August 29, 2007
Mandy Robinson

Mandy RobinsonBehind the Seams with Designer Mandy Robinsonwords by Regina Bresler images provided by Billabong

Long associated with environmentalist pursuits and good vibes, surf culture has always had a hand in the betterment of the community at large. Meet Mandy Robinson, Senior Design Director of Billabong’s women’s line and Creative Director behind Billabong’s Design For Humanity fashion show.

A Kentucky native, Mandy moved to L.A. in 1994 to attend the Fashion Institute, and quickly fell in love with the surf scene. She began her career in fashion as an assistant at Rays Apparel, learned the ropes, and ended up at Billabong, where she has been for the past five years. Her seasoned understanding helped direct the playful and altruistic runway collection that debuted at Billabong’s first Design For Humanity affair.

Design for Humanity successfully rang in its maiden show to a sold-out crowd on April 26, all benefiting SurfAid International. It included a concert by Shiny Toy Guns, a runway show for 1,200 attendees, and art spilling out from all sides. Various artists who created pieces to sell also allotted a percentage of their proceeds to go towards SurfAid International. And a Webcast and eBay auction of both the runway collection and artists’ works ensured that, even if you weren’t in the audience, you could be part of the event.

For the show, Mandy directed a team of twenty-five, including designers, graphic artists, pattern-makers, and sewers. In all, fifty looks were created for the runway, essentially being Billabong’s first couture line, with a color palette leaning towards the bohemian. The team took to deconstructing existing prints and creating one-of-a-kind bikinis, dresses, and a handful of looks that might be too daring or dangerous to make it to the regular season (like a faux-feather vest and bra), but perfect for the show. Aiming for a glam, over-the-top 1970’s feel, the runway was colored in earth tones, highlighted with vibrant citron yellow, bright turquoise, and passion pink, as well as an array of bold two-toned floral prints. Each model sported a single feather earring, and a plethora of accessories, inspired by an image of an extravagantly adorned Jane Birkin.
Mandy was thrilled with the results and also recognized that creating this supplementary line was demanding, in addition to their usual four-season calendar. “This show was such a successful team effort and it couldn’t have been done without the hard work of our Billabong Junior’s Design Dept.” Within a two-month timeframe, and over many late nights, the Billabong teams got a shot to flex their creative capabilities in an effort to reach above and beyond the marketable.

But their long hours and hard work weren’t simply for the sake of fashion experimentation. All proceeds from the Design For Humanity show go towards community outreach, as well as educational programs in the Indonesian Islands. Funds raised at the event will be personally delivered by the Billabong team in July to SurfAid headquarters in Bali, with a hands-on trip to several of the affected villages. In the hope of lowering the death rate from a staggering twenty-five percent before the age of 12, SurfAid volunteers and doctors help to provide nutritional and health education, including mosquito nets, which cost about $15.00 and can save as many as four lives from being taken by malaria.

So what’s in store for Mandy and Billabong next season? Look for a post-modern mod theme filled with block prints and more of that pretty bohemian color palette, as well as classic girly detailing using embroidery, ruffling, and center-front yokes.

For more info on Design for Humanity, visit DesignForHumanity.com.