Vogue Annie Schutzinger

In a museum-worthy debut collection, Annie Emms unleashed a world of lysergic colour and bold prints, made by one single needle.
This 85-year-old Australian designer shares the process of her homespun runway show.


Image credits: Tanja Bruckner

Original article here

Annie Schutzinger has always been creative, but it wasn’t until later in life when her imaginative side began to manifest through fashion. “I’ve been to art school for live drawing, and an art studio working with other girls over the years, [but] fashion I’ve always loved—to wear, to think about, to inspire,” the designer says.

Many people love clothes, but few can execute the kinds of shapes and silhouettes Schutzinger has managed in her recent work. As a former interior designer and lover of art inspired by a lifetime of creativity, she presented an ad-hoc runway show titled ‘Grace’ (named after her dog) at the Merchant’s Warehouse in Annandale last month, with pieces that channelled wearable art through detail, colour, and knitted wool. All were made by hand and crafted with one single needle; take the skirt with a round-edged hem visibly evoking undersea crustaceans, or the woven pieces fashioned into vests and unisex dresses. Speaking over the phone from Sydney, she’s still elated from the parade, which long-time friends like gallerist Ali Yeldham and designer Akira Isogawa attended to show support; the latter she regards as an ongoing inspiration, and she even reworked some of his historic pieces for this range.

“I’ve been to many of his shows at fashion week,” she says, and cites Isogawa’s formal gowns as particularly inspiring. Schutzinger bought a collection of his ‘dolls’—paper figurines that marked a foray outside fashion for the Japanese-Australian designer and are now collector’s items—marking a friendship that would last decades. Schutzinger says the dolls’ androgynous style was a formative inspiration for her genderless work, something she committed to when creating ‘Grace’. In this way, she says the collection encapsulates “the inclusiveness and the respect and recognition of the hard journey [to equality] for everyone. I think through fashion and clothes, through fun and sharing, a lot of barriers are broken down”.

In a similar way, Isogawa’s collections have always straddled a line between fantasy, elegance, and genderfluidity, seen most recently at his Australian Fashion Week resort 2024 show with Iordanes Spyridon Gogos. But for Schutzinger, notions of wearability went completely out the window in favour of true otherworldliness. In the outfit seen above, a model’s slicked-back hair and nomadic crossbody-slung bags conveyed a fisherman’s outfit, to be worn by anyone regardless of gender. In another, a black top and veil were paired with a cascading multicolour sequin skirt, the addition of a bow-and-arrow adding a surrealist touch. The irreverent, “magic” style of her four grandchildren provided additional revelations; “they’re not children any more, they’re 18, 20, but the magic and journey of them”.

If you’re looking for a linear storyline that unites each outfit, you might come up at a loss, but the garments’ individual beauty and vibrance makes things click into place, especially with the help of hair and makeup artist Michael Wolff and photographer Tanja Bruckner.

“When we made our look book, I saw how [Bruckner] brought to life poses that turned those dresses into a whole different world,” she says. “The three of us were just a team, there was no boss. It was absolute fun!”

For those looking to purchase one of the pieces—for preservation as a form of art, or to dress exuberantly at your next function—you can’t buy them, at least not yet. Schutzinger doesn’t rule out letting them go in the future, but not before she’s taken each one for a spin.

“I haven’t [sold] the pieces yet, but I’ve been out dog-walking in them,” she says with an air of laissez-faire, uncaring about the stares she’s probably received from uninitiated passers-by. She notes that a range of handmade bags that evoke natural landscapes might be available eventually, but if she ever were to part way with the pieces from ‘Grace’, she intends for them to be worn however the wearer pleases. “They’re fragile and elegant yet robust… they can be worn in any way for whatever occasion,” she posits. Taking the dog for a walk has never looked so glamorous.