Origins of Surface Art Original Fabrics
Moyra Jones is the creative talent behind the labels: Surface Art, Essaye and Theadora Jones. The three labels share a common “thread” – they’re all about the fabric.
With a lifelong love of fabric and sewing, Moyra studied textile design at the Scottish College of Textiles before moving to Sydney in the early 1990s. In Sydney, she landed a job with artist Ken Done, translating his iconic Australian images into fabrics suitable for swimwear, clothing, and accessories.
In 2000, Moyra started her own business, Surface Art, designing, hand printing and sewing products for sale at local markets including Paddington, Bondi and The Rocks markets. Surface Art was all about making and selling stylish cushions, homewares and fabric by-the-metre.
Surface Art designs are inspired by nature and objects, as well as popular art and design movements including Mid Century Abstraction, Scandi design, Orientalism, 1950s interior design, bold 1970s patterns. Whatever the inspiration, the fabrics always have a Surface Art signature – like a unique colourway, a clever repeat, a daring scale...
“Selling at the markets is ideal for getting customer feedback,” said Moyra. “That’s how I discovered that people wanted to wear my designs and not just display them. I offered fabric for sale by-the-metre for home sewers but I had lots of enquiries from people who wanted to buy readymade skirts and dresses.”
“I started making A-Line skirts and tunic dresses. Simple designs that showcased the fabric, were easy to wear, and suited a variety of body types. It wasn’t long before women’s clothing sales eclipsed homewares.”
As sales grew and the business evolved, Moyra began outsourcing the screen printing and some of the making to local suppliers but always staying very hands-on.
“I like to work with the local community and I like to make products that last,” said Moyra. “Being Australian-made and treading lightly on the earth are important to me.”
Clothing Gets Its Own Label
As the Surface Art women’s clothing business grew, Moyra moved further into wholesale and online sales. She stopped doing regular markets but attended the occasional design fair to meet with customers and like businesses.
The clothing range was no longer confined to A-Line skirts and tunics in Surface Art original fabrics. Moyra was now selling denim and plain garments to team with her trademark prints.
The clothing range developed a life of its own and deserved a brand of its own, “Essaye” the Surface Art initials.
The Essaye Clothing Label
“Essaye is a clothing label not a fashion label,” said Moyra. “Essaye is not about tapping into or setting trends, it’s about well-made clothing that we hope you’ll love and want to keep wearing.”
“We produce a couple of ranges each year with new prints and styles, but we also have some popular designs that are always available.”
“Customers really like our mikko print so we have mikko tops and mikko A-Line skirts in our all-year-round range and we add new colourways to keep things fresh. The colours combinations we could offer are endless.”
“We have started getting some of our designs printed digitally which has given us more choices in base fabric, and there are things we can do with digital that weren’t possible with screen printing.”
The essence of Essaye is quality Australian-made clothing, natural fibres (with the odd bit of spandex for stretch or shape), easy-to-wear versatile styles – clothes that you’ll love and wear season after season.
Surface Art Studio Shop
In May 2016, Moyra moved her design studio to 135A Catherine Street, Leichhardt in inner west Sydney. She runs the business from the studio: designing the prints, liaising with suppliers, filling online orders, responding to customer emails, doing some cutting and sewing.
On Fridays and Saturdays, Moyra opens the studio to customers. The studio shop provides the opportunity for shoppers to try on various styles, different sizes, and to mix and match. It gives Moyra the chance to gauge feedback on the prints and shapes.
Theadora Jones Limited Edition Clothing
It was through encounters in the studio shop that the offshoot brand, Theodora Jones, was born.
Visitors to the studio would see Moyra wearing dresses that she’d sewn for herself from other designers’ fabrics and ask where they could get them. After countless enquiries, she decided to create an offshoot label using fabrics that she purchased. She named the label, “Theadora Jones” in homage to her mother, Theadora, who inspired her to sew and create from an early age.
Moyra carefully selects the fabrics and either sews the garments herself or uses local makers.
“Theadora Jones allows me to indulge my love of fabric,” said Moyra. “I only buy small amounts of fabric, so once it’s gone it’s gone. You could say it’s a limited-edition range.”