Australian designer, Jessica Van, was featured as one of the ‘Innovators’ in Australia’s Fashion Week and her use of sustainable materials and curious details are exactly that: innovative. Van was well on her way to becoming an engineer, until her housemate, noticing that Van was unhappy in her studies, asked Van what it was that she loved, and encouraged her to pursue it. So, Van enrolled in a fashion illustration night class, and never looked back.
Van recognizes the immense talent that was chosen to show at the MBFWA ‘Innovators’ show, and believes that her background in science was a key element to her having been chosen. “I love to experiment and push the boundaries both in design and application,” Van says. “I think this is foundation, from which my inspiration comes and the process I undertake to get there is what sets me apart.” Van is also interested in sustainable materials, and is acutely aware of the effect fashion has on the environment, and has used different techniques to lessen her fashion footprint. In the future, she hopes to further her explorations of repurposing garments, patchworking pre-existing fabrics and “upcycling.”
Van’s inquisitive nature led her to investigate inventive techniques for creating the fabrics she used for her collection. Watercolor fabric is not new, and many a runway has been inundated with tonal array akin to Monet. The watercolors of Van’s fabrics, however, are gritty and wild and some of the patterns resemble what you might see upon inspecting a Petri dish. To achieve this effect, Van played around with different fluids’ consistencies in varying conditions. “I used several different pigments and threw them onto fabrics changing the variables such as gravity, texture of the fabric, application technique, propelling the inks using water and also encouraging them to set using heat,” explains Van. These untamed colors and washes could easily become menial on ordinary silhouettes, but instead, Van has engineered the most ethereal concoctions that seem both effortless and intricate at the same time. A simple white slip dress is topped off with an architectural, filigree statement collar; a classic mermaid-style dress is constructed out of burlap-like fabric, draped ropes and chain straps and somehow manages to look weightless; and an asymmetrical, watercolored strapless blouse flutters over knife-pleated palazzo pants, immediately transporting you to a desert oasis. Miraculously, these frothy threads look red carpet-ready, yet accessible for everyday wear. Tuck a crisp white shirt into the tan palazzo pants for the office in the summer, or throw a leather jacket over the white slip dress for date night. Her creations are couture with a touch of reality, or realistic with a touch of couture. It is all a matter of perspective.
Like every successful designer, Van has her muses and inspirations. She not only took inspiration from the desert lands and canyons of Australia, She was also influenced by aerial views of river systems, as well as the texture formations of bark and tree foliage. And, in an industry so heavily swayed by social media and It-girls, Van does not design with a certain clientele in mind, but rather with a “story” and the goal that the wearers will “come along for the ride.”
While Van claims that she “might’ve spent a few years in a field that wasn’t right,” she wouldn’t tell her younger self to do anything differently. She believes that her journey groomed her to become determined and resilient and she would encourage anyone considering the same leap to get excited about it, and embrace the opportunity. Now that she is on her chosen path, she hopes to produce collections worldwide that reflect her philosophy and creativity. With her dreams at her fingertips, discussions of showcasing her collection overseas are bringing them even closer to reality.
Text by Leah Tassinari