HIGHLANDS CREATIVES // The Quiet Lion
Danielle Hewitt is the creative force behind The Quiet Lion, a sustainable, made-to-order fashion label based in the southern village of Bundanoon.
“The Quiet Lion is where I’m able to make good choices about the kinds of garments I want to send out into the world,” Danielle says.
“For the first time I’ve put all my energy and hard work into something that is uniquely me, designed to my own brief and representing fundamental beliefs of mine. Sustainable. Ethical and Beautiful.”
We caught up with Danielle as she launched her label and found out what she had to say about living a creative life in the Southern Highlands.
How did you get involved in your craft?
I spent a lot of time pestering my Mum and Nana to teach me how to sew. They made so many of our clothes when we were children and I learnt how to sew at a very young age. It wasn’t until Year 12 that I really focused on learning the skills properly. I created a wearable artwork that involved couture techniques and oodles of hand embroidery, applique, and image transfers. It’s still stashed away in the back of a cupboard somewhere!
I then trained in Melbourne at the Victorian College of the Arts as a set and costume designer. This was such a great way to explore different techniques and styles.
When I moved to the Southern Highlands in 2012 and began my dressmaking business, I started finessing my skills and techniques as a maker and designer. My made-to-measure clients have taught me so much about what people want to wear and how they want to wear it.
Who has influenced you and inspired you in your career?
Definitely my Mum and Nana for starting me on the making pathway. Some of that influence also rubbed off on my brother who is now a meticulous maker and designer.
Designers like Akira Isagowa, Alexander McQueen and Dior are always high on the list of icons to admire. Collette Dinnigan was one of the first female Australian designers that really sparked an interest for me in the fashion world.
Connecting with other creatives and makers on social media has been a huge influence. There is a fountain of daily inspiration from other women, mothers, small business owners, talented artisans and creatives who are chipping away at their craft day by day. Designers and commentators who are championing the way towards a cleaner, ethical and more sustainable fashion industry inspire me too. Clare Press and her book / podcast Wardrobe Crisis is fabulous!
But most of the time the creative process for me is inspired by a colour or a texture. A walk in the national park. A profound piece of music. A conversation with a close friend.
What materials do you like to work with?
I work with natural fibres as much as possible, and source a lot of my fabrics with that in mind. Cotton, linen and wool are my favourites. I’m always thinking about how something will feel against the skin. What is its lifespan? What are the environmental impacts of its production? Can it be reused/ recycled when its finished as a garment?
The Quiet Lion is where I’m able to make good choices about the kinds of garments I want to send out into the world. I wear as many of my designs as possible so I know how they feel and last.
What advice would you give anyone wanting to move into your field?
Go for it! And trust yourself. I have acquired many skills over the years and am only now learning how to be proud of everything I’ve created. Not everything you make will be a success and sometimes an idea will undergo many changes before it starts to feel right. Testing your ideas is in some ways more important than the final creation.
For me starting small was important. Working from within my own studio and skillset was important. Learning that being a creative and a mother at the same time took quite a while to understand. Getting the balance right is an ongoing challenge!
Launching The Quiet Lion! For the first time I’ve put all my energy and hard work into something that is uniquely me, designed to my own brief and representing fundamental beliefs of mine. Sustainable. Ethical and Beautiful.
I know its only early days, but it feels like a great start to something that has been in the back of my mind for most of my working adult life.
What challenges have you come across in your career?
Running a business has been hard! I love all the creative bits, but have had to force myself to be good at admin, scheduling, returning phone calls and bookkeeping.
Having confidence and trust in my own self and ability to be an artist and creative being has been an enormous obstacle. I struggle with feeling like an imposter, self-doubt and anxiety are the absolute nemesis to living a productive creative life. Learning to say no to taking on extra things, learning how to work through a massive list of tasks one thing at a time, and to allow myself space to explore creative ideas has all been helpful.
What does the future look like for The Quiet Lion?
The Quiet Lion began in The Highlands and has been welcomed with open arms, partially thanks to the supportive community here but also because of my ever encouraging and loyal client base I have established over the last few years as a dressmaker.
I would love to grow The Quiet Lion nationally and internationally. Getting the website up and running was a big part of this. As the label grows so will my team. I have some excellent people who help out regularly but I would love to be able to employ more makers here in The Highlands and to continue producing locally. Passing on skills to the younger generation is also part of the plan.
And expect to see The Quiet Lion at more design market events, exclusive trunk shows and open studio events with VIP pre-orders available.
Why do you love being a creative in the Southern Highlands?
There is a wealth of beautiful creative souls here all supporting each other and encouraging creative exploits. I loved living in Melbourne for 17 years, but I don’t think I really felt free to explore my own ideas and creative process until I moved to The Highlands. It really does feel like I have found my tribe and having a community of like-minded people around you is just as important as family.
There is always something to see and do here, and it’s a great area to be able to support other artists, makers and small business owners.