| P E O P L E |
Fashion Designer | Sydney
Charismatic and dynamic, Kym Ellery is one of the rising stars of the international fashion world. We find out more about her journey to become Australia's most coveted luxury fashion designer.
Kym Ellery was the third-ever Australian fashion designer to show at Paris Fashion Week in 2013. Her edgy women’s fashion label, Ellery, is worn by style-savvy models and celebrities. Now, she’s setting the international fashion world on fire with her architectural silhouettes and flamboyant, 1970s-inspired designs. We catch up with the Australian designer to find out more about her journey to become one of Australia's leading luxury fashion designers.
RV: Can you tell us about your childhood and growing up in Australia?
KE: Both of my parents were from New Zealand, and they moved to Australia in the 1970s. I spent a lot of time with my mother growing up in very rural areas in Western Australia, such as Karratha, Dampier and Geraldton. There wasn't a lot to do there, so my mother, who's amazing, kept me very occupied. As she did her creative projects, I would always be alongside her doing my thing, too. I think that cemented my connection with visual expression in various forms, such as painting, drawing and eventually fashion. I've been very blessed to have such a supportive family who have encouraged me to do whatever I wanted and to be creative.
RV: When did you decide to launch your own label, Ellery?
KE: I always knew that I would do something in fashion. It was very organic. I think back now and wonder, "What was I thinking? What gave me that confidence to think that I could go out and build a brand?" Naivety was probably my best friend, thinking back now. If I knew what I know now, I think I would have been more hesitant, and definitely more organised, before jumping into it. After studying fashion in Australia, I went to the Central Saint Martin’s School in London, where I did a summer school course and had an incredible time. Being so young and living overseas really opened my eyes, it was such a great experience. I was then offered a job at Russh, a Sydney-based fashion magazine. I was in my early twenties at the time, so it was a great opportunity. I’d been at Russh for around two years or so, and I remember asking the publisher if he minded if I started a side project. He said, "Go for it." I started working on my own designs part-time for two years while still working at the magazine. It was really hard, and I didn't get much sleep. I'd get home from work events at around 9pm or 10pm, and then I'd stay up until 2am working on my own designs. The first accessory I made was shot by Vogue Australia, and they published two full pages about it. This was actually before I'd even officially started the label. They called me for a credit and said, "What brand should we call these pieces?" I answered, "Let's just call them "Ellery." When the article was published, I remember thinking, "Oh, my god. I've already got a brand!” It’s been seven years since then, and we’ve now grown to 20 full‐time staff members.
RV: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
KE: What I focus on is a sense of timelessness and modernity. I want to dress intelligent women, and I want them to wear the clothes, and not the reverse. I like to focus on architectural silhouettes, tailoring and small twists on detailed tailoring. The cuts are often very simple, but we like to combine classic cuts mixed with flamboyant, extreme silhouettes, such as our flares, which is something that we’ve become known for. We like the concept of old-meets-new, giving old pieces a fresh remake. That's always been my focus. I always want to dress women from various age groups and demographics. My focus is also upon high quality fabrics – the touch, the feel and the way that the fabric is worn. It's super important. I work with a lot of mills in Switzerland, France, Italy, Korea and Japan. We buy fabrics from them and ship them to Australia. It's about every piece withstanding the test of time, both aesthetically and the way it’s made. Most of our collection is manufactured in Sydney at family-run factories. They're really amazing people. It’s becoming difficult in the industry because local factories are increasingly going out of business.
RV: What inspires your collections?
KE: It definitely moves around, but the places I feel the most inspired are in art galleries, or when I watch an amazing film, or hear a song that sounds interesting. Sometimes I'll take my colour palette from a film. The pre-fall collection we’re releasing now was actually inspired by David Bowie and his Ziggy Stardust period, when he was wearing all of these flamboyant gold pieces, metallics and lurex. I always try and make time to visit art galleries for inspiration, particularly in Paris. Anywhere where you can walk away and feel inspired, to get you into a great head space to think about surfaces, architecture and colours.
RV: What would you say is one of the biggest highlights of your career so far?
KE: I think the highlight was being able to do several fashion shows in Paris; having the level of people who came to see the show, and hosting an audience from so many corners of the world. It's always been my long‐term goal. We were invited to show our Spring Summer 2014 collection as part of the Paris Fashion Week 2013 official off-schedule. It was very exciting for us to be invited, so we chose a beautiful location at the Hotel d’Evreux in Place Vendôme. They have an incredible room there with a glass ceiling. I put myself under so much pressure, but it was an incredibly rewarding opportunity. We've also presented two other collections in Paris since then, which were both unforgettable experience too. I always love going to Paris.
RV: What would you say are some of the biggest challenges of being an entrepreneur?
KE: The challenge would definitely be learning to run a business. Being a sole director with no investors, and growing my label with a very small loan from my beloved father, has been such a challenge. I'm becoming very proud of it, though, the more I think about it, to be 31 years old and to have a company, to have achieved the international attention the brand is getting and to know that I created it myself. I'm at a point where I can start to feel really pleased and proud about that.
Interview: Kimberley McLoughlin
Photography: Courtesy of Ellery
Interview first published in RedVisitor Magazine: Issue Two - Purchase Now
M O R E I N T E R V I E W S . . .