I remember meeting Candice Dennis (now Trude) like it was yesterday. It was my first day working in publicity at the headquarters of Australian fashion label WILLOW and this striking blonde (who at that time was the fit model) was floating around the studio draped in all the clothes. We chatted briefly that day and there were two things I knew right away about Candice. The first, was that she was a creative force to be reckoned with. The second, was that I knew I had to be friends with her.
Fast forward eight years and after a solid stint as a designer for WILLOW, that creative force is now the head designer for eminent Australia label, Bec and Bridge. Season after season, Candice’s unique sense of style shines through on the catwalk – not that you’d expect anything less from someone who says Plan B was never an option. And as for the friends part? Well from days spent in London to nights out in Paris and weekends together in Bowral, Candy and I have been thick as thieves ever since. We had so much fun shooting this piece in the Bec and Bridge studio and I hope you enjoy the interview…
Did you always want to be a fashion designer?
Yes. It was always what I dreamed of – there wasn’t really a plan B! From styling and dressing myself, my dolls and my baby brother from a young age, to winning many a colouring in competition. I don’t think my parents were at all surprised at my career path – they encouraged me to shoot for the stars, so I did!
What do you love most about what you do?
You have to love what you do to survive in this industry, so I’m lucky I love what I do! The truth is it’s a cut throat industry. You have to work hard, prove yourself and be good at what you do. I feel privileged that I work with a great team and have supportive bosses who give me a lot of creative freedom. With that said, it’s had its challenges. I’ve had to learn a lot about business and being commercial, but at the same time innovative. The real challenge is getting the mix of art and commerce right, but when you nail it it’s very satisfying!
One of the things I love most about my job and the creativity that comes with it, is that I can’t imagine my life without having the opportunity to express my ideas. I’m a dreamer and thinker, so to be able to have those ideas and dreams and then bring them to life is very rewarding!
You lived in Paris for some time after graduating from fashion school – any big lessons learnt from your time abroad?
I learnt very quickly that if you want something in life, you have to chase it, do the hard yards and earn it. Being told ‘no’ actually drove me – I realised that opportunities were not going to arrive on my doorstep and people were not going to hold my hand; I had to work hard, be smart, be well researched and throw myself in to it! I learnt a lot about myself too – who I was and more importantly who I wanted to become. To mark my transition back to Australia I chopped off all my hair, broke up with my boyfriend, organised a new apartment and applied for new jobs. This was the beginning of the new Candice attitude!
Prior to joining Bec & Bridge you worked as a designer for WILLOW – can you tell us a bit about this time?
Kit (Willow) was a great mentor to me – she took me under her wing when I was 19 and came in for work experience. I guess she saw something in me! After a week of interning I became the fit model and the week after I was on a plane to Paris. I interned for the remaining 2 years of college and continued to work by her side for another 4 years.
Kit was tough love, she was hard on me, but I watched and I learned. I pulled up my socks, dotted my I’s and crossed my T’s. She didn’t let me miss a beat. Thanks to Kit I have the eagles eye, there’s not much I don’t miss!
You’re expecting your first baby very soon, how are you feeling about motherhood?
Its something you always dream of but when it actually happens it feels quiet surreal. I have started to feel the baby kicking which is one of the most beautiful/bizarre feelings. To know that you have a life inside you that you have created with your husband is almost indescribable – you’re really connected. Giving life to this tiny creature is exciting and daunting at the same time, I don’t know what its going to be like but I do know that I am prepared to be open, patient, to trust my instincts and remember to laugh! I’m sure it’s a life changing experience, and one I cannot wait for!
What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
I was in Paris travelling for work and staying with my friend who lived there. I love her because she is always honest and really black and white. When I was staying with her she outright told me I needed to ‘get a life’. It was pretty forward and confronting, but I’m glad she was honest. I was ambitious and hardworking but at that time my work consumed me in an unhealthy way; it took over my life and that’s all I had, and it wasn’t making me happy. I’ve always remembered this and it has reminded me of the importance of having a healthy work/life balance. And happy to say, I got a life!
Your biggest life challenge so far?
My work has always challenged me and will continue to at times, however I feel confident in skills I have learnt over the years. I feel the biggest challenge is yet ahead of me! I think becoming a mother will be the most challenging thing by far, I don’t have any skills in this area!
However, I am excited for the new chapter ahead and the more life challenges us the more we grow, so I’m looking forward to being a mother – learning how to balance life, family and work, all the while trying to keep sane!
Aside from fashion and design, what inspires you?
Travel! I love to travel. I find the feeling of being transported to a different place so inspiring, not just creatively but also for the soul.
There is the usual excitement that comes with travel like being stimulated by foreign surrounding such as art, architecture, history, food and even people watching in the streets, but one of the things I like most about travel is the thrill of stepping out of my comfort zone and immersing myself into a different culture. The ability to open your eyes and see the world through another lens and to be a stranger where no-ones know your name. Getting lost and finding your way, using a map or trying to understand a foreign language and even driving on the other side of the road – these things are all great challenges that make us use a different part of our brain. I think being challenged and problem solving as humans is important.
I think it also allows for a sense of perspective, away from my own daily life routine. Not only do I find it inspiring but really grounding – it makes me realise my place in the world and how insignificant we all are in the scheme of things!
How do you relate to the word ‘adrift’?
The first thing I think about is having a headspace. When I feel my head is clear I have time and space to think and dream. This time is so important to me in my life, I feel these moments of being ‘adrift’ when I can tap into myself and my being. To stop, think and reflect. It could be as simple as going for a walk on a sunny day with a salty breeze.