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Designer inspired by blaze at family home

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Fashion forward: a design by Juliana Gibbons (Photograph supplied)

Juliana Gibbons and her family were left traumatised when a fire broke out in their Devonshire home last February.

While no one was harmed, the Palm Grove property sustained significant smoke and heat damage, resulting in the loss of their beloved Labrador, Abby.

She is now channelling that experience into her latest womenswear collection.

“It was really about trying to take something that was shocking and catastrophic and trying to find beauty in it,” she told Lifestyle.

“That was the only way I was going to be able to deal with it and confront it and move on from it.”

Adept at working in textile design and fabric treatments, she says she typically finds inspiration from what is right in front of her eyes.

“In fact, I’m using the house, which is still a construction site,” she said. “Luckily my aesthetic has a lot to do with that broken down, smoky, fired-up look.”

The 24-year-old lives and works in New York City for Icelandic fashion company Lasta Shop and has taken time out to focus on her own collection.

She will be taking part in the Bermuda Fashion Festival for a third time and she is departing from her signature fluidity to try something more tailored.

She forecasts a long month of sewing ahead.

Also an enthusiastic photographer, said she rarely offered the job to another snapper.

“We’ll call it half-creativity and half-control freak,” she laughed. “In designing, I work a lot with photography and manipulation via Photoshop just to change light and colours and find shapes that I [might] have seen in different light.”

Living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has given her a significant advantage in the BFF mentorship programme.

“My work doesn’t digitise very well,” she said. “I need people to see my actual sketchbook and see the process and see the fabric swatches, other than that it’s very hard to condense into a digital presentation, so I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to meet with them in person.

“My mentor this time is Julia Gall, the senior fashion editor at Interview Magazine, and she is so amazingly enthusiastic.

“She’s so encouraging and so excited to help. She’s not participating for any other reason than she just wants to engage and really help to bolster a young designer.

“In previous years my mentors have really been much more focused on the business side of the industry, which is incredibly important, but I am through and through a designer — it’s hard for my mind to work that way — so having their input in that context has been absolutely invaluable. A lot of designers get lost in their artistic world, so it’s really important to be reminded of that.”

Her childhood room remained unharmed in the fire, a blessing that was bittersweet.

The blaze broke out in “the library”.

“It wasn’t really a library,” she explained. “It was sort of my dad’s little corner.

“I felt even worse because I’d been out for six years. All of the stuff that I needed came with me to New York, so I so wish it had been my room because it would have been so much less impactful.

“In life you can’t know what’s going to happen — there’s no sense in sitting around wondering about it, you have to try and make something from it and I feel like this is how I deal with the world, through fashion, and that’s the only way I would have been able to understand and move past that.”

Beauty from tragedy: Juliana Gibbons is channelling the experience of a home fire by using the experience to create a clothing collection (Photograph supplied)
Creative process: a page from Juliana Gibbons’s sketchbook (Photograph supplied)
Textile designs: Juliana Gibbons enjoys working with fabric treatments (Photograph supplied)
Burnt-out shell: Juliana Gibbons’s family home in Devonshire was badly damaged by a fire (Photograph supplied)
Bright future: designer Juliana Gibbons, 24, now lives in Brooklyn but is showing some of her work at the Bermuda Fashion Festival (Photograph supplied)
Rocking the runway: a model wearing a gown by Juliana Gibbons during a show in 2013 (File photograph)
In style: a model wearing a gown by Juliana Gibbons during a show in 2013 (File photograph)