As for many people, the pandemic was a turning point for Victoria Bliss. She had spent the past four years designing for a global fast-fashion womenswear brand and was feeling burnt out and fed up with the unsustainable model so much of her industry was built around.

“[During lockdown] I felt an enormous shift in my attitude, I fell in love with fashion again,” says the Tasmanian-born, Melbourne-based designer. “I had this energy or driving force I hadn’t had in quite a while.”

And so she ramped up planning for the launch of her eponymous label, Victoria Bliss. It had been in the works for about five years – since Bliss first decided she wanted a return to slow-paced, considered design, working with local creators and makers to build a sense of community.

But before her first collection even launched, Bliss’s garments were spotted on 2021 Australian of the Year, Grace Tame – an Australian activist and advocate for survivors of sexual assault – who Bliss says was a significant inspiration for her debut Intrepidity collection.

“I had followed Grace’s story for quite some time and found myself looking back to her as a creative muse while working on the collection. As part of my process, I think about what kind of woman I see my clothes on – what she stands for, what she does – it always came back to Grace and other amazing women like her,” Bliss says.

“I contacted her [earlier in January] praising the work she had done and said if she ever had an event, I would be honoured to dress her. Turns out she had 22 events coming up that month.”

Bliss met with Tame when she was home in Tasmania, Tame picking out her favourite pieces in the collection. Bliss then worked with her patternmaker to get the pieces in Tame’s measurements. “It was such a tight turnaround I had to sew the samples myself … I went out to the airport to give them to her on her stopover to Canberra. It was a really special moment seeing her in the outfit, and then an extremely emotional moment seeing her later win Australian of the Year. I felt a lot of pride,” Bliss says.

The designer hopes to awaken consumers to the value of quality, locally made pieces by combining premium design and classic construction with an ethos of conscious sustainability and ethical production. Rather than focusing on individual statements, her collections are created with an entire look in mind – meaning each garment can be worn with the others, seamlessly working into the wearers’ wardrobe. Designs are produced in limited-edition, seasonless runs with natural fibres such as silk, cotton, linen and hemp, as well as deadstock fabric where possible.

“That said, in the case of the swimwear, where I needed to use a synthetic, I sourced fabric created with Econyl yarn, which is a regenerated yarn produced from old fishing nets and ocean waste,” Bliss says.

All garments are produced in Melbourne and Sydney, with hopes to move production to Tasmania once the label is further established. “The main focus has always been manufacturing within Australian shores, that was never a negotiable for me,” Bliss says. “I think after seeing and personally feeling the effects of Covid-19 on the industry, it’s so important, now more than ever, to support the skilled artisans and makers within our community – buy local and educate consumers on the value of Australian-made.”

Fittingly, Tame wore the She Is Powerful shirt dress, a 100 per cent cotton longline shirt with exaggerated sleeve, beneath the She is Adventurous mini, a ’90s-era strapless dress with open back and boning throughout the bodice.

The 13-piece capsule collection also includes a linen wraparound, belted dress inspired by a vintage piece Bliss found in her grandmother’s wardrobe. The cross-back swimsuit has the same belt detail. And there’s a linen trucker jacket, based on Bliss’ favourite old denim jacket, with hammered gold buttons.

Before launching her label, Bliss showed collections as a graduate designer in Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, Melbourne Fashion Festival, Melbourne Fashion Week, Telstra Perth Fashion Festival and overseas in New Zealand and China. In 2016 she was named as one of the top graduate designers in Australia by the Australian Fashion Foundation after graduating from RMIT’s Bachelor of Fashion (design) (honours).