Cody Winward is a Fashion Designer and founder of the brand Windlewood. Having worked in London before settling back down the South Coast of NSW, her work makes use of traditional French methods and luxurious fabrics, to create garments that exude a "rustic, adventurous spirit". Windlewood is dedicated to mindful and conscious design, with Cody musing " I often think, when you step back, our world doesn’t need any more clothing, so if I am going to contribute to this mass, I need to do it mindfully, differently and consciously". I sat down with Cody to discuss starting her own clothing label, designing for sustainability and how place influences her creative practice.
For many of us, working for ourselves, opening our own shop or in your case starting your own clothing brand, is the ultimate goal. Have you always known you would go out on your own?
I’ve been very lucky that in progressing with my career things have quite naturally fallen into place and starting Windlewood seemed like an obvious decision. Having said that, it was only through late nights, blisters on my hands and being mighty determined, that each step has seemed to come with ease. It was always simmering at the back of my mind, but it was important for me to work within the fashion and costume industries, both here and overseas, to gain the knowledge, life experience and confidence to begin Windlewood.
mean, how romantic does sitting with a sketchbook in dappled morning light or stitching seams by the hum of a sewing machine sound?! The day to day reality is often very different but the dream still is very much remembered and lived. I have always loved the idea of being my own boss and having full control over a creative vision. Constantly pinching myself that this is all real. It blows my mind!
Your approach to design is considered, authentic and deeply rooted in traditional methods; each piece could be seen as a labour of love. How long does it take you to complete each garment?
The whole process is quite a long one with a lot of work that is not obviously seen in a finished garment. Each step is done under one roof here at our Windlewood studio on the South Coast, which is something I want to maintain as we grow. It can take anywhere between a couple of weeks to a full month for the initial design and development stage for any one collection. Things like creating patterns, sampling garments, altering then sizing up and down can also take a huge chunk of time. I then move on to the actual construction of each garment which involves pre-washing fabric, cutting and of course the sewing of the garment which usually takes one or two days depending on the complexity of the garment. I don’t use overlocking, so each seam is essentially sewn twice to create French or flat felled seams, a technique that nods back to traditional fashion and costume techniques. When my perfectionist brain decides a garment is good to go it is labelled, tagged and sent on its way for its next adventure.
"It was only through late nights, blisters on my hands and being mighty determined, that each step has seemed to come with ease."
I’ve always found that place and environment play a big role in my creative practice. How great of an impact has living on the south coast had on your work?
Hugely! Before moving back to the South Coast I worked in the costume industry in London. Going from one extreme to the other is an understatement! Being amongst the fresh air, hills and the literal quietness of a country town has given me the space to breathe and head space to create. There are minimal distractions for me here plus having family support close by has been integral to the first few years of starting my business.
It can be tough to balance work and play when you are self-employed. What are some boundaries you have put in place?
I’m terrible at this! Before this was my job, design and sewing were my most loved past times. When a hobby becomes your bread and butter, boundaries can definitely be blurred! As time has gone on I’ve tried to improve on working set days and times as much as possible. But sometimes it’s hard to switch off on the weekends or at nights when you know how much you have to get done.
At the end of the day, I have to remember to look after myself and give myself rest, otherwise I’ll be no good to anybody! I’ve found I physically have to turn my internet and devices off in the studio to really focus on whatever I am doing. Yes, not even putting them on silent with notifications turned off was enough to keep my procrastination at bay. I’m terrible at scrolling through social media for what seems like minutes, but bam there goes 5 hrs. Can I get an amen?! Being disconnected for the majority of the day keeps my brain clear of the Internet fuzz and I remain focused. At the end of the day, quite literally, it has made for a more clear distinction of work and play for me as well as allowing me more guilt free time to just relax and scroll endlessly for as my heart desires.
You’ve created two seasonal collections so far, and are now in the process of designing your new Core Essentials range. What can we expect from this collection?
All the core basics that so many of us wear day in day out. You know the pieces, the ones that your constantly reaching for, the ones that go with everything, are comfortable and just work! I am all for having an extra 5 minutes in bed in the morning, so having these essentials at the ready is something I am excited to now be able offer to everyone. We all need a pair of killer black pants, a stunning skirt and a versatile button up shirt, the obligatory LBD and of course a stripy tee. This in a nutshell is what this collection is, each with the Windlewood stamp of a rustic adventurous spirit. I am a sucker for texture so this collection features linen, cotton, tencel and even a little corduroy. It is a capsule wardrobe that will be available year round with limited edition garments featured as the seasons come and go. Oh boy I am jumping out of my boots to launch this collection! Hurry up April!
Do you have any advice for other women looking to enter the fashion industry as Designers?
Oh dear… there is so much! The most important though, cliché but true, is as long as you’ve got a fiery determination and drive, anything is possible. Just do your thing and do it mighty well. I love the saying “there is always room at the top and no one started there”. In moments of doubt, comparison or after hitting a stumbling block I always try to keep this in mind. This industry is a notoriously hard one, but I just keep my head down on what I am doing, take advice from my mentors and just keep swimming! I think doing things differently and being true to your own design eye and mantra brings a freshness to the fore that customers are always eager to receive. Know your customer completely as this is vital in designing and marketing to the people who will fall head over heels for what you are pouring your heart into. Taking the plunge is the hardest and scariest decision, but the reward, I can’t even put into words. Its truly magical, it makes me speechless, blows my mind and I feel like doing a 100 cartwheels on top of the moon! So worth it!
"Doing things differently and being true to your own design eye and mantra brings a freshness to the fore that customers are always eager to receive."
Can you let us in your morning routine? How do you like to start your day?
Roll out bed with hair looking like a birds nest, eyes squinting open and very ugly yawns basically. Nothing glamorous here! I always like to have a nice hot shower to wake me up, and these days I have now upgraded to eating breakfast which I never used to do! Naughty I know! When I get to the studio I always like to clean up from whatever cyclone of fabric has happened the day before. Having a clear workspace puts me in the right head space for a new day and the act of cleaning itself somehow makes me incredibly motivated. Fresh start, blank canvas, new day, yee-ha!
Finally, I’d love to know a woman who inspires you.
In the fashion world, Elizabeth Suzann is a woman who I greatly look up to as we both navigate this crazy industry. Based in Nashville, Tennessee her clothing label is built upon creating long lasting garments with complete transparency of the entire process. Her brand centres on producing garments mindfully through creating ageless and seasonless pieces that are worthy and functionally allow for years of wear and love that one day can be passed on. She is a constant reminder that doing things your own way can work and work wonderfully well in her case. I admire her steadfastness and innovation with regards to creating garments in a world saturated in throw away clothing. I often think, when you step back, our world doesn’t need any more clothing, so if I am going to contribute to this mass, I need to do it mindfully, differently and consciously.
Elizabeth does this both in the quality and longevity of her garments but also in how her garments are created. She says “our business is so much more than just our product. Respect for the people we work with, relationships, our company culture, the environment, humanity, the natural materials we build our products from - it’s just as important to us as the things we make. It drives us forward and motivates us to do better - and we can always do better.” Ahh, that makes my heart sing and not feel so alone in an industry where the end goal seems to be a heartless conveyor belt of fabric and seams that will soon be landfill. The Elizabeth Suzann brand feels like a big sister that I am constantly looking up to and learning from. One day in my own Windlewood way, I hope (even in part) to be as epically wonderful as Elizabeth Suzann, the woman and the brand.