Fernanda Covarrubias has been surrounded by fashion and textiles her whole life. Influenced by her seamstress auntie and mother while growing up in Mexico, Fernanda was inspired by colour and observing her Auntie’s ability to sew.
After 15 years in Australia, first in Geelong and now in Melbourne, Fernanda has seen many changes in the local fashion industry. Her work is detailed, handmade and makes use of a wide variety of textures and colours. Fernanda is known for her ingenious upcycling; she can take a customer’s loved but unwearable garment and recreate it into something that becomes a family heirloom.
Revival Runway sat down to ask the talented designer a few questions about her life in fashion.
How is working in fashion different today than from when you first started?
It is very different. When I started my own brand in Mexico, it was a very different market and my clients were younger. The weather was very different there. The main difference though is probably the advertising and the importance of social media now. It is a completely different world now.
As well as your Auntie, has anybody else been a strong mentor for you regarding fashion?
My mum. She didn’t sew, but was very crafty. She crocheted and knitted. I learnt to crochet, but I could never learn how to knit even though my mum would try to teach me!
If you could give a piece of advice to an aspiring designer, what would that be?
Nobody will do anything FOR you. You need to do it yourself. When you study fashion, it is very easy to romanticise it. It is much harder than you think. There is lots of work throughout the process and long hours of work. There will be really hard times, but also plenty of amazing times as well. You should put yourself out there. Social media is the best tool to utilise, younger generations were born into a social media age, you should definitely take advantage of that.
If you could describe your brand in three words, what would they be?
Timeless, stylish and empowering. My pieces are for people who are not afraid to stand out from the crowd.
How long does it usually take for you to hand make your garments?
It is different for every single garment, I would say it would be from 5 hours up to 40-50 hours of just the ‘making process.’ This doesn’t include other aspects like the design process and discussing with clients.
What has been one of your most memorable items of clothing you have designed for a client?
This is hard. When I was younger I made dresses for two of my best friends in Mexico. Probably my most memorable moment in Australia was an upcycled jacket I made for my lovely friend, and she loved it. When she came to pick the jacket up and saw it on the mannequin, her face lit up! She wore it at a party and people loved it. It also gave her old jacket a second life. I love upcycling pieces.
You stated that you see yourself as the translator between fabrics and your client’s style… Could you elaborate further?
I always tell people that my creative process is different from other designers. Most usually sketch and gather fabrics. For me, I go and look at different fabrics and trims first and get inspired. Then when I talk to clients, I understand that everyone is so different and I need to get a greater understanding about the client themselves. I ask them questions about their daily life and get a gauge on what their style is. I am the middle man, I want to find the right materials and fits for specific clients depending on their lifestyle. I believe that if you wear a nice outfit you will feel so much better.
What is the key to a successful fashion business?
You have to love what you do. Otherwise after a few months of trying you are going to give up. Another thing is to surround yourself with likeminded people and learn as much as you can about advertising. Lately I have discovered that you have to know how to put yourself out there, by replying to emails and utilising social media, YOU have to do it.
You are the creative and business head of your brand, how do you find balance between the two?
I can’t. The reality is I am still trying to work out how to find a balance. I have many ideas on what to make, but I need to make products that will actually sell. You have to understand what actually sells and understand your client base and their lifestyle. You must narrow designs and make them more wearable for everybody, otherwise you will lose money. It is nice to make items that you love, but in business you must be realistic. If you don’t sell anything you won’t survive for long.
What has been the biggest lesson you have learnt during your career?
That advertising is so important. I have realised that you need to know how to sell. I want anybody who wears my pieces to feel amazing, that is my job. I am helping clients to feel amazing and comfortable. When I first started I just wanted to design things that I liked, but now I have realised that I want to help people feel great and what you wear has such an impact on that.
To shop Fernanda Covarrubiasv go to fernandacovarrubias.com.au, or visit her atelier at 389 Rathdowne Street, Carlton VIC 3053 – it is inside the Preston Zly store. You can also follow her on Instagram at @fernanda_covarrubiasv
Read the interview from Revival Runway page HERE