Slobodanka Graham


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How to be an awesome royal rock star

How to be an awesome royal rock star

A royal rock star

Royalty + rock = glamour for all seasons! I chatted to Vicky Kidd-Gallichan, Rockstars and Royalty designer about her unique clothes.  Listen to the Planepack radio interview or read this transcript to discover exceptional couture in Canberra.

Vicky of Rockstars and Royalty

Vicky of Rockstars and Royalty

Slobodanka: Good morning listeners and readers, I'm sitting here on a beautiful Canberra morning in the house and studio of Vicky, who is the owner of Rockstars and Royalty, so welcome Vicky.

Vicky: Hi. Thanks for inviting me to be a part of this.

Slobodanka: It's wonderful. You've got an online clothing business called Rockstars and Royalty.

Vicky: I do.

Slobodanka: It's a great name.

Vicky: Thank you.

Slobodanka: Can you tell us a little bit more about the business?

Vicky: I've been a designer for twenty years now, nearly, and during that time I've been designing one off couture gowns for my clients. That's where my name comes from, because I do very elaborate dresses, so the royalty part is my big tulle gowns, my big princess royalty gowns, and the rockstar part is my more sort of out there. I've done a lot of black wedding dresses and red wedding dresses and really over the top stuff. I love embellishments and crystals.

I've reached the point where I've decided to take the brand online, and I'm bringing a little bit of the couture experience to online shopping. Within each design on the website, you can go and you can choose different elements within it, so you can choose different lengths and colours  and fabrics and embellishments within each dress or skirt or corset, and the sort of couture fit part is that you can mix and match sizing at the bust, waist, and hip.

From all my years making one off gowns for clients, I know that there's so many women out there who do not fit into standard sizing, so this is a way to get a better fit for people who aren't a standard size. If you're a size fourteen bust and twelve waist, you can order a dress that's going to fit you.

My long time goals are to really grow the brand, to add more designs, and my dream is to do away with sizing altogether. Everyone will order just your size, it doesn't matter what size you are, what height you are, what body type you are, and my dream is to link body scanning and pattern making, so you'll be able to design a dress and order it exactly to all of your measurements. I don't believe in splitting things into plus size or anything like that, I think everyone's fabulous, should be able to wear what they want to wear, so my dream is for you to be able to go onto the Rockstars and Royalty website, design the dress of your dreams, and order it in your size.

Slobodanka: It sounds like a dream, that's wonderful. That's really really good.

Vicky: This is step one. There's a long way to go, but I'm getting there.

Slobodanka: You'll get there. I'm sure you will.

Vicky: Exciting times.

Slobodanka: It's beautiful. I love the mix of technology and design, but I also like the fairytale princess aspect of your clothes.

Vicky: Thank you.

Slobodanka: What does that do for the buyer of your clothes?

Vicky: It makes my customers feel fabulous. Again, working with couture clients for a long time, I've had a lot of girls come in who feel like they're not good enough to wear a dress. They feel like they're the wrong shape, because we're being fed these ridiculous standards by the fashion industry and the media all the time. They come in and go "Oh, I'm too big to wear that, I'm too short to do that."

Vicky shows off one of her signature dresses.

And then you make them this dress, and you put it on, and you see them, and they stand up tall, and they just go "I feel amazing." And that confidence then lasts long after they've taken the dress off, and they realise that they are beautiful. And everyone is beautiful. Everyone ... I believe everyone is fabulous, and should be able to wear what they want to wear.

And just putting someone in something that's made for them that fits them properly in a shape and a colour that they love, that they've had input into, it's just a huge confidence building moment for everyone, and I could see it change in their stance, in their eyes, and in their smile as well. And that's what makes it worth it for me.

Slobodanka: You can see it in the photos that I've seen of people wearing your wedding dresses. It certainly shows, that confidence and that sense of self comes through. You mentioned your background and how you grew out of that kind of traditional business, but what was it that really inspired you to design this particular kind of fashion?

