Sarah Kalwy is one talented West Ender. In between founding and designing for her own brand, Sarah Daniella Couture, the local dress and costume-maker has sewed her way into the final round of the Elucent Skincare National Costume Competition for Miss Universe Australia. We got to know a little bit about the woman behind the wattle-embellished costume…

How did you get into costume-making and designing?

I’ve been doing it since a very young age. I started sewing when I was around six years old, making doll’s clothes; and then by around twelve I had a little brand at a shop. I went on to Wendy Makin bridal couture making made-to-measure wedding gowns, and after that I went to work for Roz la Kelin doing styling and gowns as well. For the last two-and-a-half, almost three years now, I’ve been creating one-off bridal gowns and race-wear pieces, and also altering pre-existing wedding gowns and giving them their made-to-measure fit.

Sarah Kalwy (BRIS)

It seems like you’ve got a lot of experience and a lot of passion for what you do.

Absolutely, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

How long does it generally take you to create one of your pieces?

It obviously varies and depends on what I’m creating. For something like a costume piece it can take longer than simpler gowns; there’s obviously a lot of different things to do! For this particular one, I spent three solid weeks of 14-hour days working to complete it before the deadline.

What prompted you to enter the competition? Is it something that you’ve been aiming to do?

I’ve always loved doing costumes and things like that, but there’s obviously not as much of a market for costumes. I actually just saw it on Sunrise and jumped at the opportunity, and sent them all my technical drawings, sketches and fabric swatches, and got picked to be one of the final four!

What do you think it would mean to you to have this piece seen by the world, representing Australia?

It would mean the world to me. I’d love to be picked up by a movie production company or something similar, to be able to create one-off, amazing, crazy-but-wonderful pieces. Obviously the exposure you’d get from and event that’s seen by millions of people – it’s my dream.

West End Magazine designer shines in costume competition

Sarah Kalwy (far left) with Miss Universe Australia Monika Radulovic

Do you have any other projects in the works at the moment?

I’m currently doing a couple of wedding gowns, a few one-off commissions. There’s a few wedding gown alterations too; I’m working on about five of those. I’m also creating something for WOW (World of Wearable Art), a costume competition that’s professionally recognised in New Zealand. I’m just entering into that; I haven’t been accepted yet, but I’m working towards it.

It is! The inspiration is obvious with the native flora and the Sydney Opera House. Did you do much research and brainstorming about the piece?

Definitely. I clearly looked to the Australian golden wattle. In Indigenous culture it’s always been used as a source of food and medicine, so that made that concept concrete, because it has such a symbolic meaning within Aboriginal culture. It’s also our national flower, so there’s lots of different things behind including it. And then including the Opera House as well- that was bringing in a little bit of Australia’s multiculturalism, given that the architect who designed it was Danish [Jørn Utzon], and he too won a competition for his design of the Opera House. I felt that it was quite fitting.

You’ve managed to incorporate something iconic into that costume in a really organic and beautiful way.

I’ve also sourced all the materials from local Australian businesses, because I think that it’s important to support small, home-grown businesses.

That’s a very fitting ethos to have, given what this competition is all about. And it looks like you’ve managed to embody elements of Australia in one body-suit! When does the competition get drawn?

This Friday, the 2nd October.

To vote for Sarah’s design, head over to the Sunrise voting page. Let’s see if we can give this gifted 4101 resident the recognition she deserves!

Words by Kate Bethune