From the crowded neighbourhoods of Guadalajara in Mexico to South Geelong, Ana Fernanda Covarrubias is pioneering the art of refashioning clothes. She speaks to Luke Voogt.
Tell us a bit about you.
A grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, and I just turned 36. It was a good birthday, considering the [COVID-19] situation.
Nowadays social media helps a lot. I received messages and calls beginning early in the morning from my friends in Australia and Mexico.
Even in the distance, you can feel when people are thinking about you, and that really makes your day.
It was a good opportunity for me and my partner to count our blessings.
We have family all over Canada and the US; they’re still healthy and alive, so we’re happy with that.
When you see all these people that are suffering and who have lost family, you realise you don’t need anything else.
What’s your connection to Geelong?
We moved to Australia because we were looking for a better quality of life. We went, ‘let’s do it, let’s go to Australia’.
We had to make a lot of sacrifices – economically speaking – but at the end of day it’s been worth it.
We started our immigration process nine years ago. We lived in Dubbo for over two years.
A year and a half ago we were like, ‘there’s nothing to do in Dubbo.’ It’s beautiful but it’s a quiet place.
We fell in love with Melbourne and we thought, ‘Geelong is a beautiful place too’.
It’s not too crowded, it’s more affordable and it’s regional, so here we are.
How did you get involved in refashioning clothes?
I was raised by two aunties and my grandmother, and one of my aunties was a seamstress.
When I grew up in Mexico it was very common that, when your mum and dad both work, you’re raised by another family member.
When I was a kid, I used to make clothes for my dolls and repair clothes.
I used to do my drawings and pretend that I sold them in the street market, but of course nobody bought them.
Years later I discovered op shops on a trip to the US. It’s just crazy how much people discard, the amount of clothing that goes to landfill just because of a little hole, a stain or a broken zipper.
The fabric is still beautiful, and we can still make something beautiful or useful out of it, rather than just throw it in the bin.
It’s easy just to go to YouTube and watch a tutorial. They are just at your fingertips. For me there is no excuse.
About 14 years ago I had my fashion business in Mexico. It was a big job because it was pretty much myself doing everything – the drawing, the design, the making – even selling and promoting.
I’m not a good salesperson but I did well.
I used preloved fabric, and deadstock fabric – that’s when the big fabric companies buy stock but they overestimate their needs.
I’ve continued refashioning clothes in Australia.
Tell us about your involvement in National Wool Museum’s We the Makers Create.
A friend of mine called me one day and said, ‘Ana, do you know about this festival?’
I went to the link and said, ‘oh this is fabulous!’
I was so busy creating my collection because I was going to have a fashion parade for Geelong Design Week.
I finished the collection while making extra pieces for We the Makers Create. I don’t know how.
Then COVID-19 cancelled the fashion parade.
Even if I wasn’t able to launch my collection, the joy I got from creating it made me realise it’s what I love doing.
What are your favourite things to do locally?
I love going to the waterfront and the cafes. Another thing that I love is the Barwon River.
I take my bike and go for a ride, it’s just beautiful.
What’s something people might not know about you?
I’m very shy, believe it or not – it freaks me out having to talk to someone in public.
If you see my Instagram, people might be like, ‘she’s pretty out there,’ but I’m not.
I love cooking, if fashion wasn’t my life, I would probably be a chef.
I actually wasn’t crazy about Mexican food when I lived there but now… I never thought I would miss my Mexican food so much!