Sometimes, between collating emails and being hypnotised by Twitter, I gaze out my window and dream about packing a bag, running away and wandering the world on an indefinite road/air/sea trip. My own sort of Eat, Pray, Love journey except without whatever it was Julia Roberts got up to in the movie (I never did watch it). I'd hope follow a more creative path, sourcing inspiration and buying those unique pieces that catch my eye. I never thought such a dream would be possible, until I came across Kirsty Barros, a creative spirit that spends her days wandering the world, collecting treasures like a bowerbird. Literally 'living the dream', as they say.
Once upon a time Barros was living in Melbourne, working in design for leading labels such as Alice McCall, Mimco and Insight – dream jobs in themselves. But the pull to break free from studio walls became too much to handle for Barros, who eventually made the brave decision to set off to live a more exotic and colourful life in Chile.
“Most of my family live in Santiago so I came here to learn the lingo and get to know them,” she says. “I moved to this grimy old coastal city called Valparaiso. It's so inspiring here and a world away from Melbourne life.”
But the relocation didn't throw caution to the wind entirely. Everyone needs to work for the pesos eventually, and instead of working behind a bar or waiting tables as most travellers do, Barros cleverly worked out a way to combine her two passions – travelling and vintage fashion.
“I was leaving for an indefinite trip to South America and needed to customise a career that would earn me enough pesos to maintain my gypsy lifestyle and redirect my unhealthy personal vintage obsession into a more productive outlet,” laughs Barros.
That productive outlet quickly gained the name Makers of Belief, a boutique vintage sourcing agency that curates ranges for prominent Australian fashion retailers including Arabella Ramsay, Down Yonder and Sportsgirl, as well as its own in-house collections.
Since August 2010 Barros has be scouring all around America, discovering favourite haunts in San Cristobal, Mexico and Pasadena, Los Angeles. Each piece she purchases is worked effortlessly into a timely collection. The result is more high-end fashion label than a mere step above the Savers rack. And with innovative look books and photo shoots released regularly, it's clear Barros's fashion background and methodical approach lends itself to Makers of Belief's sleek allure.
“I work in much the same way as I would to develop a range. I research the current market, high fashion trends, popular culture and compile any inspiration that excites me for the coming season. Once I have an overflowing folder of references, I cut and paste mood boards with around two to three key themes, and then the fun part,” she quips, “I shop!”
The latest collection from Makers of Belief cleverly combines this summer's love affair with sportswear and all things tropical. Neon brights, brave prints and long silhouettes may seem unpromising on dingy racks, but with Barros' keen eye, along with some professional styling, the potential of each piece quickly becomes clear.
But it's not all tiki shirts, pretty dresses and styling sessions. Like most good things, they always have to come to an end, and that white suede fringed jacket Barros discovered, inevitably has to go to a good home.
“I think the trick is to not ever wear them,” confesses Barros, who does admit to keeping a few prized gems to herself, particularly accessories. She confesses to having a weakness for hats, listing a top hat, bowler and forties straw hat amongst her most notable finds. “I also found the most exquisite Victorian cotton lace maxi dress in San Fran on a recent visit,” she says. “I'm hoping someone will make it their wedding frock!”
So while she waits for a bride and I continue to daydream in front of my window, Barros will keep busy while doing what she loves: travelling, shopping and breathing new life into the old. She recently styled a shoot for Foam Magazine using many of her vintage treasures, due out in September.
“I'm also making a video ad on Sunday with two models here in Valparaiso. It's going to be a bit ethereal, a bit eerie,” she muses. “And I'm heading to LA again at the end of September to do more sourcing.”
Ah, a dreamer's work is never done.