The Designer Interview: Nardia Robertson from Caravan & Co
Nobody appreciates the generational connections and uniqueness of vintage clothing like Nardia Robertson of Australian label Caravan & Co. From a young age, Robertson was surrounded by vintage textiles and antique adornments. Her mother and grandmother were both dressmakers by trade and instilled in her a true appreciation of fashion’s ability to reflect the intentions and joy induced emotions of a designer.
In a world that finds obsession with technology and newness, Robertson effectively maps the label’s future by looking to the past. The designer boasts an impressive collection of vintage textiles and timeless embellishments that act as a catalyst for her collections for Caravan & Co. each season.
Robertson’s clothes are inherently beautiful–they exist out of time–finding their weight in the memories that inform her use of print and silhouette. She draws on memories from her travels, art, design, film and music, yielding a mood-board of eclectic, abstract references that perfectly encapsulate the label’s spirited-boho, drawn from a globalist muse. In an increasingly saturated Australian independent designer space, Robertson’s designs have a unique sensibility that set them apart from the crowd.
Floating clouds of fabric, restrained by sashes at the waist and ties at the neck, her designs exhibit a natural ease and an unaffected cool. Luxurious silk-cottons maintain a lightness and flounce that define the free-spirited attitude of this young Australian label.
Below, in conversation with The Forme, Robertson discusses how she started in fashion, each season’s design process, and what is coming up next for Caravan & Co.
Can you tell us what inspired you to create Caravan & Co?
Over the years I have worked for many brands from high-end bridal wear to lifestyle clothing and accessories. After a move away from Melbourne to the Morning Peninsular, I felt the time was right to create something of my own. Something beautiful, and feminine that incorporates the details I love, pattern, colour and texture.
How does your design process begin each season? Where do you look for inspiration?
I draw inspiration from a range of influences, including travel, textiles and art and design. I have a collection of vintage fabrics and clothing that are often referenced within the seasonal collections. Film and music are a big part of my life and are often the impetus when I am beginning the new season.
Fine finishings and high-quality fabrics are the cornerstone of Caravan & Co’s collections–seen in the silk-rich fabrics used for the SS22 collection. Where did this affinity for selecting these design details originate for you?
I grew up surrounded by fabric and sewing. My mother and grandmother were both beautiful dressmakers and many of my clothes were handmade. My grandmother had a room full of fabrics, buttons and some wonderful vintage items. I have many happy memories of sorting and sifting through the fabrics and trims, learning to sew by my mother's side, and eventually going on to study and work in the industry.
Remaining committed to creating clothing with a “timeless aesthetic”, what are some of the golden rules you adhere to when designing each collection?
Balance is key to everything including design. It is important to continue to evolve and create a fresh and interesting perspective with every new collection, but this must be tempered with an overriding desire to create pieces that are beautiful, wearable and have a story to tell.
Who is the Caravan & Co woman?
Ultimately the “CC “woman is a combination of the many wonderful women; I have had the privilege to work and connect with over the years. These women have inspired my own journey through their strength, intelligence and individual style. These are the women I think off when I am designing my collection.
Is there a particular piece from your latest collection that you consider to be a personal favourite?
The Odetta Dress and blouse will be my go-to this summer. This shirt dress and Blouse is an easy-to-wear item, dressed up or worked back with denim. I love to be able to just throw something together and feel good in it without a lot of fussing.
What does your dream summer capsule wardrobe look like?
Dresses are my first pick for a summer wardrobe and this season will be no different. Worn casual with a flat or with a wedge sandal and of course I will include a HOLLSTAR belt to elevate the look. My working week wardrobe will consist of the Bria linen blend pant teamed with a T-shirt and sneakers. The bris linen blend jacket is a great option, adding a tailored sophisticated edge to your look without feeling too overdressed! I often wear a vest over a Tee as I love that masculine/feminine juxtaposition, layering is always a good option for adding a point of difference and it works well in Melbourne with our unpredictable weather pattern.
What’s next for Caravan & Co?
Where do I start? I want to stay small in a way that allows me to incorporate hand-finished details and some higher-end bespoke pieces offered in small quantities. Currently, I am working with small boutique manufacturers developing hand embroideries, leather accessories and textured knitwear for FW23.