story from pulling together. I am very specific about colour. We bespoke dye most of our colours for Mia Fratino to maintain a level of unique styling, but mostly because I am super picky and I cannot often find the colours I am looking for when purchasing colours from stock cards. Using colour requires bravery. A lot of people aren’t confident to incorporate colour into their home or wardrobe. At Mia Fratino, we are looking to help our customers in taking that leap to brighten up their wardrobe with easy staple pieces.”
An ethically and sustainability conscious mindset is evident through your designs. Who do you look to for information and inspiration on sustainability, particularly in fashion?
“Ooo.. this is a tricky one. Honestly, I am not really influenced (or have time to read) fashion magazines. I never have been. I find they clutter my brain with too much in-put stimulation, like walking into a shopping centre at Christmas... I do follow and like to read articles by Clare Press (Vogue Australia) or Mel Singer (SMH & The Age) as they often cover poignant issues regarding sustainability in fashion. I also like to read Rag Trader and Textile View as I find they are well tapped into the commercial viabilities of the market and industry trends. They offer innovative and real solutions for companies, rather than shiny ‘green’ marketing fluff that you often see out in the market."
"Mostly I am driven by a real desire to create clothing that doesn’t bear a large environmental footprint. We’d like to believe that this has been a foundation ethos of our company since well before it was cool. Our inspiration on this one largely comes from within. It is what Tim (Tim Fitzpatrick, MF Director) and I strive to achieve daily - from our ethical methods of production, to sustainable yarn sourcing... to recycled paper stock used in our post-cards and compostable bags we send our online goods in. We live and breathe this ethos.”
Can you tell us about the MIA VIVO ‘Artisan Spun’ collection and how it came about?
“Sure. We wanted to design a super-soft ‘fluffy’ collection that was accessible to everyone. We knew if we designed garments of this weight and loft – with a chunky hand knit feel - in 100% Mongolian cashmere, it would be very expensive, too expensive. Instead, we decided to introduce our first diffusion collection and sub brand. MIA VIVO: meaning ‘my life’ in Esperanto, our new lifestyle collection. Our MIA VIVO ‘Artisan Spun’ capsule is made from a blend of Mongolian Cashmere and merino wool, spun by hand creating a super-soft lofty knit which feels just like your grandma knitted it.”
How do you look after your cashmere?
“I give it to my mum to wash like everybody else... haha. At work we follow the ‘new born baby’ rule. Always use tepid water. Never wring out or hang your cashmere because it will stretch. Don’t use too much soap or use fabric softener at all as it is damaging - not many people know this, the softener can damage the fibres. We encourage people to always store their knits with a sandalwood garment protector to keep the moths away and importantly wash their garments before they put them into storage as the moths love to nibble on dirty knits! There are some hand tips here.”
Mia Fratino has a clear vision of supporting a slow fashion consumer mindset. What does slow fashion mean to you and how is this reflected in the seasonal collections you design for Mia Fratino?
“Slow fashion to me is the opposite of fast fashion. It is designing timeless pieces intended for many years of wear, not just one season. We are fiercely passionate at Mia Fratino about helping to educate our customers about care & repair rather than fast-fashion disposable clothes. We offer a rejuvenation and bespoke repair service, designed to encourage restoration and repair of garments rather than replacement.”