What Lisa Gorman and Zahava Elenberg Learnt After Collaborating Together | frankie

Their textile collection draws inspiration from their shared teenagerhood in the ’80s.

We reckon that the ’80s just so happened to be one of the very-best decades. The power-ballads were banging, the bleach-damaged and crimped hair was ginormous and the shoulder pads were as wide as a doorframe, and it looks like Lisa Gorman and Zahava Elenberg seem to share our passion.

In fact, they recently collaborated together to create “The Super-Graphic Collection” – a textile collection produced by Warwick Fabrics that honours the bright and colourful decade for Move-In Studio. The ace designer and architect sat down to chat with us all about this rad collection, and what they discovered while working alongside each other.

Tell us a bit about yourselves:

Zahava: I started Move-in 22 years ago to fill a gap at the nexus of development and design. There was no one specialising in design-led and commercially driven FF&E (furniture, fixtures and equipment) solutions for high-volume projects when we started. For anyone that’s confused – FF&E is all the stuff that falls out of a building if you were to turn it upside down and shake it. That’s what we put in!

Lisa: After a brief nursing career at the Royal Melbourne Hospital for a few years, I wandered into fashion, literally. I used my nursing qualification to fund life throughout a retail traineeship with bridal couturier Mariana Hardwick to fund my own brand, Gorman, in 1999.

What made you decide to collaborate on a new collection of textiles?

Z: I have always led a busy and multi-disciplinary life, and working with Lisa on a textile collection just seemed to make sense in the progression of things.  We wanted to have our own range of commercial upholstery textiles and reinforce the local nature of collaboration. Lisa is great and I knew she’d take the brief and turn it into something unique and fabulous.

L: I get itchy feet when it comes to experimenting with different materials and how they can be used. While my background sits predominantly in the world of textiles, to offer something completely new for Zahava’s clients was an exciting opportunity. I love Zahava’s attitude of bringing something fresh into the commercial space of FF&E. It’s not a sector I had any prior experience with (I didn’t actually know what FF&E stood for before this!) but I’m loving seeing these oversized graphic print elements coming into the furnishings space.

This collection pays tribute to the design of the ’80s. Why this specific decade?

Z: There is something about your kids getting older that makes you nostalgic for a moment in time that represents the freedom of youth. Each generation has their time capsule, and ours was the ’80s. It just evolved from there.

L: Who doesn’t love the ’80s? To me, my ’80s was a time of hasty sewing and customising vintage finds, riding around town on my bike, going to the outdoor pool in winter that was not heated and getting a Discman. Things were new and bold and very cool.

How did you make the designs of 40-plus years ago feel fresh for the 2020s?

Z: We didn’t try to represent the ’80s, it was more about capturing the spirit and the salient memories we had from our childhood. The eponymous Super Graphic designs that we developed are an homage to the feelings, games, patterns and TV shows that evoked memories for us. The idea of scale and repetition came from the aesthetic of that era – remembering those early MTV videos where things were out of scale and distorted. That’s the ’80s for me.

L: I don’t think we got MTV in Warrnambool when I was growing up. We only had two channels down there!

What are the most important things to keep in mind while collaborating?

Z: I think a good collaboration has a bit of everyone in the mix and needs time to incubate and develop. I invited Lisa to work on the project just over a year ago, and right from the beginning it was a very fluid process. She made me think about things I had never considered, both from a design and a technical point of view, and we both knew when something was working and when it was time to move on.

L: It’s super important to understand each other’s end goals. Something I’ve always considered first and foremost with any collaboration I’ve undertaken is what is the point of joining forces here? What are we setting out to achieve both collectively and independently?

Next, a collaboration is not a licence agreement – it’s the coming together of minds to create something that wouldn’t happen on your own. It relies on both technical appreciation and know-how, as well as the graphics, the theme, the mood and the delivery. There’s a wonderful sense of reward and discovery being involved in a project that you couldn’t achieve alone.

What strategies did you use to make this collection different from other brands?

Z: The project felt new from the outset. Our points of reference were no other textile collections, but rather ideas from other disciplines.  The tension between scale and readability was interesting for me – trying to make these patterns make sense across different size parameters from a cushion to curtains.

L: Totally agree with Zahava here. It was about bringing along something new to the sector – like what the ’80s did! The range is strong and brave in my view. I’m used to working with strong graphic elements across a variety of mediums but had to really reassess in this instance because print and pattern in the home or living space is very different to body.

What tools or gadgets helped you make this collection?

Z: We are both pretty old school. There was lots of cutting, drawing and tracing going on. We had workshops researching star constellations over Fitzroy, looking at Victor Vasarely drawings and playing with paint rollers and spray cans – it was a lot of fun!

L: Eyes, hands and art tools. We digitally superimposed the artworks onto couches, ottomans, etcetera to check print scale because some of the scales are supersized. Best to check what happens to an artwork when applied to a couch with 15 panels before going to print.

What are the biggest takeaways you got out of collaborating?

Z: I always like to be working on new things, and this collaboration reinforced the excitement you feel when you think elastically around the familiar. You don’t know what you don’t know until you challenge yourself. Working with people is a rewarding skill.

L: Being challenged and driven by working collaboratively with somebody that I respect in the creative space. The application of textiles to new forms – dressing furniture rather than dressing bodies – was new for me, and I loved seeing that come to life with the new collection.

Head this-a-way if you want a look at the full and colourful collection made by Lisa and Zahava.