Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Marsu Homme- Walls of Chaos

Most people celebrate moving into a new apartment or work space. But tonight is different. Tonight Chrissy Hammond, the designer behind the label Marsu Homme, is throwing a party for her friends, family and work associates to mark the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one for the life of her label. With her studio based on the top floor of a heritage building on Sydney’s Broadway Street, the sad demolition meant that this closing party would literally end with a bang.

Walking up the thin carpet-stained flight of stairs to the studio, I feel as if I’m heading to a fraternity party typically depicted in American-teen film culture. The event is called ‘Walls of Chaos’ and it sound’s like it.

Hammond promptly meets me with a friendly handshake and a smile. She is confident and in her element. The glint in her eye is wild with excitement as she looks around the room, the electric energy bouncing off the walls strongly mirroring the loud 90’s dance music.

“In high school I’d be picking up lolly packets, and making things, little boxes and decorating, always making stuff!” Hammond says this as she fiddles with a piece of leather she has found on the floor of the store room.

Marsu Homme began as an idea in 2004 with a vision to create a brand of shoes that men can put on and be comfortable with but is “Just a little nicer”. A Pygmalion experience that she likes to view her shoes starting for the ordinary man. She uses kangaroo leather and vegetable dyes that create an earthy modern look that is uniquely her own.

Studying Fine arts at the University of New South Wales, Hammond always struggled with making sense of the non-functioning qualities of art; where as design enabled her to feel challenged and meant that she could make a living doing something she loved.

“You can be as creative as you want, with certain guidelines, so in some ways it’s more challenging than making art because in art you can do whatever you want, but in design you have restraints on what you can do, and you want to make things that sell so it has to be popular as well.”

Leaving Australia in 2000 she traveled abroad to the sleepy seaside town of Brighton, England working for renowned shoe designer Paul Harnden assisting with his hand made shoe collection.

“He was crazy, it was weird, I was working like everyone does in fashion, you know five days a week, six to seven hours a day, making shoes. I had blisters on every finger. But he was crazy, a crazy artist guy, he’d sorta’ come down stairs, and he’d be like… DJ’ing and doing random things, He was cool. He worked our asses off, in the fashion industry you have to work that hard to make it”

Hammond believes this experience taught her more about work ethic than shoe making. “I learnt things not to do; working your workers to the bone, you’ve always got that one person who you work with, like that. Now I try to be nice to those that work with me, but I think that if you give to people they give back.”

David Bottrell a fresh 19 year old aspiring shoe designer who has worked with Hammond over the last 2 years genuinely backs this statement up. “Working with Chrissy was great; it didn’t feel like I was working, it was almost like it was a hobby. There were always adventures such as finding materials, going to studios, meeting other designers in the industry.”

Bottrell describes her work as very creative. “With shoes it’s become an art form now. Chrissy’s shoes were high-end fashion and the finest quality using kangaroo leather, I’ve seen her make amazing things, spontaneously.”

David’s eyes dart around the room searching for the right words to describe Hammond, finally he settles with “spontaneous, mellow, determined”. He is content with his answer, a soft smile lighting his face as he strolls away to talk with other young designers.

When asked about the future of Marsu Homme, Hammonds answer is muddled but excited, “I don’t know, it could be big in the next few years, or… um, I don’t know a… big question mark!”

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