It’s a funny thing when you meet someone in the creative industry who you just click with. The lovely Petra, mastermind and designer behind Perth fashion label AVA is one of those people. She’s bubbly, vivacious and full of beans with design and styling skills to boot, and like myself knows that fashion has to be versatile (yet still stylish) to get you from day to night. That is AVA in a sentence.
I recently sat down with AVA’s Petra over coffee and what I loved most about the charismatic pocket rocket is how much she understands my need for a classically cut dress. As Petra puts it, the AVA girl is someone who is after timeless pieces of clothing in their wardrobe and values classic items over fast fashion. And someone who enjoys dressing up (of course)! Being lucky enough to work on a few shoots (check them out here, here and here) with Petra’s beautiful frocks, I definitely enjoyed the “dress ups” bit and felt like a princess in her figure flattering designs, but it’s not fair if I’m the only one who gets to know the woman behind the gorgeous clothes. Meet Petra!
Who is Petra in five words?
Out of the typical box.
What do you do and why?
I am a clothing designer and I design ready to wear women’s clothing. I do it because I love dressing up. From a very young age, dressing up was a way of expressing my individuality and confidence in the way that words or actions could not.
Where did the idea for AVA come from?
I learnt design and dress making from my grandma, who used to be a dressmaker in the 1950s. She passed her love of classical, elegant and timeless designs, with a nostalgic vintage feel, which I then mix with modern elements for the women of today.
Tell us about the design process?
I usually design for season to season and because I just love creating I tend to release four collections seasonally in Australia each year. My design process can be described as ‘ad hoc.’ Because I am self taught, I tend to let my process run freely.
When the ideas come, I draw them first, and when I am happy with them, I embellish the colours and prints for each design. I then work with my pattern maker in Jakarta to create the prototype before they are then handed over for a small production run by a group of three other ladies in Jakarta. These ladies are the heroine’s of every design. When I lived in Jakarta for a year to learn design from my grandma, I chose to create an ethical form of business, providing employment for single mothers or widows who needed gainful income. Behind this designer, this label, there are talented women – pattern makers, seamstresses, cutters and finishers who are the foundation of AVA clothing.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere really. From travelling, from seeing something in a movie or on TV, from something in nature that I just happen to notice. From books, pictures…so mainly from seeing things.
Sometimes I look at the fabric first and choose it because I can imagine what I can design based on the print. Other times I get inspired by a story or a series of photographs. For example at the moment my autumn collection is inspired by the photographic works of William Klein – black and white and quirky as anything.
Sometimes, I choose a theme. This happens mostly for catwalk pieces where I try to create a line of outfits that fit around one story.
How do you balance AVA and your own life?
It’s a hard task. Probably one of the biggest challenges. Sometimes I work on AVA 24/7 to a point where it is so exhausting that I have to take a complete break because my heart or passion isn’t in it anymore. So what this journey has made me discover is that living modestly, having enough is actually enough. I make sure that I value my friends, family and life and I keep my designs business/operations big enough to live off, big enough to have a creative outlet and not lose touch with the customers and people who have supported me from day dot, big enough to fit in travel, new adventures, and living really.
Who are your style icons?
Audrey Hepburn is a definite, not just because of her simple and elegant style but because she is also an inspirational lady who gave to others too. I also love the styles of Princess Mary of Denmark and Michelle Obama – they again are so classical and feminine, yet strong. I’ve recently also discovered, Isabella Albonico, an Italian actress born in the late 1930s.
What’s your favourite thing about the Perth creative scene?
I love the opportunities available through the Perth creative scene. My designs got their start through the Perth Upmarket and through there I met others in the scene who have become close friends, mentors, confidantes. We share ideas, give opinions, support our endeavours, celebrate successes. This is what I love about the creative scene here – the support, the artistic inspirations, the community.
Where is your favourite place to shop in Perth?
Angrove Street Collective in North Perth, there’s something for everyone!
What is coming up for you in the near future?
The Department of Culture and the Arts, through the Fashion Design grant provided me with support to go to three trade fairs in Asia to expand AVA’s presence and brand there. So AVA is off to exhibit at Hong Kong Fashion Week Spring/Summer in July and then Malaysia Fashion Week in October. After that watch out for release of our big Spring/Summer numbers in September in Australia and New Zealand.
Petra has a pile of brand new stock online now including the most darling peplum jacket. Get in quick, or you might miss out!
What did you want to be when you grew up?