Vicky: It's my love of anything over the top. You can't see me, but there's going to be pictures, isn't there? I've got a hot pink mohawk at the moment, I'm covered in tattoos, I learnt to sew because I didn't want to wear what everyone else is wearing, I've always, right from when I was pre-teen, maybe eleven, twelve years old, I wanted to wear what I wanted to wear. My mom taught me to sew so I could make things. Used to op shop back then and upcycle things to make it my own. I know there's a lot of people that ring their friends and go "What are you wearing?" So they make sure they all wear the same things. I ring my friends and go "What are you wearing?" So I can make sure I don't wear the same thing.

I'm not afraid to experiment, and my designs are very much a reflection of my style, and they want you to encourage other people to have the confidence to be themselves. A lot of the time people are dressing like everyone else, because they don't have the confidence to stand out, even though they'd really love to give it a go. I'm hoping to inspire people with the confidence to wear what they want to wear, not what they're being told to wear by trends, and by the big fast fashion brands. I want people to find their own style, find themselves, and it's a big turning point to your confidence when you do find yourself.

Slobodanka: It certainly is.

Vicky: When you find your size, you put on something that you really love that makes you feel fabulous. You're like "I can take on the world today!"

Slobodanka: I love it. When I met you recently at the Canberra Wise Women event, you had some charming little bags on display. Can you tell us a little bit more about those?

Vicky: Yes. I've just launched a range of bags and purses, so for me, the environmental impact of the fashion industry, the negative effect that a lot of fashion brands are having on the planet is just heartbreaking, and the fashion industry - depending on what source you ... it was either the second or the third, biggest polluting industry in the world, after oil. Oil's the first. The waste we're producing, it's unsustainable to keep making fashion like we're making it. To keep buying fast fashion. We've gone into this cycle of buying something and only wearing it once because it's cheap, or it's out of trend, and then it ends up in the op shops are inundated with more clothes than they can deal with, or that they can sell.

For me, I believe we need to really start shopping differently. So I think some of the responsibility lies with the consumer, and their purchasing choices, so they've got to decide to buy things that are coming from a more ethical background. And some of it lies with the manufacturer. So for me, I'm already manufacturing on demand, so I don't have a lot of stock lying around waiting to be sold, hoping that someone wants the green in a size ten.

So the bags, a new collection I've launched to use up my scrap fabric. So I've got bags of sequin and satin I've got sat around the studio, which I didn't want to throw away, because I can't just put a bag in the bin and send it to landfill. So this is my way to use up the scraps that are too small to use. Of course the panels are scrap panels, and I'm making pretty little embellished bags.

Slobodanka: They're absolutely delightful looking. I recommend them.

Rockstars and Royalty bags

Rockstars and Royalty bags

Vicky: I'm also making denim as well, so I'm using jeans that are too worn or too stained or damaged to be sold through an op shop, I'm turning them into denim bags as well, so I've incorporated denim into the collection.

Slobodanka: I wanted to ask you about that as well, because I'm sure our listeners are wondering what does sort of fairytale fashion have to do with light travel, but it's really, I'm interested in just between more your philosophy of reusing and repurposing materials and fabric and content in order to help us preserve the environment.

Vicky: For me, one of the important things that ... one of my important messages about shipping more sustainably and having a more sustainable wardrobe is to look at what you already own. So so many times you go out and you buy something when you've got something similar already in your wardrobe at home, so I try to encourage people to go back to their wardrobe, look at what they've got, and think about wearing things in different ways. This is where it really links in with your message of packing lightly.

I think we get into the habit of making a uniform of our clothes, so we always wear that top with that skirt, or that blouse with those jeans. And we can mix and match those and have a whole new look. And I think especially when you're travelling, and in every day life as well, we need to look at what we already own, and think about different ways to put it. We can take one belt and put it around a dress and make that dress look different, but we can wear that belt with the jeans, or with the trousers. It's really important to build a capsule wardrobe that you can mix and match and re-wear.

Vicky shows us a separates set

My other key message is to buy just a few really good quality pieces. Those pieces that you love that are your style that you will wear over and over again. They're going to be more expensive ...

Slobodanka: Buy well.

Vicky: Buy well and buy less. And if you know you're going to wear that beautiful coat for years to come, or that corset, it's going to go under or over everything, spend more money on it. By the time you've bought so much of this cheap fast fashion, it's soon adds up, and you might as well have bought one good piece.

