There’s something rather special about owning a piece of clothing that’s personalised to you and though it may no longer be a novelty among the fashion industry, there are those few who do it better than others. One such designer is Linda Jobson, who established her handmade Brisbane-based label, Grunge & Lace a mere 12 months ago and has already become a household name within the small business and mum-made community.
A style inspired by 90s grunge music and kids on skateboards twirling off graffiti-adorned ramps, Grunge & Lace captures the era before technology took over when kids were still kids and fun didn’t come by way of a screen. In the bold lettering of the brand’s fonts to the neon brights that make up much of Linda’s colour palette, that edgy vision is clear throughout her line. And while on paper one may think it an exclusively dude-oriented brand, Linda has conversely balanced her style directly between the two sexes as is implicit in her brand name and explicitly in her recent collaboration with fellow mum-maker Jess of Penny & Co who lent her pretty angel wing designs to serve as an alternative canvas for the Grunge & Lace aesthetic.
Citing the contrasting styles of her and her big sister as an important influence on not only her future fashion sense but the conception of Grunge & Lace, Linda asserts “I was always a massive tomboy and she was girly girl. She loved to dress me up and make me look like a girl and as I got older and more confident in myself and my fashion choices, I found my own girly-meets-grungy style.” A designer’s oeuvre is so reflective of who they are and what sparks those creative cogs in their minds, to the point that when you’re wearing their designs you are adopting a piece of their experience, memories and style signature and integrating it into your own look. Effectively you are becoming an extension of that designer’s creation.
This style extension is something which Linda holds very dear, “my clothing is often worn for birth announcements, birthdays and other special events and I think that’s what gives me the most joy and fulfilment, knowing in some small way I’ve been a part of your child’s precious milestones. I think that’s pretty special.” The designer explains that her clothing is about more than simply a named garment, she says, “I’m not just chucking your kids name on a t-shirt, I’m making an artwork from their name and making something as unique as the child who wears it. (Sounds corny but it’s totally how I feel about every print).”
From a childhood spent absolving her loneliness through creativity after her parents separated and her sister moved in with their father while Linda was left at home with a brother too young to serve as a real companion, it was her love of art that offered both entertainment and an opportunity for release in the face of familial and childhood angst. The Grunge & Lace branding is recognisable for its grungy, hand-printed appeal, a technique Linda learned mostly via self-tutorial. “I first learnt to screen-print in a year 9 art class,” she says, and what followed were “YouTube, screen-printing workshops, masses of trial and error and my wonderful supplier, Rob at QLD screen-printing supplies, all of which have thankfully taught me a lot more in the last 12 months.”
Constantly adding new strings to her bow as she updates her skill-set and technical expertise, Linda explained for me the process employed for every piece that makes up her clothing line. “I draw and cut every stencil by hand using a scalpel and paper or plastic, I then attach the stencil to a screen and handprint and sometimes paint every item. Each stencil can only be used once so every custom print is 100% unique. Depending on the complexity of the design each one takes me anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours to complete.” Linda’s passion for what she does is evident in her designs and is something that resounds across the handmade community, to whom Linda further attributes her inspiration. “I’m constantly inspired by my fellow makers. The fabrics and colours other makers use inspire my ink choices. Sometimes I’ll see shoes by Kate of PaperKrane or bloomers by Karlie of Hound Plus the Hare and just HAVE to make a t-shirt to match!”
Like many of her fellow makers, Linda is balancing her small business with the small people in her life, the gorgeous Elijah, 3.5 years old and Ezriel, 16 months, and it is this balance the designer acknowledges as one of the biggest hurdles in her creative path. “Like most parents who work from home I try to get as much of my work done as possible in nap time or when Daddy is home from work,” she says. “This isn’t always possible so I always take some time out to set my children up and engage them in an activity before I start working, that way there are less distractions (sometimes).”
Another challenge of running your own business is drawing people’s interest; something Linda has met head on throwing her passion for her brand into networking with fellow small business owners, engaging with her customers and running competitions and giveaways in order to generate exposure for Grunge & Lace. The designer understands the importance of not only building a following but creating a rapport with the people interacting with her brand, which is clear from the loyal fanbase she holds and one which continues to grow just as her designs themselves evolve. Asked what she’d like to achieve before the end of the year, Linda asserts “I will be spending more time working on textile pattern designs and before the year is out I will have a range of clothing made by a local seamstress using my fabrics.”
Since its inception in February 2015, Linda has had time to consider the lessons that first and most crucial year has taught her, “Learn from your mistakes but do not dwell on them, keep a positive mind-set and be confident.” I think that’s a lesson for us all to take to heart, and this piece would not be complete if I did not ask whom Mrs Grunge & Lace would most like to create one of her custom-made pieces for, “Kurt Cobain,” she says without pause, and what would be emblazoned across his chest? “King of Grunge,” comes Linda’s reply, “Because he was THE king of grunge!”