Melbourne designer Ingrid Verner and artist Gian Manik unpack their latest collaborative collection




“What drives me, and what I think should drive the world, is creativity over commerce.”

A salon of imagery in a gallery; Picnic at Hanging Rock; the back of old photo paper; dancewear; movies; fonts; nature. I’d be surprised if you thought all these things could combine to inspire a fashion collection. But for Melbourne designer Ingrid Verner and artist Gian Manik, this eclectic mix of references and scenes inspired their latest collaboration, aptly titled Joint Venture.

Following the success of their incredible collaboration from 2018, titled Picture Consequences, this new collection features over 40 original paintings by Gian which have been highlighted in Ingrid’s designs. Joint Venture is a celebration of the pair’s friendship and creativity, complementing and respecting each other’s practices.

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The pair have been close friends for many years and work well together. “Our personalities are quite similar and we kind of talk at each other a lot. We can get quite excited, and ideas can come really easily,” says Gian.

“Gian and I have a really great way of working,” Ingrid tells me. “Our approaches are really different. I’m quite thorough and detail-orientated, Gian is quite decisive, and he really trusts his instincts. I tend to want to work through things.” Despite these differences, Ingrid says, “there’s a nice balance between our two approaches that works really well in the creative process.”

Ingrid has developed a reputation for showcasing prints by Australian artists in her work, with First Nations artist Lisa Waup featuring in her previous collection. “With Lisa, it’s very much artwork first. She’ll sit down with me and take me through her journal and her works on paper, and she’ll talk to me about them… there are such rich stories behind her work,” explains Ingrid. But when working with Gian, the process is different: “We start with ideas,” she says.

“Sometimes we’ll talk about something we’re interested in, and it’s not always a seasonal thing,” says Gian. “It could be something we’ve seen or a movie we’ve watched… our ideas can be quite disparate, interesting and strange. But we consolidate by thinking about what the collection is about or who it’s for, and how it fits with my practice, her label and something that we haven’t seen before.”

Once those ideas are fleshed out and the concept for the collection has taken shape, Gian gets to work on his paintings specifically for the collection. “That’s what makes it so special,” says Ingrid. “Each garment will have a different look, every single garment will be unique due to the different imagery and motifs that you get on the garment.”

The inspiration for Joint Venture stemmed from a day at Ingrid’s idyllic house in the Dandenong Ranges, where they were looking at a book about Picnic at Hanging Rock. “The images were quite beautiful, and in a way, they sort of inspired shapes initially, then they became a platform for us to draw from,” says Gian.

Inspired by nature, Gian says they “also wanted it to be quite moody, with witchy elements because of where Ingrid lives”. They wanted to explore the feeling of “being lost in landscape and the forest, and how that influenced early romanticised landscape paintings and the Australian appreciation of landscape being kind of overwhelming and ‘other’,” he says.

If you’re already familiar with Ingrid’s label Verner, then you’d know that her inspiration comes from all kinds of places, resulting in truly unique collections that stand outside of the trend mill. “I try not to look at fashion inspiration imagery to try to create a point of difference,” she says. “Too often, people are looking at the same trend-driven stuff. I think it’s important to look at things that are specific to you as a brand, rather than what might be part of a collective consciousness on Instagram or Pinterest.”

From the beginning, Verner has been a considered, slow fashion brand that stays away from trends and veers towards ethical business practices. “I think the intention with which you create is important, now more than ever. What drives me, and what I think should drive the world, is creativity over commerce.” In line with this, Verner produces limited edition, special pieces that you can keep for a lifetime. The collection is also “quite unisex and inclusive with shapes for different bodies” says Gian — something Verner is known for.

“I’m not here to start an empire or be this wealthy girl boss, I’m here to get along with myself in the best possible way and offer something special that references where we are in the world,” Ingrid tells me.

“I think it’s possible to build businesses that have integrity. For me, it’s not about growing the business, I think it’s okay to be comfortable where you are. This idea of constant growth has got to change. I feel very grateful to have my community here in Melbourne.”

You can shop the collaborative collection here.

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