Louise Grahame Designer Maker

An Interview with Salamanca Market stallholder Louise Grahame

Louise Grahame, designer and maker of sustainable, exclusive, locally made, fair trade unisex clothing – frocks, jeans, handknits and accessories.

What led you into this business?

Knitting and sewing my own rudimentary designs since childhood, I had my first stall at a nascent Salamanca Market in 1977, selling vintage clothing I had laundered, repaired, altered. By 1982 I was marketing full season. In 1984 I sold my first garment made at TAFE (fashion & design), a skirt, launching my Louise Grahame design label. All future designs including various first prize fashion show outfits, I sold, initially via local boutiques. By 1990 my expanding label spilled into my market stock. Small ranges and one off pieces gradually superseded vintage. Designing and making my own label became my main focus and stock. 1996-2008 I also ran my own inner city store (CLEO best shopper guide 1999). My style is cyclic, eclectic, colourful, incorporating most textiles. 1980s I made leather – jackets, skirts, bags. 1990s – my own jeans label. Since 2000, my output remains mixed; one off knits, patchworks and basic ranges….

Tell us a bit about your work process

I’m frugal and respect resources are finite. I design using only my workshop stockpile – quality fabric lengths, mostly uncut, unused, discarded by wasteful Western culture. All fabric is used up. Smallest offcuts make patchworks. Leathers and denims are sometimes reworked – knits are free form. I must be creative and make ends meet with various plies and colours of unused yarns. Other wools are unpulled, washed, dyed. Selvedge offcuts are knitted up with yarn scraps. Mur, my mum, crochets the Murmade range, interpreting my ideas with creative skill and insight. I oversee absolutely every Louise Grahame garment – start, finish to retail. My workshop houses various 1950s treadle and 1960s sewing machines and other tools of trade, all in good working order, most purchased second hand. Laundering or occasional dying uses our collected tank water, which is pumped back onto our land as grey water.

What do you enjoy most about having a stall at Salamanca Market?

I’m happy to be among the pioneering group of designer makers, growers and bakers who, by pursuing creativity and alternative livelihoods persevered to establish Salamanca Market when the market concept was foreign, not commonplace like today. Forty years on, Salamanca Market continues to generate huge economic and cultural benefits to Hobart and beyond. My Louise Grahame design, made in Tasmania label, travels extensively. Resourceful, innovative application to both sustainable lifestyle and business has paid off with minimum carbon footprint and continues to deliver satisfaction and a basic wage enough to pay for my simple independent lifestyle.