The Professor’s Daughter is the specialty boutique of Mariska Thynne , who as the name implies, is the daughter of an University Professor and an University Lecturer.
With a focus on small run designs with an eclectic feel Iced Vovo spoke with Mariska about her design vision:
A: That is correct, I’ve got a Degree in Visual Arts from The University of South Australia. But I didn’t actually specialise in fashion; I did Jewellery & Metal smithing as my major and Glass blowing as my minor. My interest in fashion has been a very long term passion, but I didn’t at that point think I would do it as a career – it was something that brought me lots of enjoyment – reading fashion magazines, talking about fashion with my family and friends, styling outfits, op-shopping for great, different pieces and the like. But it was when I was at University I started thinking that I would explore my love of art, fashion and the world of brands through a marketing rather than directly doing the creativity myself. As a result I did a Master of Marketing as my second degree.
I graduated a few years ago and began working in Melbourne when I started missing the creative side of my life. So I got a sewing machine from my family for Christmas and started doing short courses in fashion and sewing such as Tailoring techniques, Haute Couture design, pattern-making and so on to improve my skills and it went from there.
Q: What prompted you going from a “hobby business” on the side to a more full time fashion enterprise?
A: Well, I’m still a ‘hobby business’ in lots of ways as I still have a full time ‘Real job’. I work on the label in the mornings (Facebooking and answering customers questions at 6am in the morning before work); in the evening (working on the website updates and my Etsy store updates); and then on the weekends (working on orders, creating new designs and doing Markets to promote the label). So in a sense, it is a full-on hobby, but since I just love doing it so much it doesn’t feel like a job at all. Maybe one day it will be my full-time role.
Q: Tell us a little about what your fashion influences have been?
A: This question is a little bit of a tricky. I’ve got lots of fashion influences and my tastes keep changing and evolving. The first collection was inspired by my grandmother who was an impeccable sewer who created beautifully tailored and well-styled outfits. She had an impeccable eye for detail and took pleasure in how she presented herself, even at home, coordinating absolutely everything from her shoes to her earrings down to the last detail. I really wanted to create the sense of putting together that perfect ‘ensemble’ for work.
The current collection was inspired by iconic imagery from cities around the world; almost a pop art look of the world with lots of colour, patterns and really looking at cut, scale and details. I think this current collection adds something new to my label – more variety of colours, design and separate pieces.
In regards to other fashion designers, at the moment I love Peter Pilotto, Issey Miyake and Dolce & Gabbana. All of them create a great sense of place, story and drama with their ranges but also add lots of colour and volume which I also adore. For my birthday, I got a Peter Pilotto outfit which I just love to pieces, for it is very different from anything I would design with the fluro digital prints mixed with black, but it is great to wear to work and to mix it up for the weekend.
In addition to this, I love the continuing style and glamour from Oscar De La Renta and Christian Dior, for they have such classical shapes and such feminine touches. They are truly aspirational.
Q: Your collection is described as “colourful work wear and After Five pieces” what was it about these areas that you decided to focus on?
A: I have a fascination with the bold, striking dress-up element of a woman’s wardrobe and how getting dressed in that perfect outfit can change how a women feels. I kept thinking that workwear in Australia didn’t really focus on this; it seemed more about staple pieces rather than the unique and exciting pieces for work or pieces that could create a fresh, interesting outfit. I started with the idea of colourful work wear, but after customer feedback and requests, I started looking at after five outfits as well, or pieces that took the customer from a boardroom meeting on Friday afternoon to Friday night dinner with friends – a seamless transition with the one stylish outfit. I think that this is a very interesting market segment to be in because work wear has so many options and elements. I also think it makes me reflect the styling, the lengths, and the practical elements of the pieces as well, for each piece needs to be suitable for the workplace and a corporate wardrobe. Also, Melbourne seems to be awash with an endless sea of ‘Black dresses’, so I wanted to promote and make colourful pieces that might be a bright and exciting change for the wearer.
Q: Who do you see as your target market?
