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interview

makin’ a cameo

KATHRYN FORTH: from MED STUDENT to WORLD RENOWNED FASHION DESIGNER WORDS BY alice bitmead PhotoS by sharmonie cockayne

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’m not ashamed to admit it. Yes, I have seen The Devil Wears Prada more times than Lagerfeld has tried to reinvent pastel tweed. But as much as I love pass-ag dowager fashion queens with perma-frowns and amazing, politically incorrect collections of fur, if I’m going to be alone in a small room interviewing a feted fashion Cool Girl, I’d prefer them to be warm, friendly and accessible. Cameo’s head designer Kathryn Forth is even better. Young, cool and talented, Kathryn is putting little old Adelaide on the fashion map, one innovative collection at a time. Don’t worry you guys, I plumbed her for everything you need to follow in her enviable Acne-shod footsteps.

Can you please spell Gabbana?

I had to ask – was fashion design something one could learn, much like times-tables and the right way to get red wine stains out of carpet? Or did Kathryn simply burst forth from the womb with the innate ability to colour-coordinate and hem slacks? Apparently the latter. ‘My mum and my grandmother always knew how to sew, and they taught me how to at a

really young age. I always loved being crafty and making things, so I always made my own clothes, all my school formal dresses.’ There had to be some Pretty In Pink moments (I don’t care what anyone says, that prom dress was a travesty. TRAVESTY, I say) checkering that well-tailored youth though, surely! Thankfully, not even Kathryn was immune to the lure of poly-blend and experimental hemlines; ‘I remember for my year twelve formal, I made a dress the night before. I was really obsessed with Sass and Bide back then, as heaps of other girls were, and I thought it looked like a Sass and Bide dress, but it didn’t at all. It was a cotton jersey with a halter neck and a handkerchief shirt, and then, like, a bandeau, so there was just all this flesh of my back, with some cowboy boots. It might have been cutting edge, but I’ll never know and now I’m pretty certain it wasn’t.’

Oh, don’t be absurd. Everyone wants to be us.

You would be wrong, however, in thinking that the young Kathryn always knew she wanted to be a fashion designer. No, readers, whilst

at University, not only did she manage a boutique and sew her own line of garments, but Kathryn was also a med student. Just, you know, on the side. ‘I did three years [of med] and I was never really sure if it was the path I was meant to go down. I was juggling a few things at the time, and when you’re studying something like medicine, you can’t juggle too many!’ So the most fabulous med student around went to the Dean to defer for a year. And in that year, she was given the opportunity to be Head Designer at Cameo. As you do. How does that even HAPPEN? According to Kathryn, Making Friends And Influencing People is a good start; ‘Melanie Flintoft is the company director, and I knew her for many years before through the store I was managing at the time, so she was popping into the store and seeing the garments I was making and selling and knew a bit about my life and my personality. We caught up and had a chat at the very beginning – Cameo was right in the early stages – and she said ‘come in and try it – we trust you, take it where you want.’ This seems like a pretty impressive amount of trust, and according to Kathryn (not to mention Cameo’s

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