Slobodanka: I definitely believe in that.

Vicky: That will then help you in your packing, if you know that "Oh, I can take this one blouse, but it will go with these jeans, this skirt, I can add a scarf, I can add a jacket and rewear this blouse in five, six different ways while I'm away."

Slobodanka: Totally. I know that you actually are going away. And are you travelling light?

Vicky: I am going to see my family in France for Christmas, so I will be travelling light in terms of clothes, but not in terms of all the presents I'm taking with me. So I think three quarters of my case is filled up with gifts that I'm taking over, but that means that I am having to really think about the clothing that I'm taking. And I'm heading from an Australian summer to a French winter, and then we're stopping over in Hong Kong on the way back as well, so I've got, I'm trying to pick outfits that I can layer for winter, and then wear them unlayered the other way. Unlayered clothes.

Slobodanka: In the warmer clothes.

Vicky: The gifts, they're making me think very carefully about what I can take, and what I can carry on. I will be taking checked in luggage, because there is ...

Slobodanka: Gifts? So many gifts to take.

Vicky: Yes. But yeah, beyond that, I'm having to really think about dresses I can put long sleeved t-shirts under that I can then wear without the t-shirts when we're in Hong Kong. Dresses that I can put leggings or tights underneath and wear with boots while we're in France, and then I can take ...

Slobodanka: The boots and the tights off, and just with the dress.

Vicky: Yeah. And take a pair of ballet flats and no tights under it for Hong Kong as well.

Slobodanka: Perfect. One can do it.

Vicky: I've been op shopping for a couple of nice big cardigans to take. I've got a couple of nice chunky knits to put over things as well. Again, just that layering.

Slobodanka: I wanted to ask you about if you were to travel with one of your skirts or dresses, which are quite ornate, how would one pack that?

Vicky: I've made a lot of dresses over the years for clients who got married overseas, so they have had to pack wedding dresses. So I make sure my clients tell me this upfront when we start the design process. We choose fabrics that aren't going to crumple, so sort of silk organza that's going to come out looking like a screwed up tissue paper at the other end. So we take that into account during the design process.

And then some airlines are really helpful, and will let you hang a gown cover on the plane. Some are not so helpful.

Slobodanka: Is a gown cover like a suit bag?

Vicky: Like a suit bag, yeah. But a bit bigger, normally. I do try to encourage people to take it in hand luggage. You don't need the stress of worrying about whether it's going to come out the other end when you arrive at your destination. It's amazing some of the things we've managed to get into a piece of hand luggage. I've got a client who just got married in Las Vegas, and we managed to fit, she had a huge hooped dress, and we managed to get the hoop, the skirt, the overskirt, the corset all into hand luggage. And it arrived there, and she got married, and they actually went travelling around America for a few weeks after for their honeymoon, and she posted it back. So she managed to get it squeezed back into a little box and then post it back.

Slobodanka: I would've loved to have seen that.

Vicky: Fantastic. I've done a lot of dresses for girls who have taken them all over the world for weddings, and it's definitely something ... with my online collection, the sequin fabric pack is heavy, but it does pack up really well, because it doesn't crease. At the other end, the sequin dresses are really good to transport.

Slobodanka: To continue with the travelling, what do you take in your carry-on bag, or things that you actually take with you on the plane? That's not much to do with Rockstars and Royalty, but in terms of practicalities.

Vicky: I take my electronics. I always take my camera and my laptop on with me, because I don't like to put them in the hold, just because I worry about losing them. Plus, I can't sleep on planes, so I take my laptop so I can work on something. So for this trip, I've been filming YouTube videos, and then I'm going to do some editing on the plane.

Slobodanka: Nice thing to do.

Vicky: So I'll have my laptop, my headphones, my camera, and my Kindle so I can read as well. A bit of makeup, and some skin products, just to refresh during that there ...

Slobodanka: To refresh, keep you hydrated. Yes.

Vicky: Toothbrush, toothpaste. Just the basic hygiene things to keep me refreshed over a flight.

Slobodanka: Fourteen hours across the distance.

