Meet the mistress with the mostess behind the Mirjeta Movement

Written by Leanne Esposito

It’s time to cast off those shame shackles with a renewed carefree confidence and sashay your way into summer in some sexy swimwear

Summer. What’s not to love about the hottest season. The days get longer, the stars shine brighter, your hair gets lighter, the water gets warmer, the music gets louder and life truly does seem better.

It’s a time to live in the sunshine, swim in the sea and drink in the wild air. A time to truly feel alive. A time to shed those winter layers and free your body to enjoy the sensations of the natural surroundings.

It’s time to get the beach bod out for the sun god – right?

And now the projected collective groan of a thousand readers lamenting that last skinny latte and donut combo while fat shaming themselves is deafening. But why?

Let’s try to change our negative narratives. Let’s live the summer dream together. Love yourself. Be who you are. Your body it just your body.

Let me repeat – it’s time to truly feel alive!

Why not give it a go! Sure we come in all shapes and sizes with bits and bobs and bumps to boot – or big booty. No judgment here. And please don’t judge yourself.

Now could be your time to get into the thrill of summer for all the right reasons. Especially as there’s one amazing woman who knows how to adorn and drape a body, anybody’s body, with just the right pinch and cinch and fold of lavish fabric.

And in the case of swimwear, less is always more.

Meet local fashion designer Belinda Russo who has been breaking barriers and crossing international borders for the past two years with her swimwear range – Mirjeta.

The label means good life in Albanian and everything about the designs scream sophisticated European style. Her label is a tribute to her ancestry. There is not a hint of appropriation. You see Belinda’s mother is an Albanian Greek Australian and her father, Italian.

Belinda is authentic in her creative imagination which stems from a career in design and an historical fashion flair. Her first collection of green and blue swimwear pieces was inspired by the colour of the mountains and ocean surrounding the Albanian Riviera.

When I first met Belinda in late 2019 her fashion start-up had just debuted in a runway extravaganza hosted by fashion guru Leah Harvey at a Melbourne Cup party, at what was then, the famous Coast Restaurant. Julia Paussa’s Coast was the place to be; where the local ladies shimmied and shook their frocks and fascinators while imbibing in bubbles and bonhomie.

I wrote of my impression of the Mirjeta’s designer and founder as an attractive woman with a vibrant persona, full of vim and vigour. I noted her luscious dark curls and wide smile which glowed like sunshine. I was impressed by her confident energy and eager creative passion. Belinda told me of her large dreams personally, and for our local population.

“In the future I’d like to do the Miami Swimwear Week where a bunch of designers from all around the world display their collections. It would really put Hervey Bay on the map,” she said.

Belinda impressed me as a go-getter. I called her a creative intellectual who was always thinking, doing, creating and connecting. She had shelved legal studies and shifted gears to a right brain design career.

So I was pleased to learn that even a pandemic couldn’t compromise her international plans for prominence.

Belinda may not have personally made the trip to Miami as Covid 19 squashed that event but her swimwear certainly has smashed the international barrier with the 2020 Lujeta collection selling out instantly.

One Mirjeta design has even adorned the display window of a New York Fashion House; another, the body of none other than drag queen Olivia Lux who was a contestant on Season 13 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. (Remember I said all shapes and sizes and bits and bobs.) That’s a fantastic international endorsement for Mirjeta as drag queens are serious about their fashion creed!

But how did this all happen when the whole world was in a global lockdown? How did Olivia Lux, Flying Solo the largest independent designer platform in the United States, or that woman from Dubai find a designer from little old Hervey Bay?

The story is that we should never underestimate the power of the internet, Instagram or Facebook. Belinda is shrewd in the most positive way. Personally I believe that left brain is working just as hard as the right. Belinda explains how these promotional opportunities transpired and how she sees her work.

“The process is very complex. I start from an idea or inspiration from magazines or popular culture trends. I hand draw designs, go to an artist to create the look and then work with a pattern maker in Brisbane or overseas. I have been trying to keep it Australian made. I will then promote a sample.

“I worked so tirelessly with Mirjeta. It’s my passion. Especially getting noticed internationally.

“Flying Solo primarily sell independent designers and showcase people in the fashion industry. They did an Instagram live event which I would have loved to have attended.

They chose my designs from my first collection and the Albanian Riviera photoshoot.

“I’ve since had offers from premier retail agencies, in New York, Dubai and London,” she said.

Belinda is certainly tireless. Her men’s swimwear range Avni is undoubtedly a hit with its form fitting colourful designs, light years ahead of block coloured or branded budgie smugglers or boardies.

hey enhance the muscular male physique without being too tight or too loose. Like a goldilocks theme, they’re just right, in all the right places.

Belinda is never one to rest. I caught her in the middle of prepping for the her 2021/22 Jipse collection photoshoot.

Call me curious but I had to ask why she believes Mirjeta is so appealing. Don’t get me wrong. I’m already a believer – I wrote it back in 2019. I said it now and I’ll say it again, she has me convinced. I believe in her fashion dream. I suppose I was looking for the motivation behind the dream.

“I believe it’s the concept and the story. That whole European vibe. Taking them (people) back to when we could travel. Summer holidays in Europe. It’s always on my mind,” she said.

And it doesn’t stop there. It never does with Belinda. She is so hands on from the creation to the design. She draws inspiration from the Hervey Bay sunsets she enjoys on her afternoon walk along the Esplanade which inform and inspire her branding.

“I also work behind the scenes on the socials, the website and the graphic design. There is no outsourcing. It is all me. That way it is more personalised. Everything has been thought of down to the tissue paper. Even the beautiful gift box. The beautiful sticker. I want my customers to experience the unboxing,” she said.

It is clear that Belinda cares. She wants her customers to enjoy the experience not just to buy an item. This is not fast fashion. I take my hat off to the detailed lengths she goes to ensure her authenticity and the personalisation of her brand.

But wait, there’s more. It doesn’t stop with some pretty boxes and bows!

Mirjeta’s new collection is now made from recycled materials. Belinda’s environmental awareness will ensure her brand is sustainable into the future.

“With the new collection we are using recycled materials. The fabric is made from recycled bottles and it is so soft. I am happy to be a part of the change. To be environmental and to look after the ocean and ocean animals,” she said.

Belinda certainly believes that summer, and her swimwear, should last forever. And maybe she’s right, because even when the tan fades those summer, sun and sand dreams may well last a lifetime.