Add your own personal touch to the brand’s 2019 collection pieces.
When the going gets tough, creatives get going—that’s certainly the case for Avrgbbs, the Toronto brand currently based in London as part of a fellowship with the Suzanne Rogers Fashion Institute at Ryerson University. Co-designers Julia Payton and Michal Perelmuter, who are known for using upcycled materials in their whimsical pieces, have created free downloadable illustration pages for your mindful colouring time; the adorable illos are inspired by fairytales and feature designs from the duo’s 2019 collection, which debuted at Fashion Art Toronto last April. Here, Payton and Perelmuter share how the pages came to life, what they hope happens to the fashion industry following the COVID-19 crisis, and how they’re passing their time in quarantine.
When did you get the idea to make these colouring pages?
Julia: In 2018, Michal and I collaborated on our undergrad thesis at Ryerson University. Michal focused on a five-look collection and I made an activity book that included colouring pages featuring imagery from the collection. We’ve always been interested in things that can make our designs more accessible and thought colouring pages could be a great way to engage people’s creativity.
Michal: We intended to have another interactive component to compliment our 2019 collection and sketched up some rough concepts for another colouring book. But —as we make everything ourselves—we simply ran out of time and this project got put on hold. A few weeks ago, we were inspired when we saw on Instagram that Toronto-based illustrator Carmen Lew had started her very own colouring project. We thought this would be the perfect time to bring this idea back and help people get transported into their imagination.
Why did you choose to focus on your 2019 collection as the inspiration?
Michael: For our 2019 collection “The tale of two painfully average and nostalgic babies”, we had just finished university and were both feeling overwhelmed by the uncertainty of our future. We turned to fairytales and dress up as a way to temporarily transport us somewhere else. Therefore the scenes we drew merged mundane activities from our everyday lives (like surfing the web, sleeping and eating) with fantastical environments.
Julia: We see fantasy not as escapism but rather a tool to imagine new possibilities and develop creative solutions to the problems our world is facing. Now more than ever this theme seems relevant as we all face challenges and have to adjust to a new form of living. There are so many uncertainties but this is a good opportunity to contemplate what we want our future to look like.
Are you referencing any fairytales in particular in the illustrations, or are they more from your own imaginations?
Julia: They are mostly from our own imagination as we try to mix themes of 21st-century life with classic fairytale imagery. That said we definitely absorbed a lot of movies and stories while making this collection. We were definitely influenced by childhood favourites like Sleeping Beauty, Labyrinth, Alice in Wonderland and more recently discovered stories like Donkey Skin. I also was inspired by H. J. Ford’s illustrations for Andrew Lang’s fairy books.
How long did the illustrations take to complete? And how did the process of creating the pages work between the two of you?
Michal: Collaboration is an integral part of our creative process so we always work on everything together. We come up with a concept for each illustration together and then Julia does a few quick thumbnails to flesh out some different compositions. Then I draw a more detailed sketch on paper, which Julia digitally finalizes. That way there is a little bit of both of us in everything we make.
Aside from colouring and drawing, what have you been doing to pass the time during quarantine?
Julia: We are using this time to re-evaluate our design process. We are currently challenging ourselves to design with only the materials that we currently have in our home. We are really excited to play with this Disney princess duvet cover we found at a charity shop and have a ton of latex scraps. Depending on how long this goes we might even start taking apart our own wardrobes….
Michael: I’ve also turned into a domestic God, cooking, cleaning, yoga, sewing and reading Harry Potter for the first time.
Julia: And we’ve been watching A LOT of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
What do you hope will happen to the fashion industry after this crisis has ended?
Michal: I would love for the industry to come out of this with a completely different set of values. I hope the fashion cycle starts to dissolve, fast fashion and overproduction crumble and we elevate smaller and more independent voices that challenge the status quo.
Julia: I hope the industry becomes more empathetic and there is a greater embracement of craft. Fashion is about people; it’s about diverse bodies and backgrounds, sharing techniques and stories from different communities. It’s emotional and that’s important.
What’s been your mantra for making it through quarantine?
Julia: Time is just a silly illusion.