Words by Hannah Rabbitt
Published in Moustache Magazine
She’s a self-confessed maths nerd meets bank geek, and an engineer by trade. But don’t let that fool you. Virginia Bailey is also wildly talented at crafting wearable art. Even the Sheppard sisters love her. Bailey’s brand, Mango Rains, kick started in October last year after a flood of inspiration (pun intended) inundated her during her travels.
“After travelling through Africa I fell in love with all of the fabrics and bought bag and bags of fabric home with me,” she said.
“I’d been travelling around there on buses doing doodles of dresses and started getting them made in Brisbane and a lot of girlfriends were like, ‘oh I really like that! Can you make me one?’ and then eventually it was like ah I can actually make this into a label and see how this goes.”
A left-brained girl by employment, Bailey had to learn the skills of clothes making from scratch.
“I did mining engineering and I’m now doing my masters for explosives engineering. I’m a maths nerd so I need to keep the left hand side of my brain going but I also am a band geek so I have to keep my right side going as well.”
“[learning to sew] has been an obstacle, but I’ve enjoyed overcoming it. I’m a perfectionist so I hate having half-ass things done, like it has to be 100 per cent. So I’d make something and be like ‘no, that’ not good enough’ and I’d remake it and eventually it starts getting a real quality and it’s like ‘I’m happy with this, I’m happy to put my name on it.’”
Her brand is still in its teething stages but that hasn’t stopped Bailey from getting her name out there. Six months in, and the girls from Australian band Sheppard are already rocking her designers on their tour.
“It’s cool… a bit surreal, you kind of see them all the time and you hear them. I’m so super appreciative that they do wear it.”
But she still loves seeing average girls around town in her outrageously colourful ensembles.
“Every time someone sends through a photo of them wearing their little outfit, every time it’s kind of like yay! It really blows me away. My house mate said that he went out last week and saw this girl wearing Mango Rains and he stopped her and was like, ‘oh my gosh, is that Mango Rains?!’ and he told me the next day. It’s so cute.”
“I design and make [the clothes] but my background is not fashion and I’m not a fashionista. So, I love seeing the way other people style it because it gives me ideas and I can also get ideas about how to change something so it fits better. You sort of make it your own.”
Her sisters are the ultimate Mango Rains girls.
“They’re all about doing their own thing when they want and they love being the centre of attention and they love wearing colour because it helps express who they are.”
So, what’s next for this vivacious young lady?
“I’ve just started the winter range. The next thing is to finish that and get it properly out the door and see how that goes.”
You can expect printed trousers, jackets, cropped jumpers and vests in her signature style; wax printed patterns on 100 per cent cotton, from parts of West and East Africa.
“I kind of like how it is now. I like being able to go to markets and meet all the girls, and fit them myself and make everything for them so I know 100 per cent who its for. I like it like that. I’ve got the home studio set up so girls are starting to come round to home now to try stuff on and get fittings there. I don’t want to go to stockists but I only say that now. In a few years time..”
Not only does she have the brains and a knack for design, but Bailey’s one kind soul, too. All of her work supports charity. 28 Too Many, COHAD and Orphan and Widow Care receive all net profit from her pieces.
“Currently, it is averaging as $18 from each piece is going to charity.”
Fashionably adept, socially conscious and awfully intelligent; if Virginia Bailey can’t make it big, no one can.
Check her out online at http://mangorains.com.au or keep your eyes peeled for Mango Rains at your local markets.