Thursday 28 October 2010

Bridging the gap - Victoria n' Bird

Fashion is an art that combines design and craftsmanship seamlessly (now I've got the pun out of my system). A piece of fabric requires both designer and seamstress to evolve into fashion and in many ways a seamstress who cannot design is as lost as a designer who cannot sew and anyone who has ever watched an episode of Project Runway will know just how lost these people get.

There are people with wonderful ideas, and there are people with incredible practical skills, but without combination of the two, it is difficult to go out on your own into the world of fashion.

One person who has made this amalgamation is the lovely Amy from New Zealand-based label Victoria n' Bird. There were several reasons why I wanted to interview Amy this week. Firstly, she is really very lovely, but also because she is an incredibly successful one-girl operation. Amy has really set herself (and VnB) apart from many other makers of handmade clothing by having a clear and distinctive design aesthetic blended with a carefully edited collection. I wanted to know how she takes on both roles as maker and designer and what they both mean to her.

When and how did you get started?

I hadn’t done any serious sewing while at Uni so when I finished I got stuck in, being that I had just finished Uni and couldn’t just sit around sewing for myself all the time I thought I would also try and sell a couple of things on Trademe. They sold instantly so from there it sparked something fun and fabulous, I gained a bit of sewing confidence and a little business started. I sold on Trademe for a couple of years and slowly transitioned over to Etsy.

When you began did you have a clear idea of what your brand would be like or did it evolve?

It definitely evolved. At the start it was just about making clothing and less about the business as a whole. Things were mostly one-offs and I would let a garment be dictated by what fabric I had in stock: now the design comes first, fabric sourcing comes last. It may not be bold and extravagant but VnB has an aesthetic: ideas and garments now have to fit into that to make the cut.

Who do you have in mind when you are designing a piece?

Me mostly! Then variations in all directions of myself, whether it be someone with a different body shape, bolder clothes choices, less bold, in a different climate. Just a girl, a friend, a lady on the street! At the end of the day we’re not all that different, if I have a penchant for simple clothes with a touch of cute and a touch of vintage, chances are there will be bunches of other ladies who want the same thing.

Where would you like to be in five years time?

Just want it to be bigger and better. Sometimes it’s tricky juggling it with other parts of my working life but I don’t really want it to change in any big way so I just have to make small changes so it runs a lot smoother. It has changed a lot and I have learnt a bunch of lessons along the way. I am sure there are a lot more changes to come and lots left to learn. I have so many ideas in the pipeline, but it does take a wee while as a one-woman business with a to-do list to get them out of my head and out into the world. The possibilities of where VnB could go are part of the excitement to keep it going, who knows?!

Would you ever want to expand VnB so that you could employ others in the construction or is the making of each garment an important aspect of the business for you?

People are always suggesting I outsource my sewing. I even had someone outright laugh at me the other day when they heard that I made everything myself. I know VnB inside and out, it’s not what it’s about. It might be necessary somewhere down the track, who knows, but not for where VnB is right now. If it was all about how many garments I could make in a day I don’t think it would have lasted this long. I did fall into that mind state early on in the Trademe days, and it got miserable and tense pretty fast. The main hurdle with VnB is trying to explain it to others, a LOT of people don’t get it, it’s extremely personal and in business that is clearly frowned upon.

Is there a side to the business that you enjoy the most?

Getting to be myself all of the time... I am not trying to hide the person behind the label: it is what it is all about! I play quirky girl music while I sew, have dog chats, show off pieces I make to family, get grumpy, get excited - it’s 100% me. Then I get to sell this lovingly handmade piece of well-thought-out, well-made clothing to some other person somewhere else in the world, maybe down the road, maybe Paris, I mean come on, how cool is that?!

And, finally...

There is a level of stress and pressure to keep things running, but in the business of creativity, if that was all there was, it would fail miserably. VnB works (most of the time) because it is a perfect balance between personal Amy and business Amy and a perfect combination of the crafty/handmade and well thought out, designed and constructed garments.

Thank you so much to Amy for taking the time to answer these questions. You can of course shop VnB here (the scalloped hem dress is my absolute favourite) and check out her blog here.


  1. Yay! I'm in the VnB fan club. Amy is fantastic!

  2. VnB is one of my favourite etsy stores! Thanks for the great feature!