Tiphany Wheatley-Dawson: Bringing the groovy 80s back!
Tiphany Wheatley-Dawson has always been in love with everything about the 1980s and 1990s - the big hairdo, the unabashed celebration of the self, the glamour, the glitz, and the excess. Therefore, it came as no surprise when she opened Fanny Adam's Vintage, a clothing store that sells tees, dresses, belts, jackets and bags inspired by that era. And, now the Adelaidean is using her to store to promote her unique initiative #projectaswesome that supports local artists by letting them paint quirky designs on vintage denim jackets and selling them. The artists are under contract not to recreate the same art thus making the jackets one of its kind!
In a conversation with TAL, the cat lover spoke about the inspirations behind Fanny Adam's, her fierce support for inclusivity in clothing, and her ambitious #projectawesome initiative.
Before getting into your beautiful collection of vintage clothing, please tell us something about yourself.
I’m Tiphany Wheatley-Dawson, and I named my cat after Boy George. That probably says most of what you need to know really!
I’m Adelaide born and bred and have lived here my whole life, except for the two years I spent in London. Fanny Adams has been my hobby for the last four years, and I guess it still is.
What prompted you to start Fanny Adam’s Vintage (FA)?
FA was born out of completely selfish reasons. I’ve worked in fashion retail for many years now and have always loved vintage. I wanted to create a place of my own where I could sell the clothes I liked, play my kind of music – be my boss! I also wanted to surround myself with people I find inspiring. FA is the result of this desire to be independent and create something beautiful.
After four years of existence, I am glad to say FA is now a shop that promotes local artists and their artworks. We do this by creating jackets that have the artist’s artwork painted on them; these jackets are one of a kind - a piece of clothing with an artwork that no one else would have. I didn’t have the skills to do these beautiful artworks on my own, so ended up getting in touch with artists who could provide me with unique and eye-catching artwork. Thus #projectawesome was born.
But, ironically, I still haven’t got my own customised jacket!
Why this fascination with the 80s and 90s era? What do you think is missing in today’s pop culture?
I guess there is the element of nostalgia. The late 90s were my formative years, and pretty much every movie or song I loved belonged to that period. As for the 80s and the early 90s, I love the colour and the excess of that era. Big hair, sound, shoulder pads, sparkles and shiny things; everything was extra!
Those years, I think, are visually exciting. I’ve also been drawn to the new wave and romantic movements of the 80s – the theatre, the androgynous elements, the effort gone into being able to be a true representative of the self, the rebellion embedded in these manifestations. I’m in awe of it. I think being true to who you are and to put on a show like those from the 80s and 90s did, without being bothered about how they were perceived, was incredibly brave. That bravery and nonchalance attract me to that period.
Pop culture is a representation of what is happening in the world on a broader scale at any point in history. It’s a record of social, economic and political times. I think it’s virtually impossible to assess it in its totality until you’re on the other side of it. I think it’s only with hindsight that we can look at an era and see what its strengths and weaknesses were. I don’t think anything is missing from today’s pop culture, but it will be interesting to gauge its impact and contributions in another ten or so years.
I’m still struggling to see what the 2000s really brought us apart from Paris Hilton and pink Juicy Couture tracksuits. I do have high hopes from the legacy of the late teens and 2020’s though! Androgyny is becoming more mainstream, which is awesome! And, I think we’re starting to break away from merely following trends and are heading towards embracing a more authentic individual representation. At least I hope we are!
One notices that inclusivity is a big theme in FA. Is there a particular reason for this?
It is the central theme of the brand, and I’m glad that it comes across!
I fiercely believe in the right to be able to represent yourself however you want without being threatened or harmed. How you decide to dress or adorn yourself is no-one’s business.
Unfortunately, we are still living in a judgemental world and sometimes a simple thing like how one is dressed evokes an extreme reaction that ranges from unpleasant to downright dangerous. I think that’s madness! If FA can help people think a bit differently about clothes or support those who decide to flow against the tide, then we’re doing our job.
Agreed, fashion is an incredibly powerful tool for self-representation but on the other hand – they are just clothes, man! If a guy wants to wear a dress, it shouldn’t be any more of an event than a girl wearing jeans. Nor should it imply anything other than that’s just what they felt like wearing this morning.
One of my pet peeves is someone asking me if I have men’s clothing or does my shop sell only women’s attire. It’s all Unisex! It’s about changing your thinking. If we want to make the world a better place, we have to start by changing our thinking at an individual level.
Please tell us about your passionate initiative #projectawesome.
