A few words with Ruby-Liam fashion designer Emily Miller-Sharma.

You are 10 - getting dressed for a school social - what are you wearing?

I often got the brief really wrong as a child because I loved clothes but I didn't really grasp what was "normal" to wear. In this case, I wore my mum's bottle green velvet ball dress, complete with an up-do and ringlets, and a choker with a bow on it and brown lipstick. I arrived and was literally the only one who had dressed like that - everyone else wore clothes that were very cool at the time - lime green or tartan miniskirts, knee-high socks, halter-neck tank tops, etc. Absolutely mortifying.

What second-hand item of clothing was your biggest score?

There have been so many. Shopping at op shops was such a massive part of my learning as a teenager - really it was so valuable to spend $8 on four different blouses that I could study the collars of - how they were constructed, the proportion to the rest of the garment, how changing the angle of the collar point changed the entire feeling of the garment.


What message would you give to a young woman who is unsure how to traverse fashion, and is lacking in assuredness over her own style?

Clothing has the ability to really influence how you experience your day so the number one rule is that it should be physically comfortable. After that, think about pieces of clothing that you feel happiest when you first put them on and try to understand why. Is it the colour? The shape of the neckline? The length of the skirt? Use this to develop a set of criteria to assist you when you are going shopping for clothing, especially if you are trying something new. For example, buying a shape that you don't usually wear in a colour that you wear all the time. Also, when you're shopping, try lots of pieces on - and don't be afraid to return to the same shop again and again to try on the same piece, especially if it's a new shape, style or colour for you.

What about the world of fashion drives you to distraction - what do you loathe about it?

I think any industry has its idiosyncrasies but with fashion, it is how it is often linked with being vacuous. Really, it's like any industry - there are extremely talented, hardworking
and kind people who work in it - it's just a boringly easy story to focus on the shallow and unpleasant ones.

What is the greatest form of escape for you?

Reading. I just read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which was absolutely beautiful. Going for a run is also excellent for clearing my head, as is dancing with my friends.

Who inspires you?

Kim Hill.

In a single sentence, can you explain the essence of the message you'll be giving at Spark?

The development of a collection - walking the tightrope between creativity and business.

If you were an item of clothing, what would you be?

A silk pantsuit with useful pockets. Simple, functional, quietly playful.

Emily Miller-Sharma is a guest speaker at the Spark Festival.