From bed linen to fashion: eco-designer gives fabric a second life


Jolie Femme founder Isabelle Campbell wearing the prairie skirt and blouse. By TJ Watts

It all started when she fell in love with a dress. It was a vintage Laura Ashley from an American reseller, made of a floral ‘80s fabric with big puffy sleeves. Jolie Femme founder Isabelle Campbell said it was this dress which inspired her to create her own clothes.

“When I received the dress I was like ‘oh my goodness, I want to wear stuff like this every, single day’,” Campbell said.

It had been difficult for her to find anything else in that style.

“They were all too small, they were all vintage, they were all $500 because they were really rare.”

This motivated Campbell to create similar clothing at a more affordable price.

Isabelle Campbell aims to create quality, sustainable garments that last. By TJ Watts

“I tried to create something like that, I used a vintage sheet to make it, so yeah that was pretty much it, that was the beginning,” she said. The local brand upcycles vintage bed linen by hand sewing it into feminine and romantic garments. Their handmade smocks, picnic dresses, skirts and blouses are inspired by vintage sleepwear and the feminine silhouette.

The 24-year-old started working on the idea of Jolie Femme last year, with the goal of filling the gap she saw in the market.

“I launched on the 10th of December, so it’s very fresh,” she said.

Campbell describes Jolie Femme’s clothes as over-the-top and girly. What’s important to Jolie Femme is that the clothes are of top quality and are designed to last. In Australia about 6000kg of clothing and textiles end up in landfill every 10 minutes, and young Australians are increasingly turning to quality ethical brands.

Jolie Femme strives to be sustainable from start to finish, it sources its clothes from second-hand stores but also accepts donations.

“I go for, like, ‘80s florals, anything vintage, anything that’s in good condition,” Campbell said.

Before being made into clothes all of the fabrics are hand washed and hung up outside to air dry. Isabelle then works with her mother, Jenny Campbell, to make all of the clothing by hand.

Campbell grew up on the Sunshine Coast and has always had an interest in fashion. She has spent a number of years working in clothes shops and back of house designing women’s clothing.

“I have always been interested in fashion so when I was a little girl mum and I would always take things in and sew together,” she said.

Jolie Femme’s clothes are available at its regular stall at the Peregian Beach markets which take place on the first and third Sunday of each month. The clothes are also available through the Jolie Femme website. Through the online store customers are able to customise their orders by choosing what shape they would like, their favourite material and sizing.

Campbell said that Jolie Femme is different from other labels as it won’t be doing any seasonal drops. They will create new garments when they get the chance to, rather than doing winter and summer collections.

“You know a quilt cover can only make four to five pieces and that’s it and then it’s on to the next one,” she said. “It’s constantly evolving and in very limited numbers, so I think that’s what sort of sets it apart.”

Jolie Femme translates appropriately from French to ‘pretty woman’ in English and these floral, feminine pieces are designed to make women feel just that way.