Aus­tralian de­signer Kym Ellery is dis­rupt­ing the fash­ion cal­en­dar—and its sta­tus quo.


Kym Ellery shares the defin­ing mo­ments of her epony­mous wom­enswear la­bel

It’s rare to find a fash­ion de­signer

who can ex­press a brand DNA as strong and as sig­na­ture as Kym Ellery’s epony­mous la­bel. Her vo­lu­mi­nous tai­lored gar­ments feel in­tu­itive and ef­fort­lessly for­ward and fem­i­nine. Last year, the Paris-based de­signer cel­e­brated 10 years in busi­ness, which in­spired a bold move: this past Jan­u­ary, Ellery de­buted a reimag­ined busi­ness model and dipped into the es­teemed world of haute cou­ture with a stylish high-fash­ion range made for the mod­ern woman—Ellery’s spe­cialty. Here, the fear­less and uber-smart de­signer be­hind one of the coolest wom­enswear la­bels talks grow­ing up in Perth, fe­male em­pow­er­ment, and the free­ing side ef­fect of dress­ing for your­self.

How did grow­ing up in Perth in­flu­ence your creative path?

“Perth is one of the most beau­ti­ful cities in the world. [The city’s] na­ture and the guid- ance of my mother, who’s an artist, helped me de­velop my cre­ativ­ity. Grow­ing up, we cre­ated a lot of art, and I also love to sew. It was an ideal up­bring­ing and I feel very lucky to have had that.”

What in­spired you to start your own la­bel?

“I grad­u­ated high school and had a gap year where I trav­elled, and ac­ci­den­tally found my­self in Syd­ney. I fell in love with how much of a fash­ion in­dus­try there was there, and how beau­ti­ful the city was at the same time. In my early 20s, I got a job as a sales girl at a store, and through that job, I fell into a role at

RUSSH mag­a­zine. Their fash­ion ed­i­tor came in once and wanted an in­tern, so I ap­plied. That led to four years at the mag­a­zine: I started out in­tern­ing and then as­sisted the ed­i­tor. At the same time as my in­tern­ship, I trav­elled to Lon­don and did sum­mer school at Cen­tral Saint Martins. It was at that point where I was de­cid­ing, ‘Should I pur­sue fash­ion, or should I work in pub­lish­ing?’ Be­cause I was quite young, I chose to work at the mag­a­zine and learnt so much about the in­dus­try. I started at 21, and by 23, I felt I needed my own pro­ject. I had a few things I was mak­ing on the side (I’d make my girl­friends dresses, and I made a par­tic­u­lar pair of tights that some­how ended up in the pages of Vogue Australia), and I re­mem­ber think­ing, ‘I’ve al­ready got some­thing in Vogue. I should prob­a­bly start my own brand now.’ And that was that. I dived right in even though I knew very lit­tle, but I knew I’d fig­ure it out along the way. And my goal was to come to Paris with it one day!”

How have you evolved and de­vel­oped Ellery’s style aes­thetic to what it has be­come to­day?

“The funny thing is that some of the pieces I did in my first and sec­ond col­lec­tions are sil­hou­ettes that re­ally de­fine the brand: a big bal­loon­ing sleeve in my first col­lec­tion and [flared shapes] in my sec­ond. I love the idea of nos­tal­gia and bring­ing my favourite sil­hou­ettes from the ’60s and ’70s, but mak­ing them more wear­able and fun for mod­ern-day women. Vol­ume be­came re­ally im­por­tant for me, and I would work with it each sea­son by shift­ing and evolv­ing it around the body. That’s the essence of how the Ellery DNA was born.”

How do you view the con­cept of women dress­ing for them­selves?

“There was that mo­ment when Le­an­dra Me­dine [launched her blog] Man Re­peller, and I think that that re­ally started some­thing. The no­tion of ‘re­pelling men’ is also the no­tion of dress­ing for one’s self and not car­ing about what oth­ers think. That links back to a fem­i­nist no­tion that I re­ally be­lieve in: equal­ity. I also view fash­ion as a lan­guage that’s universal. You see peo­ple come to­gether from dif­fer­ent cul­tures, races, and re­li­gions— all united through this love of fash­ion. And fash­ion needs to be some­thing that’s ex­cit­ing, emo­tional, and ex­pres­sive. That’s how I ap­proach it, and that’s how I want peo­ple to re­ceive it. You should al­ways do things for your­self, and I be­lieve in be­ing a strong, in­de­pen­dent woman. I live that way be­cause I cre­ated this brand with no in­vestors.”

Why is it so im­por­tant for you to push for in­no­va­tive fab­rics in your col­lec­tions?

“There was a very strong fo­cus on tex­tiles in my home grow­ing up. My mother would walk to the bush and col­lect tree bark that had fallen. She would then put it in a pot of wa­ter and boil it to dye silks in dif­fer­ent colours. As a child, to be ex­posed to that was so fas­ci­nat­ing, and to have my mind be open to the dif­fer­ent things that you can do with fab­ric, and how it is such an im­por­tant part of mak­ing a gar­ment, be­came a very key point in the brand. Ev­ery sea­son I try to ap­proach things dif­fer­ently, but it al­ways comes down to the fab­ric, and find­ing some­thing that’s or­ganic and tech­ni­cal. It’s an ex­cit­ing time in tex­tiles be­cause of the tech­no­log­i­cal av­dance­ments: tak­ing plas­tic bot­tles and cre­at­ing a beau­ti­ful jac­quard—a lux­u­ri­ous piece of fab­ric. It’s also a su­per ex­cit­ing time for us as designers to have ac­cess to those types of things and im­ple­ment them in the range.”

How did it feel to move your shows to Paris?

“It’s a re­ally spe­cial place and I’ve had such a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence here. It can be re­ally in­tim­i­dat­ing com­ing to a coun­try and not know­ing the lan­guage, but when you make an ef­fort to learn, [lo­cals] are very gen­er­ous and kind back. It was al­ways my goal and my dream to show Ellery at Paris Fash­ion Week, and to now be a mem­ber of the Cham­bre Syn­di­cale du Prêt-à-Porter des Cou­turi­ers et des Créa­teurs de Mode is re­ally quite amaz­ing.”

You an­nounced that as of Jan­u­ary, 2018, Ellery’s run­way col­lec­tions would be shown dur­ing Haute Cou­ture week. What spurred the de­ci­sion?

“The in­dus­try has be­come so fast-paced, and I felt like there was no time or re­spect be­ing given to the ar­ti­sans and to the amount of time they take to make a gar­ment. I wanted to look at the fash­ion week sched­ules and how things op­er­ate and find a new way to present the col­lec­tion. The idea was to bring a timeline for­ward to sell and pro­mote the col­lec­tion that just hap­pens to land dur­ing Haute Cou­ture Fash­ion Week. It means we can sell and de­liver ear­lier, which in turn cre­ates time for the peo­ple mak­ing the gar­ments. We will be cre­at­ing two col­lec­tions a year and split­ting them into Chap­ter One and Chap­ter Two, which is ba­si­cally pre-col­lec­tion and main col­lec­tion. We’re putting the em­pha­sis on ‘pre’ be­cause we want that to be what we put on the [run­way]. It’s the col­lec­tion that has the long­est time on the shop floor, the one the buy­ers spend most of their budget on, and the one that the pub­lic has the most ac­cess to. We also wanted to look at sup­port­ing and be­ing in­volved in cou­ture be­cause it’s some­thing that’s deeply writ­ten in our DNA, with our fab­ric and em­broi­dery choices and the way in which we con­struct things.”

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