What makes FA a little different from other vintages stores is not just our super 80s and 90s pop aesthetic but also #projectawesome that began at the end of 2016. The project is a multi-layered program involving local Adelaide artists and vintage denim jackets, which has proven to be an excellent combination!
Local artists, who choose to be a part of #projectawesome, are provided with a branded vintage denim jacket – Levis, Wrangles, Lee and the like. They can then customise the jacket any way they wish! When they are done, FA gets to stock these amazing one of a kind, original, wearable artworks, which are pieces you can have for life. Each artist is under contract not to reproduce the same work again, so they are the only ones of their kind in the world.
FA also tries to promote other work done by artists involved in #projectawesome. If the artist has any other events or exhibitions coming up, we promote them on our social media. If they have different merchandise they produce, we stock it in store as well (tees, tote bags, prints and pins at the moment). Now that we have a store on Wakefield Street, we’ll also be running lots of events involving the #projectawesome crew. Live mural painting parties and ‘artist in residence spots’ are already on the calendar, with more events brewing!
#projectawesome also works as a networking opportunity for the artists themselves. We run a Facebook group just for them, so they can all share ideas, contacts and knowledge. According to a lot of feedback I have received, being an artist can be quite isolating. It’s mainly a solo pursuit, so they were very receptive to the opportunity to meet up and to be able to connect with other artists. Everyone has different backgrounds and connections and lot of them cross over in what they want to expand into, therefore they use the group for information, collaborations and help in the industry.
You have mostly operated out of online and pop up stores. Do your plans to open a more permanent shop?
I have just opened a shop on Wakefield Street almost a week after I closed the pop-up! It happened suddenly, thanks to a dear friend. I hope to be here for about 12 months, as the place will be converted into a car park by a new hospital after that. But I’m hoping this is a step towards building a more permanent physical premise for FA. After all, having a brick and mortar set up was always my ultimate plan.
If you had to choose a favourite piece of clothing from FA what would it be?
I can’t choose one; all those clothes are like family to me!
I love all the #projectawesome jackets though – maybe that’s my favourite section! I love seeing what the artists come up with. It is like Christmas every time an artist comes back with their creation for a jacket, as we don’t know what to expect.
The artists working on #projectawesome are truly an inspiring bunch of people. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to get to know and work with them.
But there’s one non-clothing item I am particularly fond of- my customised coffee table by James Smith ‘The Walking Creative’, but that’s not for sale. If you want it, you’ll have to ask him to make you one!
Who has been your role model and inspiration?
Lots of people have inspired me and my life philosophies. Most of the people I find inspiring are those who have gone against the flow to be faithful to their self or their art.
I admire Boy George for his commitment to being true to himself, and I love his look! I adore Robert Smith of The Cure because he’s never been trend driven in either his music or his aesthetic. And, he’s bloody good at his craft! Vivienne Westwood because she was an absolute trailblazer and fights for a greater good. Joanna Lumley for her ability to embody class and fierce in equal measure, and David Bowie for his ability to live his art.
But mostly, I find inspiration in the #projectawesome crew. Every one of them – irrespective of the stage they are in the careers or lives - have been brave enough to have put themselves out there through something as personal as art. That’s inspiring!
Given the quirky nature of your store, you must have faced numerous challenges. How did you overcome those?
The most significant challenge is always financial! Being able to put your dreams to work and ensure they are financially viable is quite hard. I know a lot of artists and people with business ideas that are in the same position.
Most people don’t come from a place of great wealth or financial flexibility, so it’s difficult and a lengthy process to be able to just go ahead and ‘follow your dreams’. Going all in is terrifying – exciting but scary!
What has the reception been like for your store and designs?
The reception has been fantastic! I had excellent feedback for my pop up at Adelaide Fringe. Everyone that came through loved #projectawesome and the shop in general, that was encouraging.
So far, the Wakefield Street shop has been the same. We are a little bit tucked away, so I hope more people make an effort to come and check it out because it is a great space.
What are your future plans like?
Our next event, a ‘Painting Party’ is on April 28. We’ll have at least six of the #projectawesome crew live in action painting murals on the walls of the shop. The shop will be open for business with fantastic tunes and drinks thrown into the mix. Come and see us from 2 pm till 10 pm.
We have an artist in residence spots happening about once a week at the moment, and if you come past the shop, you can watch an artist in action.
I’ve just been accepted into a business mentoring program run through the Adelaide Council as well. Hopefully, they will teach me how to keep this baby in motion and grow into a bigger better version of what is happening now. Watch this space for more!
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