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06 December 2022  •  Arts & Lifestyle

Bold, Bright, and Brisbane-Based: Behind the scenes of IVY NIU

Vertigo had the pleasure of chatting with Australian artist Ivy Niu about her playful fashion label, IVY NIU, and her creative journey to where she is today.

By Ashley Sullivan
Bold, Bright, and Brisbane-Based: Behind the scenes of IVY NIU

Hi Ivy! Please introduce yourself to our Vertigo readers.

Hi, I’m Ivy. I am an illustrator and artist living in Australia. I studied Graphic Design at University in Auckland, NZ. Soon after graduating, I delved into freelance illustration, which provided semi-consistent work. However, I was looking for something more fulfilling, so I decided to put my illustration and art skills into my own business, IVY NIU (@ivyniu_). I live in the South-West suburbs of Brisbane with my partner, Max, and our chiweenie, Peanut. Recently I’ve been enjoying vlogging my daily life on Youtube. My channel is a reflection of my quiet lifestyle; a collection of my daily surroundings and doings. Follow me on YouTube @ivyniu_!

You’re a Brisbane-based illustrator and designer of the label IVY NIU. Did you always see yourself becoming an artist?

Yes, I did. Like many kids, I have always loved to draw. Luckily, my family noticed this at a young age and encouraged me to pursue my interests further. 

I knew I wanted to do this as a career when I realised I could better communicate my feelings and evoke responses in people through my work rather than speaking and writing. 

Studying graphic design also helped guide me towards the illustration field. I soon knew I liked the pictorial sides of things rather than grids and fonts!

What I did not see myself becoming was a textile artist or designer. Only quite recently, in the past five or so years, when I moved to Brisbane from Auckland, did I really consider this as a career. But something about it felt right, and I have always had a great interest in fashion.

As an illustrator, I reached out to a few fashion labels to introduce myself and see if they would be interested in collaborating with me. But to no avail, I started conducting my own R&D for future prospects. After this, I developed my first small fashion range in 2017, featuring my own illustrations.

Your designs are very whimsical and playful. How did you develop your style?

There was a time in my University life when I studied abroad in San Francisco, USA. I was surrounded by artists and art all the time! I developed my skills by watching and learning how other creatives worked. It was a turning point for me. I was perpetually immersed and inspired by the passion of other creatives and wanted to better myself in that field. 

I think that may have influenced my playful style of illustration, and I definitely took a part of that whimsy back home with me to NZ, and that’s when I refined my style. 

When I moved to Brisbane, it was hard not to be influenced by the sunny subtropical weather here. Bright colours and bold prints developed naturally from my surroundings.

You hand draw and paint all of your prints, which is very impressive. How do you maintain your creativity with the challenges of running a business?

Something I didn’t know before working on IVY NIU was that a lot of time needs to be allocated to the non-creative side of things. This includes; keeping the accounts in check, communication with our manufacturers (which includes a lot of ‘tech packs’ which are basically instructions for what we want made), maintenance of everything web and social, etc. 

I block out chunks of the year for painting and drawing. This is usually the beginning of the season where I am playing around with ideas. Creativity stems through many diverse facets in IVY NIU, including collaborating with other artists, planning photoshoots, creating EDMs and making posts/stories/reels on my social media.

Your signature item is your Tent Dress. Tell me about the creative process behind this lovely design. 

I started IVY NIU because I wanted to showcase my illustrations in another medium, not just print. What I really wanted to explore was fashion, fabrics, and textiles. Our Tent Dress style is generous in width and sometimes length, too. It makes a great canvas for dresses to flourish into works of art! We included the Tent Dress in my first range of garments back in 2017. It was a very well-received piece. Since then, we have released variations of this style, experimenting with different design features.

Can you share your experience of collaborating with Marzia Kjellberg?

It was a pleasure! I had been following her brand for years and have always admired her work, especially her ceramic pieces. She has been (so far) the only international artist to work with IVY NIU. I wanted our first international collab to be a surprising one, and Marzia was the perfect artist to achieve that with! 

In terms of communication, we bounced ideas back and forth with ease and enjoyment. The process felt very natural. I learnt that her fanbase is very loyal to her and her personal life, so we wanted to create genuine and authentic pieces to her style. The final prints were illustrated by Marzia, with touch-ups and editing by me.

What has been your most enjoyable experience during your career? 

As an introvert who relishes in solitude, the most surprising and enjoyable experience I’ve had since working on IVY NIU has been meeting other creatives and artists, especially here in Brisbane. I didn't have a lot of connections or acquaintances, especially with people in the industry. So, it was nice to finally connect with creatives I had admired from afar (on the gram).

Another enjoyable experience has been working with my partner and expanding our offerings at IVY NIU. He is also from a graphic design background, and since the pandemic, we have been exploring what we can create outside of fashion. A new passion of mine since moving into our home has been homewares. Having our own space has opened our eyes to what we can achieve with our own hands. We now make small batches of homewares (you can see these on our webstore!).

What advice would you give young designers trying to find their own style?

This is a funny question because I still consider myself a young designer. Maybe less so in age now, but in the sense that my style is still ever-changing. My advice would be to document as much as you can. If I could go back, I would have taken more photos and videos of the process of my work and shared them on my socials. People are always interested in the behind-the-scenes aspect of things, sometimes even more than the final work! 

What ideas are you working on now, and what does the future hold?

Exciting things. I am currently in talks with another artist to possibly collaborate on an art show for a gallery in Brisbane. This feels like a bit of a full-circle moment for me as I started out as an artist before stumbling into IVY NIU. This is still very early days, but watch this space!

If you’re looking for more work by Ivy Niu, you can find her on Instagram and Youtube @ivyniu_. You can shop IVY NIU here!


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