Open daily, 10am–5pm, Free

419 Great King Street Dunedin, New Zealand

Jessica Leigh, inspired…

SM DSC 02082

Our latest exhibition, Current, features nine creatives and their works inspired by items in the Museum’s textile collection. In a series of blog interviews we introduce the artists. 

How would you describe your work and aesthetic?

Very feminine, soft, romantic, very texture-based. I like monotone – the whole outfit is usually one colour. I like evening wear best, but as an emerging designer I will want to do daywear as well. The work I have done for collections is more custom, although I also want to make some garments that are available for people to purchase straight away.


SM group one


Who is the Jessica Leigh girl or woman you are designing for?

There is not a particular market. Some of my pieces anyone can wear, like wrap tops that maybe someone in their late forties or in their early twenties could wear. They would probably have to be quite feminine, so if you’re a tomboy it’s probably not for you.

Describe your creative process from conception to completion.

When I come up with an idea, I will usually try to research it and then look at what trends are currently in. I’ll look into my favourite designers, Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad, because they’re quite similar to my own aesthetic, and then I’ll probably start sketching. Colours depend on the mood of the collection, but each whole outfit will be one colour. Then once I’ve got the collection, I’ll start toiling until it’s perfect and how I want it, then I’ll make the final pieces.

Do you do a lot of testing of the fabrics and materials you are going to use?

I use a lot of fabrics that are similar, so I like to work with knits, chiffons, satins and quite often vinyl. I know the fabrics well already, so I sometimes decide upfront that I’m just going to go with one.

What kind of environment do you like to work in?

My studio is my bedroom. I have to have a very large room for it to be in my bedroom, but currently I’m using my boyfriend’s desk with my sewing machine, overlocker, and a rack set up beside that to put all of my stock, or whatever I’m making, on it. I’ve got lots of fabric bags and zips and what-not underneath it. And I’ve got my essentials drawer containing all my sewing-kit stuff and another little shelf full of fabric beside my door. I get motivated about four o’clock in the afternoon and then I can keep going until maybe 2am. I play loud music, and quite often I’ll sing along to it. I’m currently really into Little Mix’s new album.


IMG 9964


Why did you choose this particular object from the Museum collection?

I knew that I wanted something from the Victorian era, because I’ve just finished watching the TV series on Victoria. When I watch these shows I get a little bit addicted to researching the era. So I was wanting something young Victorian, but I knew this piece might not have belonged to a young person. Mainly it was the print that inspired me.

What do you think the value of museum collections are?

A lot of people love history, me included. You want evidence of history – to see it and witness it in person, because if we don’t have that, how can you believe that things actually occurred? It’s important.

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why?

Zuhair Murad. He’s my favourite designer and his aesthetic is similar to my own. He is from Lebanon, as are a lot of the designers I like. They all draw from their own culture, full of texture. I’ve always loved glittery, sparkly things.

What’s your favourite piece of equipment or tool that you couldn’t live without?

Probably my sewing machine. Nothing would get done without it. I wouldn’t even change it for an industrial machine; I love my domestic too much. I used to go to the ones in Polytech and hated that those machines only did one type of stitch, so you would go to another machine to do a different type of stitch. I was always afraid of the industrial button-holer. Living five minutes away from Polytech I would go home to do my button holes.

Where do you see it going in the future?

My work when I began was basic T-Shirt dresses, so I’ve come a long way since then.  I would like to go as far as dressing famous people. I don’t know if that will happen but I would like it to. My aesthetic certainly aims towards red-carpet.


SM DSC 02082

SM Jess2


Check out more details about Current exhibition and programmes here.