Vicky: And the rest. When we leave here, we're on the coach at five am from Canberra, fly out from Sydney at midday. Then we get to France at 5:30 am Christmas Eve.

Slobodanka: Christmas Eve. How lovely to be there.

Vicky: Then we have to pick up a car and drive. So it's a really long journey. And snacks as well. This is the first time I've travelled since I've been vegan, so I'm a little dubious about what food I might get on the aeroplane.

Slobodanka:  I don't think that you're going to get much that you're going to be able to eat. You'd have to take your own supply.

Vicky: I will be packing a lot of snacks to keep me going for this whole journey.

Slobodanka: What sorts of snacks will you take with you?

Vicky: Lots of nuts and nut bars, and fruit. I guess going out of Australia, that's okay. Coming back in it's not. But leaving is fine.

Slobodanka: You'll have eaten it all on the way there, and you'll have to bring in something French on the way back.

Vicky: Yeah, definitely. And we're stopping in ... I think we have five hours in Shanghai airport.

Slobodanka: That'll be interesting. Pick up some things there.

Vicky:  Might be able to get something nice on the way over as well. We'll have a little break there. I think it's nice to have that sort of length of break to really give you a chance to get up and walk around and refresh and have some food and feel relaxed before getting on the next flight.

Slobodanka: Human again.

Vicky: I've been on a flight going to Europe before, we've had an hour, hour and a half layover, and it's just manic. There's the worry that if you're late, you're going to miss your next flight, so ...

Slobodanka: Your baggage gets left behind somewhere.

Vicky: This way takes the stress out of it. I think five hours is a good time. It's not too long, not too short.

Slobodanka: No. You can do things, you can go and change somewhere.

Vicky: Exactly.

Slobodanka: Just getting back to your business, what for you has been the most challenging aspect of running your own business?

Vicky: Just trying to do everything myself. I'm a single person doing everything at the moment, and so time management is really important, so I'm really careful with how I spend my time and how I divide up my time to make sure I get the most out of it, but I still work very very long hours. It can be very tiring. I know reaching the end of the year now, it's got the end today. 15th of December, I am exhausted. I've reached that point where I'm really ready for a break, so just that ...

Vicky shows how she refashions a velvet suit - and her wonderful 1950s Singer sewing machine.

Slobodanka: Managing the time.

Vicky: Managing the time, and being responsible for everything is, I find that really hard at times. I sometimes wish I had a business partner to bounce ideas off, or just to take some of the responsibility. But at the same time, I love doing all of mine, because it gives me control.

Slobodanka: That's right. It gives you pleasure to do it yourself, doesn't it?

Vicky: Definitely.

Slobodanka: You can take charge and be responsible for your own successes, and your failures. Hopefully there aren't too many of those.

Vicky: Exactly. And I know that when I'm working, I'm working for something for me. It makes it a lot easier when you're there till midnight for the fourth night in a row sewing.

Slobodanka: You're not doing it for someone else, no.

Vicky: Exactly.

Slobodanka: Finally, what advice do you have for women who are keen to enter the fashion business?

Vicky: You need to be passionate. It needs to be something that is in your blood, that is your life force, because it's a horribly hard industry. It needs to be something that you are really passionate about. You need to be strong, you need to fight for what you want. And enter it with morals. It's hard to keep those morals intact, because when you need to make money, sometimes you think "Oh, maybe it would be easier just to buy some cheap stuff from China and sell it and make some money." But keep your morals and your ethics intact as you do it, and it will take you better in the long run.

Slobodanka: Vicky, it's been lovely talking to you. I'm looking forward to going to your studio now to have a look at some of your clothes.

Vicky: Fantastic, thank you.

Slobodanka: Thank you very much for your time, bon voyage. I hope you enjoy France.

Vicky: Merci.

Slobodanka: Thanks again.

Vicky: Thank you.

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About the author

Slobodanka showing some Planepack poise

Slobodanka showing some Planepack poise

I'm Slobodanka Graham, extreme light traveller, content entrepreneur, and fashionista who loves a bit of glamour.

Showing some poise back in the day, pictured at Camps Bay Beach, 1970.


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