If Milanja make garments that feel distinctly fresh and feminine, it’s not by coincidence. Its elegant founders are twin sisters from Sydney, who grew up steeped in the traditions of fashion’s old world. As children they played on the floor of cutting rooms and blossomed into fit models and fashion designers in their own right. Together they’ve worked managing stores for Roberto Cavalli and Alexander McQueen in Europe and as design assistants and fit models for Carl Kapp, Collette Dinnigan, Kit Willow, Josh Goot and Zimmermann in Australia.
Their inspiration today comes from Europe’s most beautiful cities and the most breathtaking natural landscapes. Yet what makes their particular brand of elegance so remarkable, is that Milanja is all designed and made in Western Australia with silks and jacquards sourced from small fabric houses in France and Italy . Their network of pattern makers and machinists are all based in Perth, as is one half of the dynamic design duo, Kristina Milanja.
With a burgeoning future in women’s fashion, Kristina Milanja moved to Kings Park three years ago. When she arrived, to support her husband’s new job as a heart surgeon, Kristina was determined to make the move a great work, life balance. Three years later she has done it. Kristina designs everything from vibrant cocktail dresses to floor-sweeping silk-satin gowns. While her twin Vanessa Milanja is responsible for global marketing and for running of their first boutique on Glenmore Road in Paddington. Milanja showed their SS 17 collection Zephyr at New York Fashion Week in September 2016 as part of Fashion Palette. They will next show at 2017 Mercedes Australian Fashion Week in May.
We caught up with Kristina to ask her about her inspiration, how her family influenced her and what it’s like living in Perth.
How did Milanja come to be?
“As designers, we’ve always dreamed we could have our own fashion label together. We find that having a label keeps us together. Once you’re married, things change as siblings and especially for us being twins, the bond is just not the same. Milanja was created so we could continue to share the same ambition, ideas and passion.”
What have been the greatest influences on your life as designers?
“Our mother. When we design our mother’s opinion is everything. She is very eccentric and creative; literally whatever she touches she can create. At a young age she learned to sew her own garments, and when we were kids our clothes were always made by her. The construction and finishes on our garments were immaculate.”
Which designers inspire you?
“We are both obsessed with Ellie Saab. He uses beautiful fabrics and his designs are elegant and timeless. In our eyes, each piece is an artwork. We also love Roskanda a Serbian-born London designer who is known for using bold, zinging colour’s. Her designs don’t show too much skin and yet they’re deeply sensual.”
Where do you take holidays and find inspiration?
“Our parents were born in Croatia and it’s is still our favourite place. We go to Dugi Otok where our father is from. It’s a beautiful island that’s completely idyllic and untouched. We’ve been going there together since we were the age of 5.”
How is Perth for a fashion designer?
“I’ve been so impressed by the beaches and of course the food and wine culture of Perth. I love Margaret River and the seafood and produce is exceptional. I think some Perth restaurants are better than Michelin star restaurants I’ve eaten in when visiting Paris.
Has the design scene improved since you arrived?
“Definitely. Last week I went to Perth Fashion Week to support all the big Perth designers. When it comes to shopping I love King Street. To me it feels like Rodeo Drive. It is just a small street, but is has a really European feel. Claremont is great for lunch and Elizabeth Quay is a place we often go for the night markets, great food, live music and wine.”
Is design important to Perth residents?
“People in Perth like to look good and show their wealth. The design scene here is booming and so many young Perth designers from Perth are killing it overseas.”
Does Milanja have any plans to open in Perth?
“Yes. In the next two years we would love to open a store on King Street or in Cottelsloe, it’s very much in the air and being discussed right now.”