Two Queensland sisters set to make their fashion show debut at this year’s historic, 10th anniversary Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane are taking on the big boys in swimwear fashion and design – and winning.
Simone Wilkins, 23, and Carly Wilkins, 30, (pictured) who split their time between their native Gold Coast and Bali, have been busily growing successful swimwear label Eau Paix Vie (EPV) since 2011.
And success has been swift; their quirky, colourful, fun and fresh swimwear label, which sells exclusively online via their website, has already caught the eye of countless A-list celebrities. Models-of-the-moment, TV personality Kendall Jenner, fellow swimwear designer Sahara Ray, new face of Seafolly Gigi Hadid and Victoria’s Secret hotbod Maud Welzen have already proudly donned EPV Swimwear designs.
Eau Paix Vie, which means “water, peace and life” in French, was thus named by the sisters because the words perfectly encapsulate what their label is all about: a fun approach to swimwear and life. And the Wilkins sisters’ signature, cheeky-cut and two-tone bottoms (pictured) have set them apart from the competitors, scoring them legions of young fashion fans and social media followers – not to mention the patronage of the aforementioned supermodels – in the process.
“We wanted to combine three simple words that represented our label, and added the French twist to capture an element of the love and inspiration we gain from travel,” says Carly, who spoke to me from the US, just prior to her getting on a plane to come home to Australia.
“Our travels inspire us a lot; we love keeping busy and exploring new places around the world and their respective people, cultures and environments. We like to keep the designs fun to reflect the carefree, happy vibe that we endeavour to represent.”
With some of the world’s hottest models proudly wearing their designs, you’d think the sisters would be fashion show veterans, but not so – they’ll be making their label debut at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane NEXT Hotel Next Gen Group Show on Wednesday, August 26 at 8.30pm.
“Seeing celebrities wear our swimwear is great, but we really take a lot from and appreciate everyday girls tagging us on their holiday pictures and the kind emails that we receive – it’s the small successes like that each day that contribute to great success,” Carly says.
“We are very excited to be taking part in MBFF as it’s our first fashion show and it’s close to our Australian base, as well as being the 10th anniversary of the event. We are thrilled to be a part of such a fun show and for people to see what we have been working on and just to experience the event.”
And given hot swimwear is a huge draw-card at the fashion festival, EPV is sure to attract plenty of attention, says Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane director Lindsay Bennett.
“It is always exciting to see next gen designers on the runway each year, as they bring fresh ideas and aesthetics,” Lindsay says. “The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane is all about supporting local fashion talent and nurturing up-and-coming designers and we are proud to give them a platform to showcase their collections. Swimwear is certainly something Queensland is renowned for so we are looking forward to seeing Eau Paix Vie Swimwear’s bright and colourful collection!
“From what we have seen so far, Eau Paix Vie offers a great range of swimwear cuts, prints and unique colour combinations – it all evokes days at the beach and amazing Queensland summers and we look forward to seeing more from them on the runway. We can see many fashion lovers snapping up their swimwear this summer.”
Prior to launching EPV, Carly had two degrees under her belt and was studying a Masters in Criminal Analysis, while Simone was working in fashion retail. And despite their lack of formal fashion training, both young women put everything on the line to launch their dream job. While EPV’s designing is done primarily in Australia, it’s made using the highest quality Italian fabrics, with the manufacturing process completed in Indonesia.
“Simone had recently returned to Australia from travelling in Europe and I had returned from living in Asia. We decided we should just take the risk and do it!” Carly says. “It did take a lot of time to refine everything – an ever-evolving and continuing process – we just started at bottom and continued to work to create the label we have today.”
And while the sisters have different roles in their business – Carly is the business brain, while Simone is the design and creative end – the sisters share a clear vision for a successful swimwear label with an office in their beloved New York City. But like any emerging business brand, they’ve suffered some highs and lows along their path to success.
“As sisters, it can sometimes be trying [working together],” Carly says. “But we get to do something we love and we can work from anywhere in the world! We are passionate about what we do and I think that shows a lot on our brand. The worst part is probably the unpredictability of it all – which designs will be popular and which may not be – translating to what sells and what doesn’t.
“We signed on with a big PR company out of the US which just didn’t work out for us the way we had anticipated. I wouldn’t say that was a big mistake, as you learn and grow from everything, and it’s all an experience.”
The sisters’ favourite fashion brands include Free People, Planet Blue, Nike and fellow Aussie label One Teaspoon. And at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane – staged at the John Reid Pavilion at the Brisbane Showgrounds from August 23-28 –they’ll have the pleasure of showing alongside other rising stars including Peony Swimwear, Kabel Apparel, Roux May and more.
And in news just in, Myer is bringing The Face of Myer, Jennifer Hawkins, to walk the runway alongside Myer Ambassador, Kris Smith, in celebration of the event’s milestone 10th anniversary. For the full program, details and bookings, visit www.mbff.com.au.
Nicole is a Queensland-based writer and bona fide word nerd whose first love (apart from heels) is feature writing. Follow Nicole on Twitter.