To a casual observer, it would seem Brianna Gaal is in her perfect profession as a fashion designer– but it hasn’t always been that way.
“I didn’t always want to be a designer. I was interested in fashion but I never really possessed the necessary skills,” says the owner of Melbourne label Gaal.
“It wasn’t until I pursued another career and didn’t like it that I realised that fashion was what I really wanted to be in.”
That career was in tech consulting. Gaal studied project management at university and went into a full-time role.
“The learning curve was steep and I enjoyed it at the time, but at the end of the day it wasn’t something I was interested in long term,” she says.
“I started to think about what I wanted to do instead and fashion kept coming up for me.
“I was creative when I was younger but I didn’t believe I could create a career out of it doing something creative.”
Gaal spent the better half of a year while she was still in her former role thinking about how she could make her new career work.
“When I realised I wasn’t happy in what I was doing, I let myself float towards things I was interested in,” she says.
“I started consuming as much information about fashion and design as I could. I was reading everything I could get my hands on; talking to everyone I could about the fashion industry.”
At this point Gaal says she became aware of a side of the fashion industry she didn’t realise existed.
“I wasn’t just learning about the industry but also the sustainability and ethical side of it that I didn’t know as much about – that part was really fascinating for me,” she says.
“Everything that people were trying to do to create solutions to the problems in the industry – that’s what really intrigued me.
“I knew I wanted to be part of the solution but I wasn’t sure what the avenue was.”
Shortly after, Gaal got to work on her own self-titled label, something she says would be her own small solution to fashion’s growing impact on people and the planet.
She’s since put together and launched the label with her first collection, a ’70s-inspired range of bright colours and bold cuts with a wearable edge.
“My first collection is quite ’70s-influenced but that was actually influenced by the fabrics,” she says.
“I start with fabrics because I only work with certain materials – that is, fabrics that are biodegradable and have the lowest possible impact on the planet.
“I first fell in love with the sweet potato organic cotton that’s used throughout the collection. And then everything was made to complement that style.”
In creating her first collection, Gaal says she came across many challenges she hadn’t anticipated.
Wanting to create circular garments (100% biodegradable), she was avoiding any synthetic fabrics or components for the garments.
“The biggest challenge has been sourcing circular materials,” she says.
“I didn’t know all the things I would need in a garment. I knew I needed fabric but the more structural things like thread, buttons, etc, I had to find sustainable versions of those too. Other designers and people in the industry generously helped me locate lots of these materials.
“Sometimes I had to retrospectively find new components too – shoulder pads is one of those. I assumed they were made of cotton but I learned that they pretty much always have a synthetic covering.
“It was absolute luck that I managed to find someone who was prototyping shoulder pads with natural/biodegradable fibres.”
For the majority of the first collection, Gaal used certified organic cotton as the main material.
She says she chose this for the strict environmental regulations as well as the social and labour component to it that helps to protect farmers throughout the process.
In her second collection, she’s bringing in organic linen and Lenzing’s circular material Tencel.
“There’s some similar elements in the second collection – I’m sticking with natural fibres and some asymmetrical designs,” she says.
“The last collection was more geared towards cooler weather. This one’s a bit more summer. And the first one was more structured, where this one is more about movement.”
To reduce waste in the collections, Gaal says she’s producing limited runs with a local manufacturer and only producing what she believes they can sell.
“We’re not over-ordering fabric or over-producing so there’s no excess inventory in the end.
“I also have plans on what I want to do with excess fabric or offcuts so I’m saving them for the future.”