Jenny Bannister’s big clean-out

Australian fashion icon Jenny Bannister is in the middle of the clean-out of a lifetime. Photo: Chris HopkinsJenny Bannister is disappointed that the Sacred Heart Mission volunteers don’t want the gold tissue silk fabric she imported decades ago from India.

Sure the fabric is now scrunched-up scraps of blue, green, brown and light gold, but it could be used for lavender bags, she suggests. And there are kilos and kilos of it.

These are just some of the remnants from a four-decade career designing clothing for celebrities and fashionistas, and now nobody wants it.

Bannister is in the throes of decluttering when Fairfax Media visits the St Kilda house that has been her studio and office for many years. This is the time of year when many of us decide to embark on a clean-out, discarding clothing and anything else we haven’t used for a long time.

But Bannister is not decluttering for the sake of space, she and her husband are moving up to Byron Bay and need to empty their house for sale in March.

And this is decluttering on a grand scale – 41 years of designs, fabrics, patterns, magazines, pictures and “things that might be useful one day”.

Fortunately for Bannister – and unlike most people’s collections – a lot of what she owns is worth saving. Both the Victorian Museum and National Library want some of her patterns, sketches, dresses and pictures, but haven’t yet decided how much they can absorb. Even the monkeys at Melbourne Zoo will benefit: the zoo has taken “rolls and rolls of black cotton drill” and stretch cotton for the primates to use as swings and hammocks, and dozens of old cardboard tubes because “the monkeys like to bash each other” with them.

But even with all these institutions wanting her work, the trucks from Sacred Heart Mission have been making weekly collection visits.

Unlike many declutterers, Bannister isn’t enjoying this experience at all, instead describing the process as “sinful”. She is scared she will later regret throwing something out.

“You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone”, she says, echoing Joni Mitchell, while climbing out a trailer ready for its fourth trip to the tip.

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