Permanent Vacation creates clothes driven by emotions

Images by Ellen Virgnona

Words by Tess Macallan


At a time when brands are producing what seems like endless collections all year round, there are a growing number of labels creating their own rules. Melbourne label Permanent Vacation is one of them.

Behind the brand is designer and founder Claire Louise Smith. An RMIT fashion graduate, Smith began her career designing for a local brand for several years. She then moved to London, where she worked for four years as a trend analyst, designer and editor for fashion forecasting company WGSN. 

She went on to study at Parsons School of Design in NYC before returning to Melbourne like the prodigal daughter of local fashion. Using the knowledge she cultivated from her time and education overseas, she set out to build her own label.

“Those varied experiences gave me a very clear vision for Permanent Vacation: I wanted to establish a socially responsible business from the ground up and implement ethical processes from the beginning,” she says.

Operating out of a studio inside her Collingwood apartment, she keeps things local. Her pattern maker is in Abbotsford, she has fabric suppliers in Fitzroy and Richmond, and makers in Brunswick and Sunshine.

For her work, Smith draws inspiration from her experiences overseas as well as other creatives within the Melbourne community. She is often driven by the mood she feels at any given time but also across other local industries, “ from dreamy painters and ceramicists to Melbourne garage bands.”

Permanent Vacation’s latest project — ‘Deep Emotions’ — sparks the feels. You can’t help but pour over the soft  pastel florals, dark daisy prints, and sheer crewnecks that serve as premium layering articles.

The Melbourne landscape which Smith works within is woven into Permanent Vacation’s shoots. Designs are  amplified against their surroundings, whether a food market on Sydney road, a house in the midst of a renovation, or a gloomy motel room. The clothes have personality once they are put in a new setting, and you can easily see the mood of a project by the creative direction of the campaign imagery.

Streamlined basics and a muted palette ensures the clothes last longer than a season, and the cuts are timeless to reduce the likelihood of single-wear usage.

Smith gives herself the freedom to play on her creative instincts by releasing her designs in projects rather than collections.

“I love the cohesion and stylistic uniformity of separate projects – they allow me to operate instinctively and reflect a mood I’m inspired by at the time. I find seasonal collections feel restrictive, backwards and archaic nowadays,” she says.

Permanent Vacation exists as part of a movement of designers and labels championing slow fashion. 

“My intention is for Permanent Vacation to be an escape from the cyclical: a brand that is beyond time and place, which also informs the name of the label. It’s about having a forward-looking mindset and not following a traditional formula. I’d like PV items to be relevant for years to come, and to be made well enough to last.”


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