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How this slow fashion designer used a redundancy to fuel her latest collection

WORDS BY JASMINE WALLIS

Victoria Bliss was burnt out, until the pandemic hit.

Like many people across the globe last year, designer Victoria Bliss was made redundant from her role. But rewind to a few years ago and the Melbourne-based designer was showcasing her slow fashion graduate collection at fashion weeks across the globe, enjoying a part in the National Graduate Showcase and jet-setting internationally to shows in China.


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During that time, Victoria also nabbed her first full-time role in the industry working in design for a fast-fashion label.

Funnily enough, before I graduated from RMIT I became very aware of sustainable fashion, and then when I took the job in fast fashion it was definitely a contrast to what I’d been previously designing.”

Through the constant nature of her role – which included designing for two hemispheres, going through several people to get one garment approved, and keeping up with ever-moving trends – Victoria didn’t have time to nurture her own practice.

It became more research and pitching things rather than organic creativity. It actually took me a while to recover from the pressure of churning out designs and that process of constantly checking fashion weeks and what influencers are doing and wearing to shows.”

As Victoria’s passion was fizzling and she felt burnt out, the pandemic hit. With a redundancy payout and all the time in the world, she found a second to breathe away from the manic world of fast fashion.

“I got a payout, so I had this money and time and I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is the Universe telling me something’. But at the same time, I didn’t actually start designing clothing for quite a while.”

The creative tap finally turned on at the beginning of Melbourne’s second lockdown, when Victoria headed down to her parents’ idyllic home in Tasmania for some fresh air and a change of scenery.

I just started all of a sudden after a bit of a break. I think I finally got my mojo back after a few years of fighting the system in that sense. I was able to just do something that I thought was beautiful,” Victoria says.

“I was sitting around with a pen and paper and just went for it. I designed the whole range in a day.” The range itself is a sustainable collection named Intrepidity and is inspired by Tasmania’s nature as well as garments from her mother and grandmother’s wardrobes.

After seeing behind the smoke and mirrors of fast fashion, Victoria is making sure her collections are full of considered, well-made investment pieces that last a lifetime. 

“I describe it as slow fashion, limited runs and wearable pieces. I take the wearability of each piece into consideration because if you’re a sustainable brand, you have to consider how people are going to interact with your garments or wear them on a day-to-day basis,” Victoria says. 

“Ultimately they are investment pieces and I want the wearer to know that they’re buying a special piece that’s supporting the local economy, pattern makers, artisans… everyone in Australia.” 

Apart from working with makers in Melbourne and Sydney and using sustainable materials, Victoria wants wearers to feel empowered by her pieces. 

With her first graduate collection following a more androgynous and masculine aesthetic, Intrepidity contains soft cuts, neutral colours and feminine florals. Despite the two collections being almost opposites, Victoria’s core values have remained the same. 

“It’s about empowering women, owning their sexuality and feeling comfortable in their clothing. While the two collections look very different, the values are still there and it’s about feeling strong and capable whether you’re in a power suit or in a floral dress.” 

One person who embodies this strength for Victoria is sexual assault survivor, Grace Tame. Founder of the #LetHerSpeak campaign, Grace wore Victoria’s designs at the National Australia Day Council in Canberra for the 2021 Australian of the Year awards. 

Wearing the She Is Adventurous mini dress and She Is Powerful shirt dress (the names inspired by Grace herself) Victoria felt proud to see her designs on such a strong Tasmanian woman. 

“I found myself reaching out to her a few months after designing the collection because I was naming some of the pieces and thinking about the kind of woman I see wearing the clothing,” Victoria says. 

“Grace’s values and what she’s putting out into the world completely aligns with me and I think she has a really strong appreciation for sustainable design and fashion.” 

“We just clicked and I was really proud to see her wearing the designs and really proud just as a woman and as a Tasmanian woman and a survivor just to see her up there winning Australian of the Year,” Victoria tells me.

Through her experience of working in the tumultuous fast fashion industry and having the space and time to work on her craft, Victoria is making sure wearers of Victoria Bliss understand where the garments have come from and that they’re investment pieces to pass down through generations. 

“As a designer I need to be limiting what I’m producing, making sure that people are considering what they’re buying and how they’re interacting with the garment. I have to have that responsibility as a designer from start to finish. There’s so much consideration and I don’t think anyone’s perfect but as long as you’re constantly learning and adapting… that’s the main thing.” 

You can check out Victoria Bliss’ full range here.

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