Tell us the Nancybird backstory – how did it all begin?
I studied fine art printmaking at uni, and used to take some screens home occasionally and do extra printing, teaching myself how to print onto fabrics. Eventually I made little purses and bags from these prints and it grew from there.
What were you doing before Nancybird?
I started Nancybird when I was 25 so after studying and traveling. I had a stint studying fashion design and printmaking, and spent a few months doing a student exchange near the Pyrenees in France – then I lived for a bit in Brighton, UK (before the internet and things like emails!)
What was your role in the early days and how has that evolved?
I pretty much did everything for a few years – cutting, sewing, printing, admin, finding stockists, everything! Then my sister came on board, then a friend’s sister, and a work placement student… And then a bookkeeper! THAT was a revelation.
Skip forward 15 years and I still design the bags and footwear. We have a fashion designer and textile designer, a marketing co-ordinator, an online manager, an office manager and warehouse staff.
What does a typical day at Nancybird look like for you?
I drop my little one off at child care then head to work a bit after 9am. Our staff are all “almost full time”, so not everyone is in every day. It’s a mix of whatever part of the season we’re in, and there’s lots of long and short-term things all jumbled in together, jostling for my attention!
Every week or so we meet to discuss ideas together and how things are going, designs that are working or not working, and issues that have come up for people that need a bit of working through. Fridays are much quieter and I get to have some solid design time.
Talk to us about the creative process, from the fabric prints through to garment and accessory design.
We have a design team of three, and usually begin with a theme or idea – it helps with colour, references and details. We go into a bit of a research phase, collecting all we can on the subject matter.
We then move onto the colour palette and all start working on our separate areas. Sarah, our textile designer, works on block prints, screen prints, woven designs, embroideries and digital prints. Laura, our fashion designer, works on knitwear designs and all of our garment shapes, as well as patternmaking and sewing up some toiles for our makers to follow.
I work first on footwear as it takes a bit longer, creating specs for our makers to work from, then move onto leather goods. We get first samples back from our makers, amend, get colour and print swatches from our printers and refine until reaching the final sample stage.
It’s a long process – a range takes us eight months or more from start to finish.
How your range developed over time?
There has been a huge evolution of the range from its beginnings back in 2002. We’ve added footwear, apparel, homewares and knitwear to the initial leather goods collection.
I think, though, that many of the reoccurring themes are the same, and the values of the brand are still the same. Indigenous plants always feature in our prints and we often want to tell Australian stories or perspectives. As much as we are inspired by the wider world, we get a kick out of creating something inspired by a traditional Chinoiserie print featuring a bunch of coastal daisies from down the road.
The environmental and ethical impacts of producing our range have been an ongoing conversation for us for a number of years now, and we have made many changes big and small around these issues. It’s great that this is an area that customers increasingly care about, as this means that better choices – such as wider availability of organic cottons – are available to the wider market and small businesses such as ours.
How would you describe your customers?
We hear stories from our stockists of 18-year-old women buying our things and 83-year-old women too – so I don’t feel like we are a super age specific kind of brand. I think our customers are united in valuing what we’re about, which I think in turn says something about how they live – a love of nature, art, design, good food, buying ethically. Good eggs, we think!
Your current Autumn/Winter range has been a sell-out, what can we expect from Nancybird next season?
Yes, it’s been an amazing season for us! We are so happy that our customers love it.
Next season we’ve taken inspiration from Marion Mahony Griffin – an American architect, and the first registered female architect in the US! She came to Australia with her husband Walter Burley Griffin, and they stayed for a number of years, designing iconic Australian public and private buildings (as well as their most famous project – designing Canberra). She was an incredible artist too – there was such rich history to draw on.
What makes you most proud of Nancybird ?
I am proud of our little team and our makers – that we create from our ideas and make it happen.