The Afghan Jacket

It’s a well known right of passage for young Australian’s to travel to South East Asia. The lure of cheap alcohol, fresh food and wild beach parties on offer in Thailand and Bali often proves too strong to resist.

This was the case for Cairns born and Brisbane based girl Kate Stein. But Kate isn’t your average traveller (she lived in Germany for a year straight after high school) and while most holiday makers return home with golden tans, horrendous hangovers and cheesy souvenirs, Kate brought back with her a series of soulful mementoes in the form of a ten piece conceptual collection.

“I didn’t mean to do this crazy project, it just kind of evolved. I never set out to make a collection of jackets,” Kate explains. “I’m a horder so when I arrived in Bangkok I just began collecting. About a month into my travels I had been buying and buying and my bags were getting heavier and heavier and I just had an urge to be creative.”

The creative urge resulted in a labour of love that eventually blossomed into “The Afghan Jacket,” a colourful collection of jackets, vests and a collar piece. The pieces are a clever mash of varying fabrics, textiles and cultures gathered by Kate and hand sewn by her while travelling through Thailand, Lao, Cambodia and Vietnam over a four month period.

Like a travel diary in fabric form, each segment, embellishment and bead used by Kate is sourced from a different location or from an already existing garment, forming an organic tapestry that is understandably sentimental to her.

“As I was waiting for busses or hanging on a beach I would just start sewing. It was quite therapeutic,” the designer and aspiring stylist tells me while holding a jacket which was created from pieces of a vintage dress. As Kate picks up a vibrant orange military styled vest embellished with blue feathers and beaded badges, she tells me the story behind each addition, where it was sourced from and where she was when she put it together

“To me [the collection] is not really about fashion, or the product as a piece of fashion but it’s more about the process and the items as pieces of wearable art,” says Kate, who has her eye on travelling to India later this year with the hope of beginning another creative endeavour.

The collection was formed in such a natural and spontaneous fashion so as you can imagine the prospect of commerciality it a little overwhelming. Kate is currently tossing up options to sell “The Afghan Jacket” collection either at a local Brisbane boutique or online – the downside with online being the true feel and detail of the garments need to be witnessed in the flesh to be truly appreciated. In the mean time she, along with her many fans, will continue to admire the fruits of her labour, and make us all feel a little guilty for lazily soaking up the sun and getting drunk in Thailand.

Published on The Vine