Nicholas Van Messner, one half of LIFEwithBIRD, took some time out before fashion week to talk us through their 90s-inspired summer range – just don’t expect a whole lot of grunge.

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

Nicholas Van Messner: Spring is a really modern take on that Corrine Day vision of the 90s. We didn’t want to delve back in to total grunge but we really wanted to have a sense and a feeling of that vision, which we’ve done through layering. We have kept it really clean and understated, but definitely harking back to that era.

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

NVM: We’ve used a lot of really delicate fabrics – so a lot of silks, georgettes and chiffons – to create that layering effect. If anything, that is probably the grungy element, which can get a bit busy when you have all that layering… We’ve also started to get a bit of structure into the collections, so we’ve been using jacquards and some really nice embossed leopard materials, as well as some great leathers.

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

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NVM: We really go for an everyday cool aesthetic. Something that is really flexible – we really do start with function.

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

NVM: I think there’s still that element of tangibility. I think, as well, for a product that is a little bit directional and contemporary, you just can’t beat a hands-on approach. We really pride ourselves on our service and our girls are fantastic – we spend a lot of time with them to make sure that our in store experience is unbeatable.

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

NVM: We wholesaled for so long and I really wish we’d got into retail sooner. It’s really given Bridget [McCall] and I a sense of confidence by being able to see so quickly what our customers actually want and what they buy into. We’ve found that what they love is not necessarily what your typical buyer might get for their shop. It’s just a really fantastic way to test things and see what works in your market.

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

NVM: We’ve done this amazing bubble-leather jacket. It’s just a really cool cobalt blue play on a biker jacket.

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

NVM: I think there’s a huge graphic element coming in – black and white is really key.

JKB: What are some of your favourite Melbourne stores?

NVM: We’ve been really busy D.I.Y.-ing our house so we’ve been really into all the furniture stores, in particular Grandfathers Axe on High Street [Northcote].

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