Threads of change

Textile artist, Kashel Porozny, of Zephyrson Threads, has a versatile mind and unique creative talents. In her compact Frankston studio, bursting with threads and fabrics, she uses a variety of methods to make one-of a-kind garments, embroidered embellishments and textile art with upcycled second-hand and vintage stock. She turns leftover scraps into her own custom-made contemporary fabrics.

Kashel learned to sew from her mother when she was a little girl using fabric scraps to make clothing for her Barbies. This was no ordinary clothing – it was avant-garde design. Kashel always wanted to be a fashion designer. She imagined exotic travel and models walking the runway in her designs; that is, when she wasn’t dreaming of being a race car driver.

At high school in Sydney, Kashel started to experiment with fashion in her HSC classes. “I went to the Whitehouse Institute of Design to learn about the fashion industry. I found it was very much about who you know. I didn’t know anyone. Then, I became disillusioned with the ‘dark side’ of fashion – the waste and the human cost. The industry wasn’t what I thought,” she says.

Kashel threw herself into other work. She took a motorcycle mechanics course, but it wasn’t for her. She dabbled in welding, hospitality, retail, being a flight attendant and working in finance. It only fuelled her sense of restlessness. She took nine months off to travel the world and find her centre. She journaled and drew fashion designs in her notebook while backpacking through Asia, Europe and India.

Photos Yanni

When she came home at 25, Kashel had an epiphany, realising she needed to be doing something creative and something that she loved. She found her joy and artistic expression through fashion. “I love fashion because clothing is art. It’s so personal. It can make you more confident and you can connect to other people through fashion,” she says. Taking the plunge was hard at first because she couldn’t bear the idea of failing at something she valued so much. Nevertheless, she mustered the courage and forged ahead.

Kashel got a Diploma in Fashion Technology and Clothing Production at Kangan Institute in Richmond. It gave her a deeper understanding of the fashion world though she had to revisit some of the more unpleasant realities of the industry. She didn’t want to be part of the problem so she made a personal commitment to create sustainably with a strong focus on upcycling.

She’d planned another six months of travel, but it was April 2020. The world was changing. Borders closed. She invested her refunded travel money in equipment. First, she bought a Japanese Juki –a hand controlled zigzag machine for a ‘free-motion stitch’ akin to traditional Irish embroidery. She added a vintage Singer, a chain stich machine and a specialised digital machine. She also bought fabric, stabiliser, beads, sequins, thread and hoops to work by hand.

Driven by a spirit of exploration, the experimentation began. “In the beginning, I struggled to find my artistic style. I never had much experience with embroidery. It’s such a niche. It’s like painting with thread. Mostly I learned by trial and error. It allowed me to do things differently. I’m inspired by trying things I’ve never done before. I dye fabrics, bleach them, paint them, embroider them, pull them apart and put them back together. My curiosity has led to discovery,” she says.

In September 2020, Kashel decided to make a career of it. She chose a business name, got an ABN, taught herself marketing and created a brand logo. Zephyrson Threads was born. It was a slow burn but, with lockdowns, there was time to learn. Her goal was to create bespoke sustainable handmade textile art and fashion that lasts. She even offers a lifetime guarantee. If her work doesn’t stand the test of time, she’ll fix it for free or give you materials and teach you how.

To minimise her carbon footprint, Kashel uses zero waste pattern design. Nothing is thrown away. With leftover embroidery threads or tiny fabric scraps, she employs a process called fibre bonding. Using water-soluble stabiliser, she re-bonds those bits to create a brand new one-of-a-kind fabric. She also does visible mending to patch a hole or cover a stain as well as traditional quilting to extend the life of a garment.

Right now, she’s adding embroidery embellishment to a piece of textile art by Kate Ceberano. Before that, Kashel made a one-of-a-kind beaded embroidered jacket for a client to wear to the ARIA Awards. She also recently made the veil for her friend’s wedding.

“I always wanted to design special things. I’ve finally done something my inner child would be proud of,” she says.

Next, she’ll have a go at rug tufting using her embroidery and beading skills to make original wall art. “I’m planning an abstract piece inspired by the rugged Mount Martha coastline,” she says. In the future, she’d like to teach her skills. One thing is for sure, she certainly is a creative soul!

Peninsula Essence – January 2024