STONE LION

VIS­NJA BR­DAR’S FA­THER AL­WAYS TOLD HER SHE COULD DO ANY­THING. SO SHE STARTED HER OWN GRAPHIC DE­SIGN BUSI­NESS STRAIGHT OUT OF UNIVER­SITY, THEN WENT INTO JEW­ELLERY.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - NEW WATCHES - MI­LANDA ROUT

New York-based jew­ellery de­signer and cre­ative di­rec­tor Vis­nja Br­dar grew up 17,000km away in the small sea­side sub­urb of Drum­con­dra in Gee­long. Her fa­ther was a house-painter who wore a shirt and tie un­der his over­alls ev­ery day and con­vinced all his clients to use only the colour white. Her neigh­bour was a stylish French woman with a pixie hair­cut who rode an Her­mès bike with a wicker bas­ket full of fresh pro­duce. Br­dar may not have grown up in the de­sign cen­tre of the world – or any­where near it – but you don’t have to look far to see where she may have found her in­spi­ra­tions.

“My clear­est mem­o­ries of de­sign [when I was young] was when I didn’t like some­thing, I would throw it in the garbage. If I got a present I didn’t like, if my mum had some­thing on the man­tel I thought was ugly, I would dis­pose of it,” Br­dar tells WISH from her of­fice near Cen­tral Park in Man­hat­tan. “And there was my fa­ther. I would def­i­nitely say that my fa­ther was an aes­thetic in­flu­ence and in­formed my aware­ness of de­sign. He was a very stylish man [from Croa­tia] who wore tai­lor-made suits. Peo­ple stopped him in the street be­cause he looked like Roger Moore.”

One of four chil­dren, Br­dar al­ways knew she wouldn’t spend her life in small sea­side sub­urb in Gee­long. As a teenager she would dream about big cities. “Even on the Gee­long to Mel­bourne high­way, I would look at those lights, think­ing that is where I be­long, I don’t be­long in this lit­tle town,” she says. But even she may not have imag­ined that she would go be­yond those lights to Paris, Rome and even­tu­ally New York to work as a graphic de­signer with some very big names be­fore open­ing her own cre­ative agency and then start­ing a jew­ellery busi­ness on the side.

“My Dad al­ways said that I could do any­thing and ev­ery­thing I wanted in life. He was a go-get­ter,” she says. “He taught me that noth­ing was im­pos­si­ble. That is one of the great­est gifts to me as I re­ally took that to heart.” Br­dar dis­cov­ered her love of art in high school. It was at first a refuge from a rough time at the lo­cal all-girls school. Teach­ers then told her she could study graphic de­sign and it opened her eyes to a fu­ture ca­reer. “It gave me a lot of joy so I fol­lowed that path,” she says.

Br­dar was ac­cepted into Swin­burne Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy and to her shock was named the top stu­dent in her first year. “I al­most fainted,” she says, laugh­ing. “I just re­mem­ber work­ing my arse off but I had no idea whether I was good, bad or in­dif­fer­ent.” After four years studying, she took her first big risk: she re­jected a num­ber of of­fers for a full-time job and in­stead de­cided to set up her own graphic de­sign busi­ness – in her early 20s and with ab­so­lutely no ex­pe­ri­ence. “I started by cold-call­ing. I asked my­self who I wanted to work for so I called Chris Con­nell, who was this great ar­chi­tect in Mel­bourne and I showed him some work and he said, great, I will give you a project,” Br­dar says.

She set up an of­fice in Prahran and was soon de­sign­ing for the Syd­ney Opera House, Scan­lon Theodore and Bet­tina Liano. Br­dar did ev­ery­thing from hand-made Christ­mas cards to restau­rant menus to cor­po­rate lo­gos. But after 12 months she was yearn­ing for big­ger city lights so she saved up, got a pass­port and took off for Paris. “I was like a free bird,” she re­calls. “I had enough money to keep me go­ing for a while but I had no agenda to re­turn to Aus­tralia at any point. I had no idea. The only plan was to con­tinue to do great work with in­ter­est­ing peo­ple and ex­plore the world.”

Br­dar man­aged to get the phone num­ber of ac­claimed Aus­tralian de­signer Marc New­son, called him and was hired to cre­ate a book of his work in a very lim­ited edi­tion of five. “I made them all by hand,” she says. “It was 50 pages of his fur­ni­ture and in­te­ri­ors. Even at that time, his work was get­ting recog­nised.” Br­dar con­tin­ued to work with New­son, de­sign­ing “what­ever he needed”, such as a spe­cial brochure for his new watch. Rome was next and she did a short stint with leg­endary graphic de­signer Ti­bor Kal­man and his

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