We spotted Victoria Bliss designs on the runway this year at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival, and the Telstra Perth Fashion Festival. We so wanted to find out more about this emerging Melbourne-based designer and RMIT graduate from Tassie who’s burning up Australian fashion runways.
How has your Scottish heritage influenced your designs? What else inspires you?
I grew up and went to school in Scotland before moving to Australia. I enjoyed drawing on my Scottish background for design inspiration, specifically tartan. I really love how the culture has endured over time. At one point, clan tartan and basically everything that Scotland stood for was going to be wiped out and made illegal.
My graduate collection was really special to me; during the design process it was incredible to study what my ancestors went through and how the culture survived. I went through my family history and spoke to my grandfather a lot. He educated me about the family tartan and how iconic it is.
Tell us about your latest collection.
My latest collection is another exploration of my identity and growing up in Tasmania. I moved away to study which was really hard so I wanted to revisit my time here and showcase the beauty of the Tasmanian landscape. I’m obsessed with it.
The biggest element of my latest collection was the print that I developed. I asked one of my friends to take some photos of rocks on an island off the east coast of Tasmania. Then I had graphic designer friend turn it into a print. It’s not instantly recognizable as rocks on a coast line.
I’m very into tailoring great sculptural elements and I always consider the whole look. It drives me nuts as I can’t just make one garment, I also make the shoes, a bag and everything to consider the whole look, I really love it.
How do you fit everything in with full-time work?
It is busy but I love being busy. Currently I’m designing for my own label, working in retail for Kristie Laurence’s brand Flannel and am a Design Assistant for Forever New. Sometimes I kill myself doing it but I love working late in the studio creating pieces. Having my own label means I can go nuts and have free expression. I also think it’s important for designers to work in retail to interact with consumers, see how they interact with garments and learn what they value. Personally I value craftsmanship, quality and natural fibres, so it’s really nice to chat to people and discover they value the same things.
We love that you aim for female empowerment and strength, tell us more.
I’ve always been influenced by strong women, I think my mum is the strongest woman I know (not physically, she’s tiny!). It’s always been a big driving force for me, it’s so important to feel capable and strong.
In my honours year I wrote my thesis on the dressed female body and whether it could be a conveyer of female empowerment. I researched raunchy dressing, dominatrix power play and power suits and whether dressing in the opposite sex’s stereotypical architypes either empowers or degrades females. I also researched the beauty industry, it’s ultra-femininity and if you take pride in your appearance whether you are conforming to industry norms. I worked all of my findings into my collections by incorporating raunchy dressing with edginess, splits and slashed in suggestive places like under the bust and thigh high boots as well as incorporating traditionally feminine structure like boning and ball gowns.
I like crossing the line between tailoring and dress making. I think true empowerment is the value of individual choice. When I wear my designs I feel capable, in control and badass and I want others to feel the same.
What kind of woman would wear a Victoria Bliss design?
I’m not going to rule anyone out. That’s one thing I learned while working with Flannel, she designs for the whole family covering a huge spectrum. I’d like to think that my pieces are wearable across any age group. For me, it’s women that understand value and quality of craftsmanship, and want something that’s classic and also contemporary with a modern edge. Ultimately I design for women who want to feel empowered, strong and beautiful.
Can you explain your design process and ethos of sustainability and ethical production?
I’m a very observant person and incorporate that into my design process. I love starring out into space and being inspired. My favourite thing about taking the tram into University was people watching. I think you can find inspiration in the most mundane of places as long as you look and take everything in.
Sustainability and ethical production was drilled into me from my early schooling years. Considering the environment is so important, particularly in the fashion industry as it’s very consumer heavy. I love working with natural fibres and ensure ethical production by researching everything from where the product is sourced, who’s made it, the process and chemicals that may have been used. I’m happy that people are now discussing and considering sustainability and ethical production as I’m very passionate about it.
What materials do you like working with and why?
I’m very strict with my rules. I love working with wool as a fibre, it’s incredible as you can mold it to the body and get a really nice crisp shape. I also put a lot of horse hair canvas in my jackets which is an old technique for providing shape in tailoring. I love working with silk which came about from working with Flannel as well as cotton, linen and all natural fibres. One of my favourites is working with vegetable died leather as it doesn’t go through the tanning process therefore it’s chemical consumption is almost non-existent. I died leather in my latest collection with a company called Think Positive – they only work with natural fibres and are very sustainable and ethical.
What’s next for Victoria Bliss? What are your dreams for your label?
At the moment working with Forever New. I’ve been given the amazing opportunity of reducing a capsule collection for the company. It’s going in as a Designer Edit – which is an elevated version of what we offer in store using premium fabrics. I’m really excited to be working on a coat that’s going to be 100% Merino Wool which will be in store in June 2018. Outside of that with my own label, I just want to keep creating. Ultimately the dream would be to have a presence or store in all of the countries that I’ve been fortunate to live in or visit as they’ve inspired me so much.
To see more of Victoria’s designs, check out her website here: Victoria Bliss
Story: Jacqueline Miholos