Love Disguised in Colour: The Close to My Heart Project Returns

Last year, Brisbane-based artist and sewist, Sue-Ching Lascelles launched the Close to My Heart project, a “homage to domestic kitsch fashion wear” that raised money for asylum seekers from Afghanistan. 

This year the project is back and brighter than ever. Sue-Ching has collaborated with six legendary Australian artists who were invited to paint, draw or decorate a panel of fabric and they’ve been combined together into six joy-inducing dresses that are walking art galleries. The incredible artist lineup includes the likes of Claire Ritchie , Luke John Matthew Arnold, Shuh Lee, Sophie Beer, Louise Meuwissen and Emily McDuff

The dresses will be auctioned off online from 16–20 November and all proceeds raised will go to two organisations working with and advocating for domestic violence survivors: Beyond DV and Full Stop Australia.

“Women have a right to feel safe and live a life free from fear, intimidation, violence and gender inequality,” says Sue-Ching. “I’m really passionate about this. I hope that through this project, I’m able to raise awareness and valuable funds to support the organisations… and I’m going to do it the best way I know how – with joy, colour and collaboration!”

As part of her collaboration with Beyond DV, Sue-Ching sourced two models who were previous participants in Beyond DV’s support programs and survivors of domestic violence – Jade and Juliana. “Beyond DV has been amazing at helping me get my confidence back and my belief in myself that I am worthy,” says Jade. “I’ve made so many friends through Beyond DV. They continue to be such a great support network.” 

“These dresses are beautiful and this project feels close to my heart!” adds Juliana. “I want to do what I can to show other women there is always something better around the corner.”

Ahead of the auction, we caught up with Sue-Ching to learn more about the Close To My Heart Project’s triumphant return…     

When and why did you decide you were going to continue the Close to My Heart project? 

Earlier this year I had the idea of collaborating with artists to use original artworks to make clothing, and I think the excitement and energy I had for that idea pushed me to use it for the Close to My Heart project. I really wanted to see it come to life and knew it would be amazing to use that idea to help generate funds for another cause that I feel passionately about. I felt like I was just getting started last year and that I could continue to bring creativity and heart to the project. I would love to see it keep gaining momentum.

What inspired the idea of creating dresses from artwork?

My background is in visual arts and I have been a practising artist for many years before I started sewing clothes! I have always held a connection with art and I think it’s unavoidable that I would approach my making with those sensibilities. I like to think of each of my handmade dresses as an expression of that creativity, so by collaborating with artists to hand-paint or decorate the fabric, I was hoping to emphasise that idea a little more and, of course, come up with these completely unique and special pieces that could never be replicated. The idea is that fashion and art are already so interconnected so why not bring the gallery wall to your body!


Did you give the artists any guidelines or prompts for their painted panels?

Artistically – no. I truly love and respect what each of the artists does so I just wanted them to feel free to treat the panels in any way they wanted; there were really no limits to how or what they did. Practically, there were a few guidelines for making sure that whatever medium they chose could wash and wear on fabric.

These women are smart, beautiful and accomplished and have survived something terrible, but did not let it define them.

Why did domestic violence stand out to you as your cause this year?

It’s been in the media quite a bit this year and I think moving forward from the Time’s Up movement it feels like it’s an overdue step to shine a light on how unacceptable it is that in 2022, there are still significant problems with domestic violence. When you hear statistics like, on average, 10 people are being hospitalised per day due to domestic injury or assault, you take note. Everyone has the right to feel safe. There are a lot of organisations doing amazing work in the community and at a higher level advocating for people who are affected. I wanted the Close to My Heart project to shine a light on the issue but mostly on the organisations who give so much to it.

Your two beautiful models are DV survivors themselves. Why was this important to you to do?

This was such an important part of the project for me. To me, this is the heart of it. Using real women who have lived the experience and come through the other side is such a powerful message and a reminder about everything the project embodies. They are empowering, strong women who I admire so much. Having them come along, wear the dresses and show so much joy doing it is damn inspiring! These women are smart, beautiful and accomplished and have survived something terrible, but did not let it define them.

This project is pure love to me. I do it from the heart, and every person or organisation that has contributed to it has done so with selfless love.

When describing the project you quoted Art Life by PomBlue, “It’s really love disguised in colour.” Could you expand on that lovely sentiment?

Haha – yes. I took that from the lyrics in the song but it really resonated with me! I was thinking about how at first sight you see these beautiful and colourful dresses that just radiate joy and creativity, but layered through that is just so much love on every level. This project is pure love to me. I do it from the heart, and every person or organisation that has contributed to it has done so with selfless love. And at the end of the day, I know whoever has the winning bid will also love and cherish the dress. It will be a constant reminder of the generosity and love that has been shown to the project.

The Close to My Heart auction will take place from 16 to 20 November online. Watch the auction site and Sue-Ching’s Instagram for updates.