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BEHIND THE BRAND: WE INTERVIEW JOANNE DIMOV, WESTERN AUSTRALIAN DESIGNER

Vodim is flipping the corporate attire industry on its head - and turning them too. After recently launching a sophisticated debut collection, the Vodim aesthetic is already well known for its balance between corporate necessity and a touch of sass. The perfect boardroom-to-dinner date outfit is now easy and accessible with a Vodim wardrobe, and designer Joanne Dimov's attention to detail ensures longevity. Below, she shares her inspirations, her personal story and her passion for her Australian owned, designed and made ethical fashion label, Vodim.

Who or what influenced your relationship with fashion growing up?
Growing up in a small country town in South West, Western Australia, there wasn't a great call for high fashion. Special occasion apparel was reserved for weddings, and these were few and far between. This, however, didn't stop me, and at the age of 11, I discovered the joy that came with expressing myself through my clothing. We weren't rich, so a little creativity was needed to find ways of styling and re-purposing clothes to bring a new 'look' together. At the time, I felt like I was the most on-trend young lady around...

Looking back now, I can't help but smile at some of my outfits, but at the end of the day, I believe being fashionable and stylish is as much about how clothing makes you feel as what you are wearing. Having to be creative at a young age encouraged me in adult life to give more value to the clothes I purchased, and to choose with longevity in mind, considering how long pieces will last and how can I style them differently so that I can wear them again.

Did you study fashion or are you self-taught?
At around the same age (11), I asked for and received an old sewing machine, and this was used to construct little pillows and other goodies that were gifted to family members who were kind enough not to comment on my dodgy sewing skills. In high school, I took sewing classes and with my new found understanding of techniques, I bought a new machine and began making clothing, mainly pyjamas and dressing gowns, relatively easy and standard stuff. In 2010 I enrolled in a Fashion Design and Technology course at Bunbury TAFE, and this reignited my creative spark, so along with general sewing, I started doing alterations to clothing.

What led you to launch a brand and when did you launch?
General sewing and alterations turned into custom dress making which then turned into custom clothing design. By word of mouth, I started receiving calls from customers who would come to me needing a garment for a special event, so I would sketch designs, and together we would create the perfect idea. I began to learn that the designs I had made were being treasured, and customers would tell me how much they loved their garments, and that they intended on them hanging in their wardrobe for years to come to be pulled out and worn on special occasions, treasured and valued. It gave me a great sense of pleasure knowing that I had created a garment that would be useful and not just worn once and thrown away.

Soon it became apparent that although I loved meeting people and creating custom designed pieces (and saw the pleasure and confidence it gave my beautiful customers wearing it), I wanted more. I decided to create a fashion label that was mine alone, something elegant and classy that would make women feel amazing when they wore it, something that would become a beautiful memory. I wanted to create a piece of clothing they could wear again and again and they would know that when they put it on, the feeling would be there. So, Vodim officially launched in October 2016.

Describe your brand to our readers?
Vodim is best described as having a clean cut elegant aesthetic; we love creating feminine and flattering pieces for the office and special occasions. We offer small runs and limited stock. We believe this is part of our attraction, and our ladies know that the pieces they have purchased hold an element of exclusivity to them that mass produced clothing does not.

Where are your garments designed and made?
I am proud to say that Vodim is made in a little designer studio in South West, Western Australia, and also in our manufacturing partners' studio in Perth. The designs are often scribbled onto little bits of paper while I am on the run in case I forget them, or in the middle of the night when inspiration strikes. Sometimes it is best to try to get the designs and ideas I have out of my head and onto paper; otherwise, I find it hard to go to sleep!

What does a week in your shoes look like?
Wow, where do I start with this one! I wish I could share how organised and regimented I am with a productive routine, however, that's not me. It is a goal, however, to become more organised. Our online store is checked twice a day for sales, and likewise with emails. Sold garments are packaged and shipped out within 24 hours of purchase, and I have help in this department as I work with my mum. She organises garments to be sent and other important jobs like social media which is time-consuming and takes me away from designing and sewing. Each week we meet to discuss what events are coming up such as runway shows or pop-up shops, and what we need to do to run smoothly.  I do have a business plan which I also refer to.

Vodim embraces slow fashion, so we do not produce multiple seasonal collections each year. Instead, we choose to focus on adding new designs to our collection regularly, and this process itself is time-consuming. With all of this going on, each week can look vastly different to the next. Throw into this mix a FIFO husband and three kids, and I often have 12+ hour days - there's not a lot of sleep.

Why are you passionate about manufacturing your brand in Australia?
Quite simply, I love our country. I am so grateful for growing up here and for the opportunities that are afforded to us Australians, and more specifically, women when compared to other countries in the world. I believe in fair trade and want to be able to hold my head up high when I tell people what I do and how I do it. Being Australian made makes up a big part of this. The thought of a small child living in poverty sewing up my designs so that I can spin a profit makes my stomach churn and so for me, being Australian made was a no brainer.

Explain the process of one of your garments? 
The design process for a Vodim piece looks something like this:

Draw design; often on the back of a shopping docket while out in my car.
Refine design; look at how it could be constructed and possible colours or fabrics.
Assess design; how does it fit with other pieces in the Vodim collection and will it fit in seamlessly or is it a standout show piece?
Draw up design in detail; all seams, features and specs.
Consider potential fabrics; think about trims etc.
Make the pattern, then test the pattern.
Reassess design; does it 'work', make changes to fit and design as necessary. 
Test again. 
Have pattern graded.
Cut fabric. 
Manufacture the garment. 
Steam the garment. 
Add swing tags and other necessary labels.
Photograph the garment. 
Upload to the website for sale.

What do you think about fast fashion?
With the decision to launch my own label and a date in mind, I started researching potential manufacturers. Being Australian made was high on my wish list, and through this, I discovered the term 'slow fashion,' which is simply the opposite of fast fashion. This term struck a chord with me, and I knew that this was something I could relate to. Slow fashion embodies the ethics and values I have embraced; clothes are hand made with love and cherished when purchased and worn. In a sea of throw away fashion, I had found a name for what I was already doing.

How do you define sustainability and how do you apply sustainability to your business?
For Vodim, sustainability is about offering fair wages and employing Australians to help support the Australian fashion industry itself. Sustainability in the garment is about making sure the garment is well made and of a design that will transcend trends and become a cherished piece that can be relied on to make you look good, time and time again - not worn once and then thrown away.

What challenges do you face as an Australian made brand?
I feel that the biggest issue we have as a new Australian brand is the issue around trust and loyalty. We want women to realise that we are real and that we are not a giant retailer but rather a family run small business with big dreams. We truly want to provide a fantastic product and service. The golden question is, how do you build this trust and value into your brand? All we can hope for is that the customers who have purchased our products will love them as much as we do and will tell their friends about this amazing new little fashion label that embraces slow fashion and is Australian made.

Brand highlights or achievements to date?
Seeing my designs walk the runway always gives me an incredible sense of satisfaction; however, the best to date was the first achievement - when as a student, my first collection was shown at South West Fashion Festival.

Anything you’d like our readers to know that you haven’t been asked?
People often ask me why or how I choose Vodim as my label name. Quite simply, Vodim is an anagram of my last name, Dimov. I don’t share this normally unless asked, as I love it when I see the recognition in people as they discover this for themselves.

This is one Australian made fashion brand on the rise, and it's a journey you don't want to miss. Support Australian made fashion and shop the full range from Vodim, which is Australian made, handcrafted, sustainable, ethical, transparent, and a social enterprise.

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