Q&A: Ivy Niu

At the start of the month, IVY NIU‘s inaugural collection launched at The Paper Empire, “featuring timeless pieces crafted in luxe fabrics, designed with a touch of whimsy”.

Hot Chicks with Big Brains caught up with Ivy to chat about Australian fashion design, pursuing your passions, and the importance of sustainable, ethical fashion.

Please can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?

I’m an Illustrator and Designer! I studied Pictorial Design at University, and freelanced as an Illustrator after graduating. I worked on a range of projects, from a children’s book, to advertising, to live drawing.

At the time I felt like I didn’t have an ‘illustration style’ and I could cater/change my work to the client’s wishes. Maybe that contributed to the fact that I felt like I had no ‘identity’ and was unsure if I was enjoying what I was illustrating.

From there it made me question if I had taken the right path, and if illustration was my passion. Whenever I worked on a project I wasn’t passionate about, I would think “Do I continue doing something I have the skill in, but do not enjoy doing?”. Eventually, freelancing (drawing for other people) wore me down, and I took the leap into what I REALLY wanted to pursue. And that was a fashion label.

Where did the inspiration for IVY NIU come from?

The inspiration for IVY NIU came from my deep appreciation and love for illustration and fashion. I wanted to combine the two, and see my illustrations being worn and appreciated in a different form.

Who are some of your favourite Australian designers at the moment and why?

At the moment, I’ve been following and loving Abbey Rich who is based in Melbourne. She uses screen printing, and her collection is made to order due to the nature of her process.

I appreciate the ‘hand painted’ look of her pieces, and how effortless and organic her styles are.

I also love the outrageous and loud designs of Romance Was Born. Oh, and who doesn’t love a little bit (alot) of Gorman!

How important is sustainable fashion to you, and how have you incorporated your beliefs into the production of IVY NIU?

The idea behind IVY NIU is that each garment is like a piece of art, and that each pattern is a limited run.

My partner and I spent more than a year researching and seeking the right people to work with us, to guarantee we have the most reliable team possible.

Our pattern maker is based in Brisbane, and we work closely with her to ensure we get the best fit possible garments. Then we hand off the sample garments and pattern files to our manufacturing agent who is based in Melbourne. He then takes these to Suzhou, China.

The manufacturer we work with has less than 20 employees, and specialises working with boutique labels like ourselves who do small runs (and do not mass produce).

We also use Sendle for our domestic orders, and they’re Australia’s first carbon neutral courier!

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far since starting work on your own label?

Oh, I’ve had a few meltdowns since embarking on this label! I don’t have a background or experience in fashion design, so most of the process was new to me.

I think seeking the right people to fit in and develop an efficient chain of process took the longest time, because we really did not want to cut corners.

Having this foundation set up gives us ease moving forward with new designs.

What part of the process of creating IVY NIU’s inaugural collection has given you the greatest sense of achievement?

Our campaign photoshoot gave me many emotions.

I’ve admired Hannah Roche‘s work on social media, and for her to fly out from Sydney to work with us on our first ever photoshoot was surreal. Bringing together other designers to our shoot, such as Bianca Mavrick and Twoobs, as well as our model, Jolie Chatfield, and make-up artist, Alyssa Selin, gave me the greatest sense of accomplishment.

What’s next for you, and for IVY NIU?

We’ve already started on out Autumn Winter 2018 collection, which will come out early next year. We are also interested in possibly collaborating with other designers in accessories and footwear… Maybe in the near future!

Shop the collection HERE!

Answers by Ivy Niu
Images and Featured Image by Allanah Thomson
Questions and Edits by Emma Kate Lewis

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