The Next Big Thing: Búl

“Well it was quite interesting last year, the fire alarm was set off by a steamer and we all had to evacuate.”

The Tiffany and Co. National Designer Award is the most prestigious award for fashion design in the country. With a prize pool in excess of $100,000 not to mention unprecedented exposure and opportunities into the industry (previous winners include Romance Was Born, Dion Lee and Josh Goot), it’s definitely one to strive for. 

Not too long ago, we attended the final round of judging to catch up with finalists Macgraw, Búl, Emma Mulholland, Verner and Pageant as well as VAMFF CEO and creative director, Graeme Lewsey. This six part series will delve into the inner workings of some of the country’s top designers as they prepare for Fashion Week. 

Founded in 2010, Búl is already one of the most recognisable labels in Australian fashion. The brand’s coastal inspirations and clean, minimalist finishes have propelled it to ever-soaring heights. We spoke to Búl designer Virginia Martin about setting off fire alarms and the Danish coastline, as she prepared to showcase her work to the Tiffany and Co. Design Award judging panel. 

FJ: You were one of the finalists last year, how did you find it? 

VM: Well it was quite interesting last year, the fire alarm was set off by a steamer and we all had to evacuate.

FJ: Oh wow, did the sprinklers come on?

VM: Yes! It was so terrible. So this year they have told us, no steamers. 

FJ: I’m assuming you’ve pre-steamed everything then?

VM: Oh yes, definitely. 

FJ: So this is your second year at the Design Awards and Fashion Week, how are you feeling about it now that you have a bit of experience behind you?

VM: I’m feeling so much better about it, last year not knowing what you were going into was pretty scary. But now, having that experience makes it a lot easier, but it’s still always pretty scary. 

FJ: You launched Búl in 2010, what was the process of getting that off the ground? 

VM: It was great. I had planned to do it for a while, when I was 19 I started my own label and sold around Melbourne for a few years. Then I took a break and moved to New York to get some more experience working for other people. So I interned with various designers over there, such as Cynthia Rowley, Heatherette and Proenza Schouler, which was amazing. Then I moved to California and did the same thing. So when I got back I had all that knowledge as well as having my own label and I could apply everything I learned and hit the ground running.  

FJ: So the US was good for inspiration and learning the practicalities of running a label?

VM: Exactly. And each of the labels was so different. I learned everything from production and design to running fashion shows. I got to see how they do things over there as well as learning how not to do things. 

FJ: In your view what are the main differences in setting up and running a label in the US compared to here? 

VM: Obviously there are a lot more labels over there, but at the same time there are a lot more people.

FJ: More of a market, but more competition. 

VM: Yeah exactly. Much more competition, there are so many great labels over there that you don’t even hear about.

FJ: In terms of your collection, how do the clothes this year compare? 

VM: I guess every year is a little bit more refined. I’m always learning a bit more and coming into my own in terms of design and maturity. More minimal and better quality. It has always had that, but even more so now. Just a bit more matured, I would say. 

FJ: Can you tell me a little bit more about the look you’ll be showing today? 

VM: She’s wearing the bold navy check print, which is one of the focal points of the collection. With that she’s wearing an oversized trench coat with matching chequered pants and a white cotton shirt. So it’s blending the Scottish theme in with our minimal aesthetic.  

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