Drawing on daydreams, beach shacks & nature for inspiration, this designer is an effortless force. Entwined in the Zulu & Zephyr world along with the brands co-founders Candice O’Rourke & Karla Rose, Seraina Fontana brings so much skill & vision into the Zulu collections. Reading below you’ll discover her ways through the design process. How she thinks & why she actions.
Using fabrics such as linen & cotton to quote-unquote, create pieces that are modern yet timeless and reminiscent of long warm days past; Zulu is one of those rare brands you simply cannot ignore. Their pieces are the perfect addition to any females wardrobe, espeically those who live for the ocean, the outdoors & those warm, balmy nights.
It’s Now Cool had the pleasure of interviewing Zulu’s head designer, Seraina Fontana & getting a sneak peak into the Zulu studios. It’s everything we imagined. A blissful base tucked away in Byron. Minimal, chic & dreamy - just like this amazing talent, the lovely Seraina.
Seraina Fontana welcome to INC. Your design abilities are nothing short of sensational. Head Designer at the adored Zulu & Zephyr, how long have you been working for the brand & how did it come about?
It’s been an absolute dream from the very moment I joined the team 4 years ago. Karla and I worked together previously and along with meshing creatively, a great friendship blossomed. She became a great mentor to me. When Candice and Karla started Zulu & Zephyr, it was a natural step to be a part of the brand that I so strongly believe in and one whose aesthetic I whole heartedly connect with.
Glancing at your Tumblr page, How They Hypnotize, it is very clear why you're the perfect fit for Zulu & Zephyr. Your appreciation for the coast, the jungle, the desert & the water (whether it's an ocean or a pool), is as clear as day. What kind of woman do you have in mind when designing a ZZ collection?
We have a very good grasp on who the ZZ woman is - she is natural, strong and feminine. Pretty much all of the women that makes up the Zulu & Zephyr team. She immerses herself in nature, has a nostalgic feel about her life and touches on trends in a subtle, personal way. She's soft but bold, effortless but cool.
The images you post reflect a touch of an old soul. Would this be true?
My inspiration is drawn from the past - whether it be vintage clothing, daydreaming of stories told by old photographs, passing by and admiring beach shacks and small town coastal architecture - anything nostalgic will always spark my imagination and get me going. And of course, nature!
Let's unravel your creative space. When it comes to your home, the ZZ studio & your desk, what is unique your desk. What are we always bound to find there?
We are lucky enough to work in such a beautiful, bright space at ZZ HQ. On my desk you will always find my well worn coffee mug, a large sketch book for when inspiration sparks, piles of fabric cards and scribbles from random creative outbursts with Karla. And a plant - always something green!
In a world of fast fashion, how do you innovate and surface new ideas?
Truly knowing who the ZZ girl is helps when it comes to staying fresh and ahead of the market. We approach design with a “would we wear this?” mindset — and if undecided, we put it to our team of strong but feminine woman and see if it truly resonates. Our aesthetic is consistently nostalgic with a soft trend driven touch. We create pieces that are modern yet timeless and reminiscent of long warm days past.
What typically comes first with a new collection. Sketches, fabrics? Does it change or is it quite a routine process?
Karla and I are continually talking design, texting at all hours and throwing around ideas. It comes to us so naturally, we bounce ideas off each other in our own language. I like to start each collection by putting together a big mood board off what we are feeling, with colour swatches, fabrics, mood images and sketches. Then begins the process of hunting for and developing our prints and exclusively woven cottons and linens…
When it comes to fitting a new design on an actual body, what (if any) are the immediate signs that tell you, it's just not working?
I worked as a fit model for many years so I like to throw the garment on myself to get a proper feel for it and see what can be improved to make it perfect. Comfort is top priority, so it makes sense to wear a garment ourselves to ensure it’s as effortless and well fit as it looks.
INC revels in women who take risks. Women who're bold & choose cuts and colours that make them stand out from the pack! As a designer, is there a "design theory" you dare to challenge?
I believe a women can be bold in a subtle way — by the way a garment makes her feel. So I challenge myself by creating pieces that are unexpected but uncomplicated, which is harder than it sounds! I want our customers to stand out in pieces that they will hold on to for years, not just one season. Whether it be a new fabric, shape or line, a print, a colour, we research and explore all the possibilities with this in mind.
We're all about getting behind women with ball breaking confidence & a show a of spunk. Working with the dynamite sister duo Candice & Karla - what does confidence look & feel like in the ZZ studio?
The girls have created an amazing office culture at ZZ. They encourage a collaborative environment, where support and communication is in abundance. In turn, this open and cohesive workplace empowers us, gives us confidence within our own roles and creates a team dynamic where we’re collectively striving for the success of the brand.
And of course, having such strong, successful women to look up to is pretty inspiring!
Let's chat curve. Of the ZZ swim collection, what styles would you recommend for the more curvaceous & those who're slightly more up & down?
I’m a strong believer in whatever you feel most comfortable and confident in, is what you should be wearing.
However, as a guide to swimwear I’d encourage curvaceous women to try out the variety of high rise briefs on offer, as well as tops that have hidden support such as underwire or shelf bra. For girls who a slightly more up & down - the high cut and boomerang brief should be your go to! Following the lines of the woman’s form, they give the illusion of more curves.
To wrap up, what makes you excited about walking through the Zulu studio doors every morning?
Pretty much everything ! We are blessed with a beautiful team of women which makes coming to work very easy. I look forward to walking into our stunning space, catching up with the girls over coffee and diving into the day. The office vibe is consistently positive (even during deadlines) and Friday pub lunches are always great motivation to get through the work week!
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you see/read ...
6.00am Dawn - Favourite time of the day, my time.
Seek The unexpected
Romance In nostalgia
Curve More! Forever obsessed with the woman’s form.
Neon Scary - am I getting old?
Raw As it should be
- Midnight JJ Cale
Comfortable Necessary / crucial
White My go-to, the majority of my wardrobe
Relax Kimono and gin
Sexy But understated
Embellish With less
Forbidden Negativity. There’s always a way!
Bliss The ocean, the sun, loved ones
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