An RMIT fashion and advertising duo have launched the first women's surfwear label in Australia's home of surfing fashion, Torquay.
Jodie Hayes and Emma Bäcklund have harnessed their mutual love for surf, fashion and design to develop U&I, a unique brand catered to female surfers.
Ms Hayes graduates this year from RMIT's unique fashion, design and technology degree program, while Ms Bäcklund - a Swedish-born photographer and designer - recently graduated from the Bachelor of Communication (Advertising).
The pair's vision involves reinventing active swimwear by using alternative aesthetics and portraying female surfboard riders in their truthful form.
Unpretentious and functional, U&I's garments are UPF 50+ lycra pieces that are designed and sampled by the pair, manufactured in Melbourne and hand dyed in their 1940s surf shack studio in Torquay.
Ms Hayes studied RMIT's unique fashion design and technology pathway program, which develops high level hands-on skills during the first two years of vocational training and then offers students the chance to complete an additional year of study to gain a degree qualification.
She said the industry recognition and employability attached to RMIT's fashion program drew her to the university.
"RMIT is well respected within the fashion industry," Ms Hayes said.
"Knowing that employers look to hire RMIT students for their unique skill sets was a real motivational boost when starting our label."
Prior to co-creating U&I, one of Ms Hayes' university projects included designing outfits for singer Lou James from the Australian band Alpine.
This propelled her designs into the spotlight both locally (at Australian music festivals Groovin the Moo, Lanewayand Splendour in the Grass) and internationally (New York).
"The RMIT program gave me relevant industry skills, beyond just concepts, that have been applicable throughout this entire creation process," she said.
Functional, mature and chic, U&I garments are available online and in several stores in Australia and overseas.
U&I is available online and in five stores across Torquay and Lorne, Victoria, as well as in Byron Bay, NSW, and Seminyak, Bali.
Ms Hayes said future plans for U&I included further development of the label, expanding into Queensland and tackling the international market.
"After that, the possibilities are endless," she said.
Janette Gavin, Course Coordinator Bachelor of Fashion (Design Technology), said it was great to see young designers focused on creating and nurturing their own fashion business.
"Jodie is a very energetic, talented and creative designer," Ms Gavin said.
"Together with her business partner Emma, they are embodying a strong fashion philosophy and developing a sustainable business model that is focused on strong design principles, using Australian-made products and connecting with a local manufacturer - David Russo - who is also an RMIT graduate."
RMIT's unique Fashion and Textiles pathway program allows students to commence their studies in the two-year Associate Degree in Fashion Design and Technology gaining hands-on design and technology skills in sewing, patternmaking and garment design.
Upon completion, students have the opportunity to complete one additional year of study to gain a degree qualification in the Bachelor of Fashion (Design Technology).
This extra year of study expands on methods of researching, designing, pattern cutting and garment realisation to achieve finished fashion concepts relevant to industry needs.