S23 Tanzania: Inside the collection with búl designer Virginia Martin.


Why is Tanzania the inspiration behind this collection?

I was met with an opportunity to travel to Tanzania and stay for over a month. Living at a friend’s house for an extended time away from my home in Melbourne, Australia I was able to immerse myself completely into the day-to-day life of this East African country. It was my first time in Africa and I had wanted to go for many years as my Dad had travelled there a lot and he always came back with incredible stories. Staying in a little town called ‘Jambiani’, located on the island of Zanzibar, I was inspired by a myriad of things, from the vibrant colours, landscape and people to the slow-paced rhythm, and simplified way of life. With an aligned “less is more” ethos it was an organic decision to create a collection inspired by this intriguing destination that celebrates the vast and varied landscape, rich colour palettes and vibrant culture from the Serengeti plains to Kilimanjaro’s snow-capped peaks.

What story are you trying to tell?

With every season telling a different travelled story, this collection forms a lively tale of intrepid confidence, and a vibrant beauty steeped in natural fundamentals of slowed-living and a celebration of life.

What styles can we expect to see?

Designing for the times, I have created pieces that balance into the every day and also translate into a joyous celebration of life. Easy to wear pieces such as foundational basics in soft cottons and casual day dresses in lightweight blends travel with ease into the warmer months. There are many designed-to-pair sets from safari borrowed suiting to matching print separates all in breathable natural fabrications true to the label. You’ll also find elements of surprise through unconventional tailoring, unexpected cutouts and newly explored finishings such as illustrative embroidery that panels down tops, skirts, pants and dresses. There is a varied mix of day-to-evening wear, including hero pieces like fitted slips in slinky fabrics that feel like butter against the skin. Footwear and accessories have been designed in colour palettes that pair back to the collection. We’ve explored new materials this season with flatform sandals that mix neoprene and webbing, midis with inset heels and puffy straps and also accessories from a printed silk scarf to safari-style bucket hats that match back to outerwear, skirts and pants.

How did you create the colour palette?

The Tanzanian colour palette was rich, dramatic, earthy and vibrant. I took guidance from the Serengeti desert plains to the reef of the Zanzibar Archipelago. Lots of creamy neutrals and caramels mixing with bright riverine greens, African daisy pinks and blues that reflect the coastline waters and snow-capped peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro. Prints are inspired by the incredible aquaculture of the women seaweed farmers of Tanzania. The colour palette is a contrasting story compared to our W22 collection, inspired by Gothenburg, Sweden where it was dominated by a lot of deeper browns and darker subdued tones. S23 is a celebration of vibrancy.

What fabrications can be found throughout S23?

Breathable natural fibres and considered blends reflect the tropical Tanzanian climate. Signature Cottons and staple Linens ground the collection in a mix of weights and textures from crisp to crinkled as well as floaty fabrics of Tencel and Viscose that offer a lovely drape and airy finish.

What are your favourite design details in this collection?

I am drawn towards our new seaweed print, that was designed in-house, it is quite a playful print for spring/summer and plays tribute to the women aquaculture farmers across Tanzania that make up 70% of the farmers there. I met with a few of the farmers while in Tanzania and was inspired by them to develop this print. I learnt that seaweed farming is not only a win for the planet, but also offers sustainable economic development. It was also interesting to explore a new technique this season through illustrative embroidery. You will find this in contrasting and dyed-to-match panelling that flows down pant legs, the arms of classic shirting and dress hems across a variety of styles.

While visiting Tanzania, what do you enjoy most? 

There were so many things; especially being there for a month I was lucky enough to experience a wide range of memories. Immersing myself in the culture and the general day-to-day life was something that will stay with me forever. Meeting the beautiful people within each community from the Muslims in the township to the Rastafari and Masai on the mainland of Tanzania and all the stories and wisdom they would impart on me from the conversations on slow living and an often shared life ethos of finding joy amongst the little things in life. Alongside the daily living, I enjoyed listening to a large mix of live music, taking day trips to the many different beaches, little boat trips around the Zanzibar archipelago, visits to the markets and enjoying the local foods, listening to the beautiful languages, watching soccer games on the beach and also joining a wedding where everyone danced the night away.

What is your favoured piece of the collection and why?

The Soko Maxi Dress in our in-house design Seaweed Print. It is a sleeveless a-line dress and versatile style that can be dressed up or down, I can see myself wearing it to the beach or off to an event. It comes with a detachable belt you can tie in various ways and has a universally flattering silhouette. The fabric has a lovely softness to it too and is naturally breathable which will be welcomed especially for the soaring temperatures we get here in Australia.

And lastly, what are you looking forward to this spring/summer?

Melbourne has had quite a cold winter, and as much as I do appreciate that time of year, I am definitely looking forward to those long hot days where the nights are brighter and there’s no need for thermal layers. I have managed to surf throughout winter, which has been an experience in itself, so being able to spend more time in the water and explore the wide range of surf spots the Victorian coastline has to offer is going to be great. Heading out of town on camping trips with friends, picnics in parks and general outdoor living will be my go-to. There’s nothing quite like an Australian summer.