LIFEwithBIRD (L.W.B) is the brand on everyone’s lips at the moment. Fresh off the runway from Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival and dealing with hoards of fans at their Melbourne warehouse sale this April, LIFEwithBIRD is ahead of the fashion flock.
Loved by some of the country’s hottest bloggers like Lisa Hamilton (See Want Shop), Alex and Jayme (Give Me That Thing), Danielle and Nicole (When Words Fail), Nikki Pash (States of Style) and of course, The Fashion Advocate, LIFEwithBIRD has come a long way since it’s humble beginnings some 13 years ago.
When great minds meet, great things happen, and that is the story of LIFEwithBIRD. We spoke with Bridget McCall and Nicholas Van Messner on their triumphs and tribulations as designers, business owners, friends, and how they’ve managed to keep their much-loved Melbourne based label afloat for over a decade.
TFA: Please elaborate on the brand’s beginning…
LWB: LIFEwithBIRD started as a handmade boutique leather goods company and gradually evolved into what the label is known for today. There was a gap in the market for contemporary designer bags, Australia at that time really only had the Prada’s or the cheaper imports, but no middle market substance. In 2002, we decided to combine our passion for design and create a high-end product for a niche market. Starting with bags meant that we could explore and use fine leather imported from Italy, France or Spain, without compromising quality. Within two years LIFEwithBIRD’s following grew nationally and internationally and evolved from leather goods to incorporate womenswear.
TFA: Who brings what to the table?
LWB: Both Nick and I have a hands-on approach to our business. Before designing a collection, we both draw on inspirations and create a story around the collection. We then take our shared vision into conceptualization. Nick works very closely with the production team and pattern makers to ensure the design of every garment is tailored to the LIFEwithBIRD woman. I work very closely with our retail, sales, marketing and finance teams to oversee the operation of each department.
TFA: What has been the most challenging aspect of running a brand and forging a reputation in such a fleeting industry?
LWB: The fashion industry is ever changing and so are the needs of our customers. The root of our business has always been our customer, so we take pride to approach every challenge as an opportunity for growth and development. Evolving the brand with our customers is at the forefront of our vision, and it is something that we will never compromise on and it leverages the brand’s reputation.
TFA: Techonology in the fashion industry has changed alot over the last decade. How has LIFEwithBIRD coped?
LWB: Technological advancements have opened the door to so many new directions and possibilities, such as e-commerce, digital printing or the way we communicate to our customer. Technological advancements such as fabric innovation and print manipulation have proven to help evolve our brand and introduce finishings specific to LIFEwithBIRD. The world is becoming a smaller place as technology allows brands a global reach. This is great and also challenging as it means competition for consumers has also increased. We’re constantly innovating and trying new things which ultimately makes us more creative, so we are embracing technology.
TFA: How important to you is the time you take away from running a business, or do you find it hard to switch off?
LWB: I’m not sure we can ever truly switch off even while on holiday as we draw our inspiration from our day-to-day experiences. That being said, switching off the mobile and disconnecting for a while is heaven and definitely needed.
TFA: As a design duo and partnership, do you often have different ideas or does everything just work?
LWB: Nick and I share a very similar drive and passion. The label, simply put, is a reflection of our evolving perceptions on life and fashion.
TFA: The Distance Between was a milestone collection. Do you each have a personal favourite collection and why does it hold such importance to you?
LWB: The Distance Between celebrated our 10-year anniversary, so that was a pretty special collection. Within that collection we did an all white capsule of 10 pieces, which for me still stands out. I think doing our runway at the Sydney Opera House and shooting our campaign there, definitely adds to the memory. I think Nick would back me up on that, but I know he loves our very first bag we ever made. It was a small satchel in distressed leather and was named after my Grandmother, ‘Pippy’!
TFA: The label’s aesthetic has changed recently. Are these changes a reflection of your personal journey or a response to market demand?
LWB: The LIFEwithBIRD aesthetic has gradually evolved over time as we have grown as designers and grown as a brand. We have been able to focus more on fabrication, technique and quality, which are apparent in our later collections. We also have two lines, which are quite different in their aesthetic. Our contemporary ready to wear collection, ‘LIFEwithBIRD’ is a maximalist approach to design, utilizing prints, texture and intricate patternmaking and detail. Our other collection titled, L.W.B., consists of minimalist everyday classics and slightly androgynous undertones. As a whole, there is an underlying philosophy in both collections of effortless wearable clothing for the contemporary woman.
TFA: Who’s the perfect role model for LIFEwithBIRD?
LWB: We never really got into the muse thing, but we do love Diana Vreeland. A little bit of madness and eccentricity goes a long way.
TFA: Is Melbourne supportive/competitive, easy/difficult to break into?
LWB: Melbourne is a great place to be based. Amazing talent surrounds us and the city reverberates with an energy that nurtures creativity. I think it is competitive and hard starting any business anywhere and Melbourne is no different. You just need to have the passion and determination!
TFA: 5 stores in Melbourne, 1 in Sydney, numerous stockists across Australia and countless overseas; when you sit back and look at your success now, how do you feel?
LWB: It’s actually really important to step back sometimes and put things in perspective. It’s been a long, hard road and we’re blessed, because we love what we do. There is a range of emotions to explain it, but I am just so happy to be able to share the journey with my partner.
TFA: This year marks your 13th birthday – lucky number 13 – any big plans for this year?
LWB: We have some really amazing collaborations in the pipeline and we’re about to launch 2 very different pop-ups in Melbourne. Look out for our pop up at QV in the Melbourne CBD, opening March 3rd! The other pop-up is more of an installation, which we are working on now and we will give you more info closer to the launch in April! Stay tuned!
TFA: Any secrets to success in the fashion industry?
LWB: Learn as much as you can before starting your own business and internships are really good way to do that. It’s also important to really know what your brand is going to do and what is at the core. Other than that, get ready for seriously long hours, rejection, ups and downs and getting back on the horse. It’s a challenging but rewarding road!
TFA: What’s the inspiration behind the latest collection, SURFACE?
LWB: For our latest collection SURFACE AW15 we looked at building materials and layers of construction and architecture. We were really inspired by the textures and fabrications we utilized down to their core, how the fibers were constructed, and how we could manipulate the garments through clever pattern making.
LBW personal favourites…
Best place to get a cocktail in Melbourne: Siglo
Best Sunday afternoon in Melbourne: Picnic at the Botanical gardens!
Best place for brunch in Melbourne: Cumulus
Best coffee in Melbourne: Café e Torta on little Collins Street
Follow the LIFEwithBIRD journey online at www.lifewithbird.com
The Fashion Advocate x