Bridget McCall and Nicholas Van Messner are a fashionable force to be reckoned with. The design duo are partners not only in their fashion label, Life with Bird, but also in real life. Their brand too boasts a cute backstory; Nick calls Bridget by her nickname, Bird, hence the label’s name was borne, essentially Nick’s Life with Bird. As a couple, they bring their own individual artistic talent and business nous to the brand, one of beautifully executed garments of a contemporary aesthetic. Despite being immersed in such a sartorial landscape, the pair are as down to earth and affable as they come.
We paid a visit to the lovely couple and their adorable four month old baby Veda (who stole the show!), in Melbourne’s South Yarra, where their beautiful Victorian home sat amongst the falling pink cherry blossom. Conversation was open, funny and frank; moving from Bridget’s pregnancy saviours to Nick’s unexpected talent in the kitchen (thanks to a former job as a chef).
“We started the label within six months of getting together…
so it’s kind of all we’ve ever known. We knew each other through social circles, I was 20 and Nick was 22 at the time. I studied fashion photography and then I was styling. Nick was studying fashion at RMIT and designing for a street wear label called Mika. We crossed paths and realised that we both brought different things to the table with the fashion aspect. Nick is the product side of things and has all the technical skills and is an amazing drawer. From my point of view, it was the photography and styling and bringing that aspect, so it’s worked really well. It’s 13 years in now.
I like to wear pretty classic tailoring and silhouettes…
and stuff that can go from day to night, so, from the office straight out for a drink, or in my case at the moment, it’s from being a mum at home to going down the street! I like to be comfortable. I definitely mix my brand with other designers, I like Helmut Lang, Alexander Wang. I wear mostly Life with Bird, but then I like to mix back with say a Bassike t-shirt or something like that.
It’s been all about shoes for me for the last 12 months!
Because I’ve been here with the bub, but I bought some amazing Camilla Skovgaard heels recently and some Proenza Schouler Espadrilles – the espadrilles are big for summer and comfortable. I’m always dressing for comfort. As long as you feel comfortable in what you’re wearing then you exude that kind of confidence. I’d rather be that than zipped into something too tight and bulging out the sides! [Dressing Veda] is the best! As you can see in her little Stella McCartney dress today! At her age you can get away with wearing cream tights, which is the only time in your life you can! I go mostly to online boutiques [for her] and she lives in Bonds, as well.
I’m loving parenthood more than I could have even imagined!
It’s hard work, but she’s great – she’s a good sleeper and a good eater and she’s got a really good smile and a good personality.
Being a mum now, I’ve had this really long hair for so long…
and I just needed to have a fresh, clean look and something for Spring that was a bit more manageable and functional with a new baby, so I just hacked it off! I’m sure I’ll get used to it! I get my hair done at Mudd Hair Sculpting on Greville St and see Tina who I go to religiously. She’s amazing, she’s been doing my hair for years - cut and colour. I use Kevin Murphy and I’m particularly fond of the Dry Shampoo, which I use religiously! It’s so good, that and the Powder Puff just on the crown of the hair to give it a little bit of height – get a little bit of Brigitte Bardot happening!
During pregnancy Bio Oil was my best friend!
I swear by it. It’s really nourishing for stretching of the skin and also for scarring and stretch marks. I was a bit bummed [that I had to have a Caesarean], I did everything; I hung upside down - you do all these positions to try and make the baby turn - but it wasn’t that bad. I’m always using a hand sanitiser with the baby, so your hands really dry out so I really love using this Maine Beach Hand Cream, it’s really nourishing.
I keep my face routine really simple.
I use Kiehl’s Cleanser, Toner and Moisturiser, and I’m a fan of the Mecca Tinted Moisturiser, and it’s got the SPF in it - that or the MAC one, it’s good for spots and coverage. Then I put the Nars Pressed Powder on my face to matte things down and then the Nars Laguna for a bit of bronze. I love the Hourglass brushes, I use them for my tinted moisturiser, pressed powder and bronzer. For eyes, I’m a big fan of the By Terry products to get rid of the dark shadows and then their mascara as well.
I’ll either do an eye or a bright lip…
I do love a bright red or orange lip, so again Nars or the Givenchy lipsticks. I used to like the ‘smoky eye’ and so much dark black eyeliner, it was so heavy! In the 90s there were absolutely [bad beauty memories]! Foundation was way too light, and for me it was all about Poppy King and the dark, brown-red lipsticks which didn’t compliment my skin tone whatsoever! I was a big tanner too, so now I’m definitely a fan of the fake tan, I like the St. Tropez Mousse, so that will come out this summer!
Rose [facial] Spray is always really nice when travelling…
Mid flight just to freshen, and wear no makeup on the plane, maybe some lip balm, and some mints for when you arrive to feel a bit fresh! I like drinking lots of water and hydration masks are always good, too. I like to use a clay mask, to draw out impurities. There’s an Origins Black Clay Mask, which I really like so I use that after the plane.
I’ve been Pescatarian for 20 years now.
I never liked the taste of red meat. 20 years ago it was hard, but now it’s very easy. We eat really well, Nick was a chef! We love food, we’re the typical Melburnians who love to go out for an amazing meal, and especially nowadays we would rather spend our money on fantastic food rather than going out drinking. We eat really cleanly, but then we LOVE treats like ice-cream, dark chocolate, an indulgence. There’s a great place called The Source, it’s all fruit and nuts and chocolate-covered goji berries, all natural, raw ingredients, you can buy them separate or do your own mix, it’s really handy for snacks. When I had just had the baby, one of my friend’s came over with what she called the ‘Yummy Mummy Mix’ – which is so handy when you’re tired and run-down!
