Defying the trend to move online, Brunswick-based label Kuwaii decided to set up a store in the northern suburb. For city dwellers, the budding label remains a much-loved favourite on the racks at Alice Euphemia. Designer Kristy Barber talks us through her latest collection.

Jean Kemshal-Bell: Can you tell me about the inspiration behind your summer collection?

Kristy Barber: It’s called Magic Eye. We were looking a bit at the 90s, not in a really obvious early 90s kind of way, more about minimalism and other interesting fashion movements that were going on then. We then used another reference from the 90s – magic eyes. We played with the idea of optical illusions, like dresses that look like they’re two-layered but they’re only one.

JKB: What are some of the fabrics you have used?

KB: We have our own silk print, which is 100 per cent silk, and we have printed on cotton canvas as well. We’re also using some more modern blends of viscose and acetate and rayons, which we try and use as well because we are conscience of a [lower] price point for customers.

JKB: What would you say is a feature that runs throughout your collections?

KB: All of our clothing has an element of some kind of unexpected, interesting detail.

JKB: Why do you think having a retail space is important? What does it offer customers?

KB: I don’t think online will ever take over from physical retailers, especially at this kind of market level. Being stocked in a store, or having your own store, offers a customer a whole, encompassing idea of the brand and an experience that they just can’t get online. When you’re talking about things that have a lot of detail and really beautiful fabrics, they just never come across online, so it’s really important for our customers to be able to touch the clothes and see that they fit.

JKB: As a designer, how is having a retail space helpful?

KB: It’s been an amazing learning experience – more than I ever thought it would be actually. We opened our [Brunswick] store 18 months ago and at the beginning I was working there a lot. My mind was opened to what women actually want and I’ve been able to apply that to my aesthetic and how I design to make things that are really applicable to women’s body shapes.

JKB: What is one of your favourite pieces from the collection?

KB: I love the ‘stereogram’ pieces. They’ve got a halter-neck with a string-tie, which is quite 90s, but we have built a sleeve onto it.

JKB: Are there any trends that you think will be cropping up this coming season?

KB: We keep a vague eye on trends but always do something that is quite unique. What we are hoping, and what we are offering, are really bright pastels, and then there’s the 90s influence.

JKB: What are some of your favourite Melbourne stores?

KB: I love Marais. When I was studying fashion I would go in there a lot – I found them really inspiring. I also love Dagmar Rousset on Gertrude Street for their socks and Cecilia Fox in Brunswick, which is a florist.

kuwaii.com.au

This interview is part of our MSFW Designer Retail Series, where we visit Melbourne designers at their retailers in conjunction with City of Melbourne’s Melbourne Spring Fashion Week which runs from August 31 to September 8 2013.