Full circle (x2): Studio 7 Dancewear partners with The National Ballet School

Studio 7 Dancewear. Photo by Shotography.
Studio 7 Dancewear. Photo by Shotography.

Who doesn’t love the full circle thing? The symmetry is sometimes impossible to resist; like when a former student becomes a trusted business partner.

But what about when the circle is doubled? Even more satisfying. As good as a 720° spin.

Welcome to the world of Studio 7 Dancewear and The National Ballet School. In 2024, the two have entered into their second partnership, the former supplying the latter with branded outfits.

It’s a story that began when a three-year-old Ukrainian immigrant took her first class at the famed St Kilda based academy in Melbourne. However, unlike most of her classmates, she was not dreaming of a life on stage. “As a kid, I loved dancing, but I also had this strange desire to be a lawyer,” she recalls.

Studio 7 Dancewear. Photo by Shotography.
Studio 7 Dancewear. Photo by Shotography.

Towards the end of her time at The National, Victoria Blidman began to think outside the square. She realised there was a lack of choice in the dancewear market. “I just remember thinking, ‘Gosh, maybe I could do this, maybe I could bring in another brand.’ But funnily enough, the first thing I thought was, ‘I would really love to design a pointe shoe.’”

However, the footwear dream was soon supplanted by the more pragmatic dancewear idea. “Because I had this really close association with the National, I was talking to the director at the time and she said she’d support me. ‘If you bring this stuff out, we’ll make it the uniform at the school.’ That was massive. Without that, we just would never have got off the ground,” Blidman concedes.

Thus, from a corner in her parents’ garage, Studio 7 grew to become one of Australia and New Zealand’s key dancewear names.

Fast forward to last year – add on a legal career, husband and three kids – and Blidman found herself at the Victorian Dance Festival (VDF), where she soon reconnected with her alma mater.

Having been replaced as the school’s uniform supplier when a new management team took over, Studio 7 found themselves back on the radar when the new regime was itself replaced by yet another leadership group.

As Blidman explains, “I got a chance to meet with Sarah Hunt [the new, new National CEO] and told her the story of our original connection and she just said, ‘Wow, we didn’t know this, we want to talk to you more.’ So, that kicked off six months of discussions, and now we’ve announced this new partnership. Moving forward this year, they remade their uniform and we created custom colours to suit their needs.”

Studio 7 Dancewear. Photo by Daniel Enright Photography.
Studio 7 Dancewear. Photo by Daniel Enright Photography.

More than a preferred supplier deal, the Studio 7/National tie-up has an almost choreographed feel. After all, the brand was named “semi in honour” of the school. The story is that the building has six studios and the brand is the figurative seventh.

Yet, for all the brand alignment talk, one pressing question remains. What exactly is dancewear? Is there something about it that makes it different from ‘active’ wear or everyday gym gear?

Studio 7’s founder is quick to dispel any unhelpful myths. Dancewear is not essentially different. Indeed, the core brand promise rests upon a troika of aesthetics, support and durability.   

People want their dancewear to “feel supportive.” It is also important that it lets the body breathe and sweat. This comes down to fabric selection.

The National Theatre. Photo by Pasquale Palmieri.
The National Theatre. Photo by Pasquale Palmieri.

“We really endeavour to choose the fabrics that can meet those criteria,” Blidman elaborates. “What you’re looking for is something a dancer can put on, and when they get up in class, they feel good. Because I think that when you feel good in what you’re wearing, you’re able to perform at your best as well.”

Aside from servicing the ‘school uniform’ market, Studio 7 also makes garments tailored for performance. Here especially, the look is critical; although not everything. “It’s got to look good but also move well,” Blidman adds. “With the sorts of moves dancers are doing on stage now, you want to know that what you’re wearing is going to stay where it’s meant to be.”

Studio 7 Dancewear. Photo by Shotography.
Studio 7 Dancewear. Photo by Shotography.

In other words, no wardrobe malfunctions. The upshot is that garments are specifically tailored to the moving body. Moreover, Blidman details, there is a big focus on what the garment will do when the wearer is turning or kicking. Meanwhile, on the costume side, there is also consideration given to expression – what kind of thought or emotion can be conveyed.

Reflecting on her years in the industry, she believes the market is much more competitive than it was when she was a teenage entrepreneur. This, she argues, is healthy, and a win for the end user.

The personal impact, however, is illustrative. Balancing a career as a barrister, business owner and mother/partner is, admits Blidman, as tricky as the most technical ballet move. “To say that life is full is an understatement,” she declares. “It’s been one of those things where I started the business when I was 19 and I was at law school, and I still had plenty of time on my hands. I kind of laughed, calling it a side hustle before side hustles were a thing; but then it kept growing in parallel with my professional life. So now, they both occupy a very big part of my time and, yeah, it’s a bit crazy that I still try and do both. But anyway, here we are.”

Full circle times two…and not a stitch out of place.

By Paul Ransom of Dance Informa.

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