Virginia Martin, the ocean-lover, surfer and talented designer behind Melbourne label búl (pronounced like the “mull” in mulled wine) draws design inspiration from coastal towns around the world.
Her current AW collection, Cornwall, is drawn from the town in southern England of the same name, a coastal region marked by what Martin describes as “really grand old architecture”. Her main reference point is a beautiful old Victorian building in Cornwall (featured in the film The Witches) which commands an imposing view over the ocean.
The inspiration made for a subdued colour palette of deep blue, grey, off-white and burnt orange, using traditional materials: linen, brocade and cable knit merino wool alongside silk and georgette. Floral and brocade are a nod to a more traditional English aesthetic, alongside structured wool jackets and skirts which reference the architecture of the Cornish coastline.
There is also something quite preppy about this collection, especially the menswear, which features a casual-yet-dapper three piece suit with wooden buttons. As Martin explains, it is a more sophisticated and subdued style of beachwear, with separates that are perfect for layering together as a mild day fades into a cool night.
As well as an emphasis on comfort and luxe fabrics, the beauty is in the details of Martin’s work: exposed zippers, wooden buttons, leather zipper pulls and the use of darts and pleats feature throughout her collections.
Martin describes her designs as a blend of beach and city life, based on what she would like to wear herself. “I try to keep it really classic and simple. The details are what really matter to me,” she says.
Her upcoming collection, Namibia, is inspired by expanses of long golden grass, a sundrenched land stretching out to the ocean. With a hint of sporty safari and a warmer colour scheme which blends olive tones, beige, ochre and a “pop” of jewel red, the theme is flirty yet still laidback. Neutral toned leather accessories, desert boots and tribal-patterned sandals are a practical and stylish complement to the collection.
Martin plays with the juxtaposition of fabrics: linen tops with silk backs, mixed georgette and linen dresses, and some decadently soft suede and Fuji silk – she describes these textural elements as an important and unique feature of her work.
A tribal inspired print, hand painted for the collection then digitised, is splashed across soft georgette dresses and skirts. Scarlet bikini pieces are gems in the collection, like a vivid sunset across the Namibian plains. “It’s still a little bit earthy while being quite bright,” Martin explains.
Contrasting colours and fabrics also feature in the menswear, along with loose linen blazers and chino shorts, in a continuation of the laidback preppy theme.
“I really believe in things that you can dress up and dress down as well. The beach and the city – you can actually wear them in both places,” Martin says.
In addition to the Brighton, Fitzroy and Melbourne CBD stores, last month búl opened a pop up shop in Chadstone Shopping Centre. Similar to the Curtin House shop interior (which is bright and spacious, with wooden floors and potted cacti) Martin says the pop up is fitted with recycled wooden ladders, which emphasise the temporary nature of the store, as though it were still being built.
The store in Chadstone may be temporary, but the búl design aesthetic has a timelessness and emphasis on quality that will last.
From the austere Cornish coast, to the plains of Africa, Martin says the next collection has been inspired by a coastal destination in Europe… we’ll just have to wait to find out exactly where!
Images by Camille Gower for Couturing
The stylish Camille write for her own blog Camille Leon. Check out her great site which is filled with a great mix of street style and fashion news.