When she was looking at options for studying design, Stephanie Harmat vividly recalls which aspects attracted her to UNSW Art & Design, “I remember receiving the most beautiful handout from the campus. The graphics work was striking and like no other university pamphlet I had ever seen”. The culture on campus and in surrounding Paddington really sealed the deal, “very inclusive, dynamic and inspiring” explains Stephanie. She says she also loved how passionate the instructors were, that their work was their life, not just a way to make a living.
Within a few months of graduating, Stephanie was already working as a successful designer, having launched a label during her studies in 2015. Gerrycan Active + Swim was started by Stephanie with her mum, Olga Harmat. The brand went from selling five items per month to over 500 per month, with online stockists and estimates that they would reach 1000 pieces per month by the end of 2018.
Growing up, Olga’s work as a fashion designer influenced young Stephanie, who remembers seeing her mum’s drawings, mood boards, and samples around the house. “Growing up in a creative household I was able to look at the world through a creative lens”. Stephanie says her design work is influenced by spatial design, “and looking at the body as a way of existing in space” adding that, “I think these days, it’s really hard to stand out, and so I try and avoid looking at other labels and just focusing on my own thoughts and style and finding inspiration from old 80's surf magazines.”
Stephanie and Olga both cite the 1980s as inspiration for their designs. As for the name of the brand, it comes from the old beloved shed used by Stephanie’s grandfather Gerry. After he passed away it sat untouched, until the mother-daughter duo converted the former engraving shed into their design studio. They started out with a stall at the Sunday markets in Bondi, and their popularity grew via word of mouth and Instagram.
The idea for Gerrycan actually came to Stephanie while she was on campus studying at UNSW Art & Design. Investigating fabric materials in her 2nd year sustainable design class inspired Stephanie to consider creating “slower fashion”, which is a core part of the Gerrycan ethos, utilising materials that are regenerated and recycled such as Advanced Recycled Vita Power. Stephanie also runs her own freelance spatial design practice, Laidback Lee Design.
Stephanie Harmat completed a Bachelor of Design with Honours in 2018.