Introducing our exclusive Sarong collection, created by Public Figure in collaboration with multidisciplinary artist and friend of the brand, Anisah Nasir.
With this new release, we made the conscious choice to honour the notion of small batch and limited edition, over continuity of the towel series. Taking the opportunity to evolve the concept into a new iteration of lifestyle essentials that will no doubt be seen on beaches all throughout summer.
Once again, under the theme of the zodiac, the talented Anisah artistically interprets the traits of each horoscope with her signature organic figures. This time capturing the elements of each sign in a collage of original, hand drawn motifs, applied to a soft cotton Sarong. Discover more about the creation of the collection in our chat with Anisah and Public Figure founder, Bella Zito.
How did the idea come about for the second collection?
BZ: Anisah and I always wanted to do a second zodiac collaboration, we considered doing another set of towels but sarongs felt like such a natural extension. I love them and wear them all the time at the beach, or thrown on as a dress - there’s something quite versatile about them. We also saw a need for these with not many options available that suited the timelessness and style sensibilities of our customer.
What was your experience from the last collaboration, what are you most proud of?
BZ: People loved everything about it, they loved the material, the colour… the way they sold really spoke for itself. We had women, men, all different age groups wanting them, that was probably the best part - it didn’t have a specific customer buying it, it was everyone.
The most exciting thing was going out and seeing people using the towels, or getting messages every day last summer saying ‘I’m at the beach and the person next to me has your towel’ or ‘everyone’s asking me where my towel is from’. My personal and work life kind of collided in the best way.
AN: Like every artist, putting something out there that is a reflection of you, your passion and what you do for a living is always scary. At first I was very nervous but as soon as I saw those first towel samples I thought ‘these are really strong and I haven’t seen anything like it on the market’.
When people started posting their towels on social media and I received the feedback, I felt incredibly humbled and reassured that we had created something special. Especially then seeing them with the likes of Tash Oakley, Bianca Booth and Devin Brugman. As an artist, what I’m most proud of is just people responding to and loving what I designed, no matter who they are.
Bella, what is it that you love most about collaborating with Anisah?
BZ: Anisah is honestly one of those creatives that can master anything in a day, from interiors, to her nude drawings, her resin art and her ceramics. I’m such a huge believer in her and all that she can do. And of course, it means a lot to me to work with such a dear friend and to have the opportunity to support her art.
Where did you draw inspiration for the sarongs?
BZ: When we first started conceptualising we discussed transforming the first collections’ recognisable forms into an exploration of other aspects of the sign. From there I pretty much allowed Anisah full creative freedom to explore each sign.
AN: I tried to interpret the symbols of each zodiac sign in a way that was clean and organic. This time we wanted it to be quite minimal, a transition from the repetitive patterns that I usually incorporate into my figure art. My love for Matisse was certainly an influence, particularly his leaf illustrations.
I did consider the previous towel designs and how the nude figures could evolve into this version. My approach was to replicate the pose of each towel but in a deconstructed, simplified way. I thought that by adding that element of the figure, carried through from the towels, it would create a nice connection from our first product to the next.
With sustainability being a value at the core of Public Figure, how did that inform the design process?
BZ: From a design perspective we wanted to go with classic colours, very neutral. We’ve made them quite a large size so that you can wear them as a top, a dress or a skirt… versatility was key, we wanted something that could be anything.
The material is Better Cotton Initiative certified cotton, made in India with our trusted manufacturer. To ensure that they are produced ethically we have a clear code of conduct agreement which is based on the Ethical Trading Initiative code. Over the last year one thing we learnt was that the factories that really need the work in this time are these small factories in India - they’re already striving to become ethically certified and establish sustainable practises but they need support in order to achieve this.
Anisah, what is your creative process when designing these artworks?
AN: I collect images and when my mind is full I sit down and start filling pages upon pages with sketches in different ways - holding the pencil looser or tighter. I always overthink it at first, then I backtrack because I also want it to feel loose and free - more my style. With the sarongs I actually changed the designs at the 11th hour because I realised I didn’t want it to look too literal. I’m not the best with time lines and somehow always think of a better idea towards the end.
The symbolism draws from the various traits of each star sign, what is your relationship with the zodiac?
AN: I’ve always felt that from a young age my star sign really depicted the person I was, I still can’t believe how accurate it is. Being a Pisces known for being creative, empathetic, intuitive, compassionate but also overly emotional, an escapist, overly sensitive and fearful…that pretty much sums me up in a nutshell. It gives me a bit of guidance but also it’s just something playful and fun that people like to connect to.
Why was a limited edition approach the right fit for the towels, and now the sarong collection?
BZ: Initially we received a lot of doubts about discontinuing the towels, everyone said that we should do them again but I was adamant that I wanted to do something different. From a sustainability perspective, limited edition felt to be the most intuitive as we never wanted to over produce something that we couldn’t sell and would end up in landfill.
We also faced challenges in the early days with the towels, particularly when it came to manufacturing. This reinforced the idea that we wanted to keep production runs small and work closely with smaller factories that we could develop a trusting relationship with. In our first run of the towels, we experienced a heartbreaking printing fault that meant we were left with stock that wasn’t sellable in the Australian market. We had to find a way to sustainably dispose of those that were affected from an aesthetic point of view, but were still very much still in usable condition. They ended up being donated to Ghana to a group that didn't have access to household goods like towels, so that they could still be put into use by those that were in need of them.
What excites you most about the latest collaboration?
BZ: Going forward seeing our collection within other retailers will be such a pinch-me moment (the range is set to be stocked in David Jones later this year). We’re obviously quite a boutique store, so it’s quite nice to be able to connect with new customers.
Getting to go into David Jones myself and see our range there is something I never really considered possible. I wouldn’t have gone through with the partnership if I didn’t think that they could do justice to our sustainability message because it is the backbone of our brand. I was really impressed with how specific they are with their retailers, with quite achievable goals. It’s really good to see such a big retailer at the forefront of sustainability and really helping brands get there by setting realistic milestones, focusing on everything from materials right down to packaging and swing tags.
Where do you envisage the sarongs being worn? And by who?
BZ: What we learnt about who our customer was with the last collaboration was awesome, and especially getting to meet them face to face throughout our pop-up stores. We found it was about creating something that felt like a natural extension of their wardrobe. These girls all typically make the most of Australian summer, they’re always at the beach and they want to be able to go straight out for a drink or shopping in Bondi or Byron, or wherever they are. The sarong captures their lifestyle in a perfect fit.