Welcome to How It’s Made. Where we go behind the scenes with your favourite brands to find out how their most popular products are produced. For our next instalment, we visited one of our favourite Melbourne-based fashion brands, LIFEwithBIRD.
Since its launch in 2002, LIFEwithBIRD (created by co-founders Nicholas Van Messner and Bridget McCall) has found its place in Australian fashion, by bringing a Scandinavian-esque vibe to our own influenced-by-the-sea aesthetic. Over the past 14 years, the label has stood out and excelled in creating structured leather pieces, sharp blazers, and classic shirting. This quiet-achieving label shows no signs of slowing down, with a recently opened store in The Strand, Arcade in Sydney, and fashion influencers regularly snapped in the label, we have a feeling there are many more exciting things to come.
Keep scrolling to discover how the label has evolved, why they love being based in Melbourne, and how one of their bestsellers is created.
Who What Wear Australia: Tell us about how LIFEwithBIRD came to be.
Nicholas Van Messner: Bridget (Bird) and I were both working independently in the fashion industry while I was also finishing my degree in Fashion Design at RMIT when we met. It was 2002, and each of us had an ambition to start our own line, so after six months of talking about it (and finishing up at RMIT), we decided to do it together and LIFEwithBIRD was established.
WWW: How has your label evolved since it launched in 2002?
NV: We started off in handcrafted leather goods and now we have two fully fledged clothing lines, the ready to wear collection, LIFEwithBIRD, and our contemporary classics collection, L.W.B. So in that regard we have changed a lot. The aesthetic and core philosophies have also grown up with us as we have matured as designers and really found the voice we want to portray.
WWW: Where’s your studio? Are your pieces designed and made in-house?
NV: Our Studio is based in Abbotsford in Melbourne, and we design and develop all of our ideas and initial samples in house. We have a great open-plan studio and you can literally see all of the creative processes taking place. It’s an amazing space!
WWW: What’s your bestselling piece?
NV: That’s a tough one, but in our current A/W 16 collection, The World Unknown shirt in the Haring Print has had a huge response! Also, the Picture Box Dress is selling really well in the Tribal Print.
WWW: How would you describe your aesthetic?
NV: Contemporary, effortless and understated.
WWW: Where do you search for inspiration?
NV: So much is subconscious, whether it is watching someone on the street, watching a movie or visiting a gallery. So much seeps into our designs this way, but we also fixate on ideas and then research them quite intensely. I think this is the most liberating and exciting part of design; being able to open yourself to any possibility.
WWW: How important is Instagram and social media to your label? Does it help direct designs or e-makes?
NV: I think fashion PR, media and the digital landscape have all changed so much, and so quickly, that we are constantly adapting and evolving, so re-cuts or design are not so heavily influenced by social media. With Instagram and social media, we really try to create an interface that allows the viewer to see what we are inspired by or what we are working on. It’s very stylistic towards our aesthetic and how we feel our brand should be perceived. We also want to create something beautiful, new and meaningful, which is a philosophy of our company.
WWW: What has been the defining moment for your label where everything fell into place?
NV: I think our decisive moment came from opening our first flagship store. We finally were getting feedback from our customers and it really gave us the confidence to continue to evolve in a more directional way. That understanding has been pivotal to us as designers and to the brand.
WWW: Do you think there’s a benefit to being based in Melbourne? Why, or why not?
NV: This is a chicken and egg type of question. It really depends on how you look at it. For us, we love Melbourne for its urban sophistication and culture, but mainly because this is where we’re based and where our friends and family are, which is really important to us. I think being a Melbourne-based brand also means we’re not under the constant scrutiny of the media, which is largely based in Sydney, so it has allowed us to have a very organic and progressive growth and focus on design.
WWW: Talk us through the process, from start to finish, of creating one of your bestsellers
NV: The Versus Coat, from A/W 16 is our bestselling coat and was a great piece to develop. It began with a fabric appointment where we saw and amazing Italian wool check, which we fell in love with and instantly started designing around. We then found out that this material had been bought by Yves Saint Laurent (we prefer it with the Yves in front… don’t mess with history). It then opened the door to work with this fabric mill and design our own check. We played around with endless linear concepts and settled on an oversized check of varying grey marls and winter whites on a midnight background. With such amazing material, we wanted the design to remain simple, but we wanted to create some drama with the check, so we began to drape the fabric to find the right amount of discord with the check being fragmented by the drape to create visual interest. It turned out to be a very simple process, but the end result is sophisticated and refined. We didn’t want to waste any fabric, so you’ll notice the front edge of the coat utilises the selvedge edge of the fabric roll, which we think is beautiful in its slightly frayed rawness.