Ahead of their runway show at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival, we chat with creative duo Becky Cooper and Bridget Yorston of Australian fashion label Bec & Bridge about backstage stress, keeping current and not taking fashion too seriously.

Our day-to-day is not glamorous at all.

The industry definitely has its moments of glamour, like VAMFF, when you think, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what we do,’ but it’s not always like that. By the time we’re done with a show we are exhausted and we don’t have a lot of time to party and celebrate.

A fashion festival is a welcome event in our calendar year.

Because Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival (VAMFF) is a consumer event, the clothes aren’t on a deadline like they are at fashion week and the festival is geared to the public. It’s actually a really nice, exciting time.

There’s still the normal prep you have to do and making sure the styling is OK, but because the clothes are ready to go and the collection is about to hit stores, we’ve already done a lot of the stressful part of getting that collection together months beforehand.

For industry events, like fashion week, it’s a lot more intense.

The collections don’t drop until six months later, so an industry show feels a lot more pressured and it’s a lot more deadline-driven. You have a million things going on at once with samples coming off the machines right before the show.

I think we’ll always get nervous before a show.

It’s unavoidable when you’re putting part of yourself on a catwalk. In the case of a consumer show, you’d be worried a garment hasn’t been put on the models in the right way, because we’re not backstage. We’ve had garments put on backwards.

For consumer shows like VAMFF, we get to watch the show. I don’t know if that’s worse, it’s nerve-wracking either way. Sometimes you’re watching and think ‘Oh, that wasn’t styled right!’ but it’s good to have the consumer point of view.

In an industry show we are either very focused and know exactly what we’re doing or we are completely lost.

It can be a bit overwhelming, but because we have such a great team working with us, there are times where we feel a bit redundant backstage. We are down on the floor tying shoes up or cutting threads off clothes.

We not only have our design team but we have our stylists and their team and makers, and the production crew who are running the whole show. There are lots of people and everyone is responsible, everything is covered.

The amount of time spent on a show is crazy.

The lead-up can be weeks or months. Even just making sure the right shoes are assigned to the right model and that you have the right sizes can be two days’ work. It’s a jigsaw and a lot of problem-solving. There’s not a lot of sleep before a show.

You want people to relate to what’s coming down the catwalk.

Consumers need to be able to see themselves wearing it. But you also want them to feel a sense of excitement and get a bit reinvigorated about fashion.

Lots of things contribute to that such as the music, the models, the light. A lot of factors go into creating that atmosphere. We want them to enjoy it, like you would a performance.

You have to be so on your game.

The industry has changed in the last 16 years (since we started out) and it’s a lot more competitive now, so you can’t really drop the ball with any season. You have to keep pushing yourself creatively and pushing the collection.

It’s not even necessarily competition with other designers, it’s almost just being competitive with yourself. You can’t become stagnant or apathetic, and don’t ever become complacent.

Our advice to new designers would be to have a clear vision, but be flexible.

It’s a fine line; as a creative, you want a really strong vision but you also need to be open to learning and getting feedback, experimenting a little bit and listening to your market.

Our first show seems so long ago!

I think we have become more nervous as the years have gone on. There is something about being young and naive. Now it feels like there’s more at stake, whereas back then it didn’t feel like there was as much pressure, which probably worked to our advantage. We probably need our own advice now!

We often ask each other what the other one thinks.

One of us will say, ‘I’m really worried about this’ and the other will say, ‘Oh are you? I’m not worried about that one, I’m worried about this one.’

We’ve worked together for so long that we know each other so well and definitely help talk each other through things, but we are pretty on par with most things.

It’s always very flattering when buyers come backstage and are excited about the collection.

That’s really affirming. It’s one thing from a fashion perspective and design aesthetic for it to be a successful show, but for your retailer to be able to see it selling is the balance you always try to strive for.

We’ve always designed for someone who is quite raw, healthy and confident.

Bec & Bridge is for strong women who know what they like, but are also willing to experiment with fashion a little bit. They don’t get too caught up in trends but are happy to try the trends when they happen and have fun with it, and not take it too seriously.

We can be a bit anti-fashion in that we try not to take ourselves or fashion too seriously.

When the industry takes itself too seriously, it becomes unattractive and too insular. It’s meant to be fun and it’s meant to make you feel good about yourself.

It’s a creative outlet and we like to be able to create positive clothes for girls to feel good wearing, but when it starts to become more than that, it’s off-putting.

Both our fathers are doctors, so they can offer us no advice on the business whatsoever.

Bridget: Bec was going to do medicine until a week before she decided to study fashion design and that’s where we met.

Bec: I was always torn at school between art and science and something clicked in my head just before I was about to decide and I thought, ‘No, I want to do fashion.’

 

Catch Bec & Bridge at the Premium Runway 2, presented by ELLE Australia, during VAMFF on 15 March at 9pm.

 

More stylish reads… Q&A: Fashion designer Paul Vasileff of Paolo Sebastian

 

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