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COVID-19, creativity and positivity with Estelle Michaelides of Micky in the Van

by Julie Goodwin, / Monday May 4th 2020

When it comes to answering the question, ‘Is fashion art?’, Estelle Michaelides is a woman with the answer. Since 2012, she’s been blurring the lines between the two with her Melbourne made label, Micky in the Van, and to use the term ‘wearable art’, would be an understatement.

Estelle is the kind of woman who turns heads when she walks into a room – always sporting two or three layers of Micky in the Van, statement earrings or oversized specs. She oozes a unique sense of style that most of us don’t have the inventiveness to pull off, but Estelle has never been one to shy away from being different – and using fashion to bring a little joy to the lives of those around her.


Estelle from Micky in the Van


Estelle Michaelides of Micky in the Van

I’ve only known Estelle personally for a couple of years, but I am a long-time fan and we’ve been in the same circles for years. When we decided to join creative forces, along with Nevada Duffy and Kara Baker, to launch Fashion by Appointment late last year, it just made sense, and I am chuffed to say that we are now firm friends. We share an understanding of the ups and downs of working in fashion, and she is of course a fellow creative who has been impacted by COVID-19.

So, to help support each other, inspire each other, and uplift each other while we all adjust to ‘the new norm’, we’re chatting honestly about COVID-19 and its impacts on our community of Australian fashion industry creatives. Estelle is a beacon of positivity as I think you’ll see…


What does a day in your shoes ‘normally’ look like?

I usually wake up at around 6am and try get through a couple of hours work before my four-year-old son, Ace, wakes up. Once he’s woken up it’s an ongoing rush to get him ready for kindergarten, get myself ready, drop him off then either head to my studio or meet with my pattern maker or garment maker or source fabrics – it depends what point of the collection timeline we’re on. I then rush back to pick Ace up from kindergarten, return home and that’s where I juggle hanging out with Ace, work and preparing dinner. Somewhere in there is also tidying up my house, creating content for social media and drinking coffee!


Estelle Michaelides, Micky in the Van


How has COVID-19 changed the way you work?

As far as work, the significant change is that I’m working from home. Because production is local that hasn’t changed at all; I email my patternmaker what I’d like her to make rather than seeing her and I don’t see my manufacturer as often as I used to, and when I do, we’re practicing safe distancing. We’re all ensuring our working spaces are clean and disinfected plus I have my humidifier going 24/7 cleaning the air in my house with eucalyptus oil so if I smell like a eucalyptus tree you’ll know why!


What are you struggling with most?

The greatest challenge is that Ace and I are both at home. I could achieve a great deal of work whilst being at home if it were just me but having to juggle parenting whilst wanting/needing to work has been strenuous and confronting. I don’t want to plonk Ace in front of the TV for twelve hours a day so making bracelets to gift his friends, making jigsaws and playing with Lego now consumes the majority of my day! I love my work, like really love it. Being a creative is what defines me and nourishes me, and I can’t switch that off – nor do I want to, so being forced to put that aside whilst making spiders out of wool has been the biggest struggle.


Micky in the Van


What silver lining has come out of this for you?

I’m a natural problem solver, engineered to rise above all adversities – after I throw myself on the floor and have a massive sob! So, once I had my good cry, I began to ask myself questions like ‘What can I do to adapt to this current landscape?’, ‘How can I change my business model?’, and ‘How can I up my creative game?’.

It’s imperative and almost an act of survival that we behave like chameleons; change our colours to adapt to the landscape and situations we find ourselves in and that’s just what I did. And what came out of it – the silver lining – is that I designed pieces that are some of my best work which included being explorative with my printing ideas, and nudging design boundaries. I’m now also in the sampling stages of creating MITV totes and gloves!


Micky in the Van


How are you balancing stress with optimism at the moment?

For self-preservation I’m looking ahead knowing there are brighter days awaiting us rather than focusing on the current life glitch. I’ve always tried to be present in the here and now, but I think this current circumstance is an exception so focusing on the future is certainly assisting me in staying optimistic.


What are you doing to stay productive, positive and creative?

Painting! Painting is my therapy; it removes me from this world and transports me to a place where time stops and noise is silenced.


Follow Estelle on Instagram @mickyinthevan


Micky in the Van


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