I’ve been doing a 12-week program to get my body back!
It’s by Kayla Itsines, it’s so good! It’s really hard, I’m on Week Five and I’ve seen really good results. It works really well because it’s half an hour, I can put Veda down, and do it at home as opposed to leaving the house. It’s Monday, Wednesday and Friday for actual workouts, then in between is walking, so I walk her around the parks and The Botanical Gardens. The stuff you find impossible in the first few weeks by week five is getting easier. I do the exercise part not the diet part, while I’m breastfeeding I make sure I have the right calorie intake, I actually think breastfeeding really helps you lose the baby weight as long as you don’t go too far! We [also] both do Master Pilates, at a local studio which is really handy.”
“Parenthood is awesome!
Those first two weeks are hectic – that’s like a ‘what have we doooooone!’ haha! It was definitely a full change and then it just gets better and better. She’s super good.
I’ve always been told I’ve got my Gran’s skin…
and she was a craftsman so my hands are probably the number one thing – so I’m always using Kiehls’ Hand Salve. I use that religiously cause I’m constantly cutting and doing things with my hands – my hands get a bit crazy.
I don’t do heaps [in terms of grooming].
Probably Kiehl’s Ultra Facial and that’s about it for me. Every now and again I put product in my hair, I don’t even know what it’s called! I’m pretty low maintenance. I actually go to the barber, a fairly traditional one, I basically say, ‘tidy it up’ haha! I’ve always used the Issey Miyake Summer fragrance, but I’m having trouble finding it these days, it’s the one in the flat bottle, I don’t know whether it’s a limited edition but I generally only find it when I travel. Gascoigne and King supply our stores so they always send us the new candles to test, we’re not into incense or smoke so it’s a nice sort of way to have essential oil.
We used to travel quite a bit…
So we would do New York and LA and London, generally with work, we had a really nice trip to Italy and Berlin last year it was SO good, it was basically the last trip before Veda, the last hurrah! It was funny I got back from that trip and as a surprise for Bird’s birthday I’d planned a trip to New York, really sneaky we basically went to dinner and I told her and we went the next day. But we were pregnant by then so it was a very different trip! But someone’s gotta [drink]! We haven’t travelled yet [with the baby], but Veda has her passport!
Hydration is massive for travel
I drink a lot of water anyway, but I always try to religiously drink a massive bottle before I get on the plane and when I get off the plane, whether it’s coconut water or something like that. This is my ‘travel’ shirt because it’s already pre-crinkled! It’s a nice crunchy cotton, so pack things that are like that’s the way it’s meant to look!
I cook a lot
I used to work in a kitchen while I was at Uni for about four or five years. I used to cook down at Café Sweethearts in South Melbourne, you know from the Jimmy Barnes song! But it was good, it just kind of gave me the grounding, so I love to cook. Bridget’s pescatarian so we pretty much just eat fish, seafood and vegetables. If I go out with the boys I might eat meat, but that’s about it.
We eat really healthily
There’s a few restaurants I really love, I love Thirty Eight Chairs for Italian, one of my favourites, a friend of ours runs a tiny little Italian kitchen called Cucinetta, on Murphy St, it’s really nice and like eight to ten tables. Cutler and Co. is the ultimate, and we love Coda. Gaia Café and Mavis the Grocer are really good [cafes]. Going out has kind of stopped a bit though with a baby, we take her out to cafes for heaps of brekkies and brunches and lunches but you don’t really go fine dining with a baby. And I do Pilates, go to the gym and play tennis with the boys.
The label is the story of us
We went through so many names, and then it was just…my life with Bird! We oversee different things, combined we’re kind of like the GM, but Bird looks after the finance side of things and also oversees all the production of shoots and models and styling and photographer and all of that, and I look after more the product production and textiles and product development and that sort of thing. And the legal boring side of things! So we kind of split it up and found what we’re good at and it’s a good little mix.
My dad is American…
I love going to the States, I think it’s one of those really hospitable places; people are really open and friendly. America is so easy, it’s like the easiest place to go and I do like certain things [from the culture], whether it’s Scando or American, I like clean sportswear, it’s easy, effortless. I guess we definitely have a sportswear vibe going on in Life with Bird, so I definitely like that side of it. But I think it’s all the stuff around you…
I was lucky to be in the States because I grew up with so many cool things…
like BMX and skateboarding and all of that stuff started right where I was because I was living in California, so it was really cool to be apart of it. Mum and Dad were really into the arts so we were always exposed to lots of amazing things; whether it was theatre or actual art exhibitions, mum’s an architect and dad’s business was really into the arts, he used to be the President of the San Diego Repertory Theater, so a lot of our babysitters were up and coming stage actors and actresses’!
I try and incorporate my art with what I do, so for a lot of our prints….
I’ll do the handwork, it depends how we’re going to print it, if we’re going to make it digital or not. For Summer and then also for Winter I did a lot of hand-painted prints. We do most of all our stuff in-house, sometimes things are a little bit beyond our skill level so then we will create the direction and mood, so when we do that we’ll often work with an artist. We were in Italy last year and there was this print, this amazing mosaic floor and we photographed it, we couldn’t get close to it cause it was behind this massive fence, but that was inspiration for a print, so they just sort of pop up!”
Story and styling by Chrisanthi Kaliviotis; Photography by Neiyo Sun.