After leaving Billy Blue College of Design at Torrens University Australia, there is no set route to take. The broad range of opportunities in the fashion industry make it exciting. Here, Vogue sits down with two former students to discuss how their careers have developed since they graduated and the keys to their success.
In her final year at Billy Blue, Virginia Mann founded the label Old Flame to “explore the conflict between rock n roll’s rebel exterior, and its romantic heart.” From slogan sweatshirts to pastel denim on denim combinations to flame-licked midi dresses, Mann’s designs are simultaneously punk and sweet. One of the biggest lessons she learned while working at Billy Blue? the independence to build her brand with confidence. “I now have the knowledge and self-assurance to manage every element of our company internally. Every fabric print, image, and tech bundle are original creations of Old Flame, a proudly independent company. The key to this, according to Mann, was her exposure to and immersion in the field: “Each internship I completed while I was studying led to employment offers, so again it gave me the confidence that I was industry-ready,” she says.
Katherine Jiang, another graduate of Billy Blue, places the client at the centre of her work. “I have a very modest commission service, and a well-made garment is the reason for all of my repeat customers,” the merchant said. Her business has a distinct look that originates directly from the community she has built and her reaction to them. Her designs combine Western silhouettes with elements of Eastern aesthetic tradition, and at Billy Blue, she learnt how to execute her ideas thanks to a programme with a strong business focus. Understanding how to bring a fantastic illustration to life and finally turn it into a commercial product is crucial. Every artist and designer wants to present a product that is a reflection of their ideas and also takes the market into account to help their company and profession succeed,” she says. As a result of Jiang’s outstanding work, the young designer has been recognised as a finalist for the Australia China Alumni Award for the Arts and Creative Industries.
But developing the look that now distinguishes her creations wasn’t always simple. She had a definite sense of what she loved, like Mann, but it took several alterations and discussions before she decided on her appearance. She credits Billy Blue’s direction with helping her “identify what is my style by repeatedly drawing out my designs and ideas, converting them into garments, and ultimately producing commercial products.”
Jiang and Mann both prioritise producing durable clothing. Each piece of clothing is made with durability in mind, she says, not only in terms of structure and materials but also by utilising tried-and-true styles from earlier times. It makes sense to me to revisit styles that have endured the test of time because I hope that every design we produce will be worn repeatedly and become wardrobe classics in its own right. A classic little black dress or a biker jacket, in my opinion, will never go out of style.
Regardless of their design preferences, these Billy Blue alums have learned valuable skills that have shaped their careers and will help them in the future. The year-round intakes at Torrens University are available when you need them. Learn more about Torrens University’s course offerings.