This year, accessories designer Poppy Lissiman was tapped by Jägermeister to be a part of their Meisterpieces project; an ongoing series which sees hands-on makers craft works inspired by the liqueur’s long-standing heritage and values. We spoke with Poppy about her craft, how she gets out of a creative slump, and why she likes creating work that’s a little left-of-centre. This article is presented in partnership with Jägermeister.
Poppy Lissiman really loves colour—the brighter the better. It’s the one thing that’s remained consistent throughout her varied career as a fashion and accessories designer. Her fascination with clothing started early, and unlike a lot of designers, she’s been perfecting her craft since the age of 10, when her mum first taught her how to sew (she started out making quilts for her cats, in case you were wondering). Soon enough, she was wearing only her own designs, rifling through Italian Vogue and other magazines for inspiration.
While studying fashion design seemed like an obvious choice for her post high school, Poppy took a more roundabout route, dabbling in an arts degree and working for established fashion brands before striking out on her own and opening a brick-and-mortar store in 2008. But she always felt most fulfilled when designing, and in 2014 she relaunched her eponymous ready-to-wear label as an accessories only brand, eventually shutting shop and moving it entirely online.
You know a Poppy design when you see one. Vibrant colours, playful patterns, and quirky, eye-catching shapes and embellishments are all hallmarks of the renowned accessories label. Her sunglasses and bags have been worn by everyone from the Hadid sisters to the one and only Bad Gal RiRi, and have graced the pages of countless magazines—not bad for a girl from Perth who started out sewing accessories for her cats. We caught up with Poppy to chat about finding her creative calling, the ups and downs of running your own business, and why she loves creating work that’s a little left-of-centre.
What first sparked an interest in design for you and how did you get your start as a designer?
I’ve always been interested in design, about as far back as I can remember, but probably when I was 11 or 12 I started going through all my Mum’s copies of Vogue and stuff and my mum taught me how to sew when I was about 10 years old. I used to make quilts for our cats and then I progressed into clothes. I’ve been making my own clothes for as long as I can remember. I didn’t study design—I was studying at university but not studying fashion design. When I left school I was working full time in fashion at Zomp and I was working with a lot of other designers and I guess it kind of gave me the confidence to start my own brand. When I was working at Zomp I was working in the head office and I basically just loved everything that they did and wanted to work in that area.
What did the first pair of sunglasses you designed look like?
They were kinda cat eye, bug eye sunglasses. They did not sell at all. Pretty much my whole first collection of sunglasses didn’t sell at all. I learnt a lot from that, and sunglasses are really expensive to make, so my first collection cost a lot of money and to this day I still have a lot of the stock, so it really shot my confidence because I was like, “Oh I don’t know if I’m going to do this again, it didn’t particularly work out, I’ll just stick to bags.” There was one pair in one colour only that did okay and I learnt from that particular pair and expanded on that and worked off what worked in the past and then did slightly different iterations of that.
What fashion labels inspired you growing up and who inspires you now?
Christopher Kane’s Spring Summer 2007 graduate collection is one of my favourite collections of all time. John Galliano when he was at Dior was mind blowing. Christian Lacroix, I was a huge fan. I love iconography—religious iconography—so like Lacroix back in the day was a brand I was obsessed with.
I know when I’m writing or creating, I need my space to have a certain vibe. What’s the vibe of the space you create your work in?
I work in a studio with two other brands, so Double Rainbouu and Emma Mullholland. It’s awesome having three creative groups. We’re all pretty similar but also very different in many other ways, it’s just cool being around other creatives in general. In terms of a vibe, when I’m designing there’s zero consistency. Sometimes I’ll be driving in the car and will come up with an idea and the second I can get a piece of paper and a pen I’ll sketch it out. I carry my sketch book with me pretty much everywhere so as ideas come and I just kind of jot them in and then when I have time to set aside for designing I really rework them and spend time doing different versions of them. When I’m in a design period I’ll spend the morning doing general admin like emails and stuff and then I switch all that off and don’t go on social media or emails and just focus on design. I kind of just force myself to design.
What’s the most enjoyable part of the design process for you?
I really, really love travelling. When I first started my business I was really young, like 18, so all my friends were like going on Contiki tours and going to Europe for the first time but because I started my own business I was pouring all my own cash into this project I started. So until I was 25 I’d barely left Australia. I made a lot of sacrifices early on when all my friends were doing all this cool stuff and all these things that were like a rite of passage so until the business saw any vague type of success, I had kinda built my own fortress around myself. So travelling through work, which has been a huge part of the business getting going, has been such a treat for me. I love going to other countries and experiencing other cultures. And through fashion I’ve been fortunate to go to some beautiful places. I also love the sampling process. I love getting products back, especially when it’s something you’ve spent so much time on and it actually works how you want it to. That’s the best feeling ever. You immediately want to wear it and show it off. They’re probably my two favourite parts of the process.
How do you want people to feel when wearing your designs? What emotions do you hope your work evokes?
As you can probably see, all my stuff is pretty colourful and bright, so I think that anything that makes you smile and feel happy and excited to wear it is great. I love colour more than anything. You know when you’ve got an accessory or something and you walk into a room and it makes someone smile, especially with my sunglasses because they’re a little bit left of centre, so if you’re wearing them and someone compliments you and they say, “Oh, that’s a crazy look!”, you know, I take that as a compliment. I think that it can be a talking piece and if it makes you feel a little different than everyone else then that’s a cool way to feel.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Watch Poppy’s Meisterpiece video below, and follow her and her work here.