DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT: INTERVIEW WITH MONICA BLAAUW, DESIGNER OF BLAAUW BY MONICA
Bright summer swimwear is part of the Australian fashion identity, and Blaauw By Monica’s latest collection is exactly that!
‘Blaauw’ is an Australian swimwear and resort label, designed to transport you to the coast and carry you on the journey of today. Originally from Western Australia and now living in Melbourne, designer Monica Blaauw is inspired by the world around her, seeking freedom in the clothes she creates. Each one of Monica’s handmade pieces have a free-spirited feel and bohemian style, expressing an individual, simplistic and easy-to-work with aesthetic, perfect for modern, tasteful and elegant women. At The Dress Collective, we’re big believers in the power of well-fitting clothes, and so is Monica, who believes that what we wear should make us feel confident and not provocative.
Drawing on her own Dutch heritage, Monica named her label ‘Blaauw’ because of its translation, meaning blue. Blue is the colour of peace and tranquility, and it’s a vibe that resonates in each piece throughout Monica’s collections. Blaauw’s easy-going designs and combinations of bold and neutral colours create a balance of luxury and ready-to-wear, making the perfect summer collection. Let your hair out, feel the warm earth beneath your toes and be confident within yourself this summer in Blaauw By Monica.
What sparked your interest in fashion and when did you decide to pursue a career in it?
I’ve always loved dressing up. As a former ballerina there was never a shortage of costumes, my Nan used to make us these amazingly intricate costumes, you name it, I had it. Needless to say, I was regularly exposed to the beauty of the human form and studying art through school nurtured that path. As my curves set in, I became more interested in the actual clothes on the bodies I would sketch.
At the age of 14, I got myself a job so I could buy and CHOOSE my own clothes; let’s just say I was a stubborn child and so the funding for my fashion and travelling adventures began!
Was there a defining moment for you and how did that shape your design concept?
My designs have been slowly shaped over time; there has been a lot of experimentation! There was a time where I thought I should be doing costume design as I was influenced by several different eras at the time, presenting an interesting mix to the end creations! To be honest, it’s been an extensive journey to begin my label, there have been years of research, learning and of course trying, failing and just having a go. It’s only recently since moving to Melbourne have I even figured out my direction, I felt so limited as to what supplies were available at home in Perth. I walked into a fabric store in Brunswick discovering a whole selection of lycra, and it was decided - I had instantly committed to swimwear.
Who or what is your greatest inspiration?
Nature! The natural world is so fascinating and I find nothing more inspiring than a hike through Australia’s native fauna. The exercise is so energising, the scents are refreshing and the shapes, textures and colours to observe are really engaging. Regularly getting out of the city is a must for me!
Are you self-taught or did you study fashion?
If only I could’ve taught myself and saved a heap of time travelling to the other side of the city, waiting for classes, waiting for lecturers, waiting for trains… you get the point. When it comes to design, that part must come naturally and be nourished over time. It’s the execution that gets you, I simply cannot even imagine teaching myself to sew and pattern-make, there was three gruelling years of ‘But… Wait… What? The long rectangle-looking piece thingy goes… huh?'
Do you believe it is important to find a niche as a designer? What would you consider to be yours?
Of course! There is so much competition out there but there are also so many types of customers and needs. For me, working in retail from the beginning really highlighted what was missing from the market, there were a lot of situations where customers would be looking for something so basic and we just didn’t have what they wanted. All I could think was, 'Wow, if only the designers actually spent some time in their stores, in reality and listen to their customers first hand!' For me, it’s all about the fit and easy pull-on-pull-off styles, because I never want to touch another invisible zip in my lifetime! Who even has time to do zippers in the morning?!
If your designs could speak, what would they say?
I don’t think they would speak, they would gently whisper with the wind in calming sounds like waves crashing or water flowing through a river.
What has been and what will be your biggest achievement?
It’s been a gradual journey of discovery and putting my foot in the water so to speak. Online store, check! Stockists, check! Next is to have stockists nationally, once Blaauw showcases in the major fashion festivals next year, we’re on our way to achieving the next big things!
Is there anything you would have done differently?
Perhaps I would have cut out the middle man and studied fashion online instead. There wasn’t much one on one time to really make it worth travelling almost two hours each way aaaaand I really should have prioritised my studies rather than taking on so many shifts at work. It’s not until you get older that you realise you didn’t need all that stress.
What advice would you give to young designers?
What’s your 'to live by' motto?
Act like a mirror and reflect happiness.