Fashion that merges the bright lights of the dance industry with chic everyday wear is how you would describe Urban Prima, a local brand based right here in Brisbane. The brainchild of Carly Vidal-Wallace, Urban Prima was released this year, drawing inspiration from traditional (and functional) dance pieces and making them stylish and sophisticed for the everday woman, whether she is in point shoes or not.
Manufactured here in Australia, Urban Prima has a sustainable and ethical business model that focuses on small-run luxuriously pieces, and responds to their consumers and market feedback rather than mimicking the high-fashion trends of the international fashion scene. We took some time out this week to catch up with local girl Carly and talk all things Urban Prima.
Brisbane Threads: Tell us about Urban Prima and how it came about…
Carly Vidal-Wallace: I have been in the textile industry since I was born, my mother is a well-known costumer for the dance and performance industry, and opened in the early 1980’s her own bespoke boutique in Stones Corner – this over the years developed into a textile wholesale/retail store (our family company deals with shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Strictly Ballroom the stage-show).
Since as young as I can remember I have always had employees (my mum included!) that would make whatever designs I wanted. A turning point was wining the Qld Micro Telstra Small Business Awards last year and having so many compliments on my dress that orders were made before it was even a brand. It was at that awards night I realised it was something I need to focus on.
BT: What is/has been one of your biggest challenges with starting your own label?
CVW: Time management; as I also run 4 other of our family businesses and I am really involved in industry events and volunteer work – choosing to do the work as well as the “fun stuff”. I have been overwhelmed with the response to the label and humbled by the positive feedback. Being picked up to take part in the Sunshine Coast Fashion Festival only weeks after launching is exciting but daunting at the same time.BT: What advice would you give to budding fashion designers?
CVW: To anyone wanting to start a business in general I always have a couple of tips: 1. Just get started – you cannot plan forever, and so what if you make a mistake, it is better to at least start something. 2. Focus – you need to make the most of every second of the day, use it well and put your energy into the right projects – your time is valuable. 3. You never know who you are talking to and what opportunity that door may open, always be a humble, genuine person, this is what really counts at the end of the day.
BT: What is your background?
There is little that I have not tried that I wanted to in my life. When I was younger I wanted to see the world so decided to be an international flight attendant. Then I wanted to move to France… which I did. I worked for some top companies living in France for about 6 years. I married a French man and now share our Australia/France experience with our young sons. From the day I was born though, I have lived and breathed textiles, sewing machines and fashion – so while I have had an exciting career in many areas for lots of companies around the world, sewing and pattern making and fabrics is just something that is part of my genetic make up!
BT: Why did you decide to make Urban Prima Australia made and ethical/sustainable?
CVW:We have for the past 20+ years manufactured in Australia. Our family businesses have worked in closely with the local TAFE, QUT and even RMIT to employ some of Australia’s best sewing talent. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy, and yes people think we are a little crazy; but we love it! I think the day is coming when people are going to care more about who made their clothes – (although we are not there yet). Urban Prima is going to be at the forefront of this trend, as it is something important to us and our extended family of staff. Just because we are ethical does not mean it can’t be a show-stopping sequin red-carpet garment.BT: What inspires you when designing a new piece?
CVW: Will it make me feel like I am the most desirable female in the room, an elegant, stunning piece that will stay in my wardrobe collection forever? We are not producing fast fashion – so I want a piece that you can mix and match (which is why so many of the evening garments I have broken into a maxi and a top – so you can pull them apart and wear them to more than one event). Urban Prima is more than just a label, it is a state of being – it is about empowering women to feel beautiful in unique pieces that will turn heads when you enter the room. Our tag line is “Awaken the Star” I want women to wear an Urban Prima garment and feel like a star.
BT: What is your favourite item from the current collection?
CVW: So hard, as I feel like there is so much of me in each one. I love the Sparkle Droplet range – it is an exquisite sequin mesh that is lightweight and yet catches the light in every direction when you enter a room.
BT: Can you tell us 5 interesting things about yourself…
CVW: 1. I am fluent in French and have a dual passports. 2. I opened a dance school in Sri Lanka and still fund this for underprivileged children. 3. I love painting and have a house filled of my artwork. 4. I have been passionate about the fashion industry in Qld and had lunch with Edwina McCann from (editor in chief at Vogue and chair of the Australian Fashion Chamber) about having more influence in Qld for young designers in our industry (watch this space!). 5. I worked in BRAVE when I was 17 years old (Wayne Cooper) and still to this day wear one of the tops I purchased as a staff member.Do you know someone who we should feature in our Spotlight On series? We’d love to chat – [email protected]