Sewing since the age of 6, Melbourne based designer Gwendolynne Burkin has managed to create a successful career and label in a notoriously competitive industry. After launching Gwendolynne, her own ready-to-wear label in 1997, Burkin soon realised there was a market for custom-made designs. Three years ago, Burkin decided to focus her business exclusively on high-end bridal wear, building a successful business out of her studio in Fitzroy.
We caught up with this talented designer to learn more about her time in the fashion industry.
1. After growing up in Adelaide, you decided to move to Melbourne because of its study opportunities and fashion culture. What do you love most about Melbourne fashion and how do you think it stands out from the rest of the world?
I love that there are more medium sized fashion businesses where as other parts of the world it’s really mass production or super high-end. Melbourne has more creative independent designers…so many of them are now my good friends and I love that.
2. As well as working for Australian fashion companies such as Garfunkle, Bettina Liano and Sportsgirl, you worked overseas for DIVA in London, a company that developed product for high street fashion retailers in England. How did working for such established companies help you when you started your own label?
It made me not like main-stream fashion so much because everything is done in a hurry and with no care. Often it is copied so it made me more passionate about creating my own unique beauty.
3. When you started your label, you originally created wholesale ready-to-wear garments. However, you soon found there was a huge demand for specific custom-design. What were the business decisions behind changing you business from ready-to-wear to custom design?
Making one-off couture pieces is more rewarding and I get to develop special, personal relationships with my clients.
4. You commenced your signature label in November 1997. The retail landscape has changed significantly since then with the introduction of online retail and the rise of chain stores. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced keeping your label going in an ever-changing environment?
With online I believe customers are seeking a more unique, specialized product that they can’t buy anywhere else however with the growth of this area now you can get the same thing everywhere…Having moved to made-to-measure I feel quite independent of the general retail landscape.
5. You were the first designer to design a collection for Target. How do you think collaborations with large companies such as Target, help promote a label?
I think as a designer you have to be very strategic about what you create for a collaboration with a mass business so that it doesn’t infringe on your own business. With Target I to designed denim & t-shirts which didn’t conflict with what I was doing so it was a good branding and financial decision. I was happy.
6. You’ve been collaborating with milliner Richard Nylon for 12 years. How has this relationship helped and challenged you as a designer?
We have been working together for almost 15 years now and I think more than anything our friendship and being able the share the experiences both fun and stressful has been rewarding. Richard is of incredible intellect and highly amusing and I value his creative view on life.
7. You’ve had such a diverse and varied career. What have been some of your favourite highlights so far?
Definitely being on a boat on the River Sein at the Vivienne Westwood afterparty! Fun times…
8. Which style icon would you love to dress in Gwendolynne?
A French actress called Maris de Medeiros.
9. What’s next for Gwendolynne?
We are expanding our product lines to complement our gowns such as lingerie, jewellery, shoes & La fille aux fleurs dresses.
Thank you Gwendolynne for taking the time to answer our questions.
If you are looking for a unique bridal gown, make sure you visit Gwendolynne to check out her beautiful range.