A: I take into consideration a broad market when designing The Professor’s Daughter pieces. I think about women who are looking for something special and a bit different. I often say that The Professor’s Daughter was created for educated shoppers who adore well-tailored and inventively designed staple pieces that can transcend seamlessly between seasons, fashions and countries.
The wearers of The Professor’s Daughter are self-stylers who enjoy the ability to create a delightfully intriguing ensemble, and are not afraid to stand out from the crowd with a bold splash of colour.
I seem to find that I sell mostly to professional women aged 25-65 across my full size range of size 6 to size 20. So, it is quite a broad customer base, which keeps things interesting and allows for such a great range of shapes and designs.
Q: What is currently your most popular design?
A: This changes every season, but in general navy blue pieces have been very popular for the last few months. Two of the current most popular pieces are the Navy spotty dress – the spots are embroidered in my own original design (see attached) and the Navy blue swing skirt (see attached). I think that they are popular as both can be styled in lots of ways and can be teamed with lots of pieces people already have in their wardrobe.
However, I am also finding that some of the more unusual colour combinations really create interest with customers. This may be because they might not find designs like mine elsewhere. The unique blue dress with burgundy and navy piping (see attached) has been more popular than I suspected. I originally created this for one of my sisters for an event and it got a lot of positive Facebook comments, so I added it to the range.
Q: What do you love to make the most and why?
A: I love making pieces for customers whom I feel I’ve got to know; customer who have commented on pieces on my Facebook page, have interacted with me on Twitter or have dropped by one of the design markets for a chat. When they put in an order for one of the collection pieces or a custom-made piece, I really enjoy imagining them wearing it and connecting the piece to their personal style or flair. I also love it when I bump into people wearing my designs and seeing how they have added their own touches and styled it up.
At the moment I’m doing two ball dresses for two of my sisters. That is great fun as they have got involved in the creative process so by the time they wear them it will have been a very collaborative process.
Q: Can customers contact you with size adjustments or how does the sizing work?
A: Yes, they can indeed. I’ve got all my sizing on the website but am always happy to take special sizing requests. People just need to email me, send me a Facebook message or send a request via the website for different options.
I’ve been told the sizings are pretty standard for Australian women’s retail and I keep all my sizing consistent, so if one of my size 14 dress fits than all my size 14 pieces such also fit well. I also welcome customers to send in their measurements if they are not a standard size.
Q: How do you keep coming up with new patterns and what inspires your designs?
A: The designing is best part of running a fashion label. I have to stop myself bringing out more new pieces all the time and focus on keeping to the current collection. My designs are inspired by such a diverse range of things. I often think about the colour combinations or colour scheme: for example, I might want to add an orange dress to the range, so I start thinking about what shape it might be, what trim or other colour I might use, what cut might best suit this colour and it goes from there. But sometimes I think about the shape first: for example, I knew I wanted to have a few asymmetrical peter pan collars in the collection so I started to think about what fabric would suit that best and what colour range would suit.
I also have got into designing my own details and fabrics. For example, I designed an airplane print (see attached the airplane dress) and had the fabric laser cut with the pattern (took some trial and error to find a silk that worked well with this process). I’ve also been getting into embroidery design as a fabric detail or all over pattern (see attached the polka dot fabric skirt and dress as well as the yellow embroidered dress). So for these designs the pattern and technique lead the designing process.
Q: Do you work seasonally like most of the fashion industry or how do your group your collection?
A: I don’t really work seasonally as a whole, as my online store caters to all seasons and countries so I always try and have some winter pieces, autumn and spring pieces and summer pieces at all times. I like to add new pieces once in a while (more a general release of new designs) to keep the website interesting and keep customers engaged and roughly do four themed or matching pieces for my collections a year (so a few new pieces that match together or follow a design theme). I think this keeps things fresh, but it also allows a client to think about one of my pieces for a while and plan to purchase it (rather than it coming and going with the seasons).
So, if you’re in need of some colourful clothing for work or leisure pop along to The Professor’s Daughter on Etsy and browse the full range.