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Jessica Virk: A design star in the making Fashions on the Field Emerging Designer Award winning outfit by Jessica Virk

Jessica Virk: A design star in the making

For up-and-coming fashion designer Jessica Virk, winning first prize in the VRC Fashions on the Field Emerging Designer Award topped off a successful few weeks. The Whitehouse Institute of Design graduate had created a buzz at Melbourne Fashion Week just weeks earlier with her final-year student collection, making it clear that she is a design star in the making.

VRC 14 March 2024

How did you feel when you won the Emerging Designer Award?

I was so surprised, and it was all a bit surreal as my day hadn’t gone to plan up until then! I was so grateful though, because the award is such a great platform for young designers like myself. We have so many new ideas but very few platforms to express them. It is a competitive industry so to win was unbelievable. The teachers at Whitehouse encouraged us to enter as they had seen success for many designers after giving it a go.

Your design was really interesting. Tell us about your inspiration.

My mission with anything I make is to make the wearer feel exceptional, and to stand out from the crowd.I had a bit of a different take on the brief but wanted to make sure it reflected my own style of design. I was inspired by the architect Zaha Hadid, and how she used structure in her buildings and shaped them in her own unique way. I like structure in my clothes, but in a deconstructed way.

How would you describe your winning outfit?

The trench-based dress is very much my style – I wear trenches all the time and it is the one design staple everyone identifies with me. But I took this look and deconstructed it, adding its wide-hipped corset. I wanted it to have an elegance to it because it was at the races, but also, a roughness. I like to revisit traditional shapes, but with a twist.

How did you make it?

I produced my own materials, sourcing them from local fabric stores. I made the fabric stronger and stiffer by bonding it, which holds the shape really well because of the weight. The pleated skirt was made of Herringbone wool, and the shirt was wool crepe, giving it strength and an edge for a powerful look. My accessories were a fascinator and sustainable plastic earrings.

Fashions on the Field Emerging Designer Award winning outfit by Jessica Virk

You are only 20 years old and have just graduated from the Whitehouse Institute of Design. What do you want to do next?

I’ve had a passion for design and fashion since high school when I was in Textiles class. I’m so grateful for the course at Whitehouse because it has taught me so much. In the future I would love to have my own brand and collection, but I want to first work in the industry and gain hands-on experience. My dream job would be working at Thom Browne or for Japanese designer Chitose Abe, of the brand Sacai. I adore her and have grown up being inspired by her work.

Your prize is incredible – worth more than $40,000, it includes a trip to Paris Fashion Week to see the Zimmermann show. How do you feel about that?

I still can’t believe it. It will be amazing.