MIXED BLESS­ING

A ca­reer move, an ex­plo­ration of style and a touch­ing trib­ute, Kayla Jurlina’s pro­ject-based brand is ap­peal­ingly mul­ti­fac­eted, dis­cov­ers Phoebe Watt

Fashion Quarterly - - Profile - @homa­ge­of­fi­cial homa­geon­line.co.nz

They say ev­ery end is a new be­gin­ning. For 24-year-old

Kayla Jurlina — for­mer right­hand woman to Dame Trelise Cooper — the end came ear­lier this year, when she de­cided to leave the com­pany she’d worked for for seven years.

“I started in­tern­ing for Trelise when I was at high school — I’d take sick days off to help out,” she says. While at univer­sity, she worked part-time in Trelise Cooper bou­tiques and at the com­pany’s head of­fice, un­til her fi­nal year of study, when she was of­fered the role of de­sign as­sis­tant. In 2015, she was ap­pointed de­signer for the brand’s mil­len­nial la­bel, Coop.

“I had so much fun in that role, trav­el­ling all the time to Paris and Tokyo,” she says. “Trelise and I got on like a house on fire

— and still do. I love her to bits and miss her so much.”

Suf­fice to say, it wasn’t an easy de­ci­sion to quit. But a cul­mi­na­tion of events in Kayla’s per­sonal life caused her to re­flect on the di­rec­tion her ca­reer was tak­ing and con­sider look­ing for a new chal­lenge.

“Last year was re­ally hard,” she says. “My mum has can­cer and at one point it looked like she wasn’t go­ing to make it to Christ­mas. It got me think­ing about how life’s so short, and I re­alised I want to do some­thing for my­self.”

Not one to sec­ond-guess a gut in­stinct, Kayla left Trelise Cooper be­fore she knew what that ‘some­thing’ was. With an empty sched­ule for the first time in her adult life, she ini­tially oc­cu­pied her time with loung­ing around. But within a week or two, the itchy feet kicked in. She be­gan search­ing for a pro­ject, even­tu­ally stum­bling on it in the form of 150 pairs of vin­tage ear­rings she’d re­cently pur­chased from her part­ner’s mother, Ju­dith Slane.

“She used to be a jew­eller back in the ’80s and ’90s,” says Kayla. “Then, when she got preg­nant with my part­ner, An­drew, and his brother, Tim, she ended up putting the busi­ness on hold.”

The left­over stock was stored away, Kayla learn­ing of its ex­is­tence shortly af­ter she be­gan dat­ing An­drew three years ago. “One day, Ju­dith pulled out a big black box and it was full of all this vin­tage cos­tume jew­ellery, and I was just like, ‘Oh my god!’”

Se­cretly han­ker­ing to bor­row pieces but fig­ur­ing Ju­dith was sav­ing them, Kayla couldn’t be­lieve it when she found out they were be­ing sold. “Last year she had a sale, and I re­mem­ber walk­ing into the room and see­ing ev­ery­thing sit­ting there on the ta­ble and pan­ick­ing. I didn’t want any­one else buy­ing them.”

Kayla begged for them to be packed away, much to the in­credulity of An­drew, who couldn’t fathom why any­one would need that many ear­rings. Kayla ad­mits even she couldn’t an­swer that ques­tion at the time. “I was just like, ‘Trust me, I need them. I don’t know what it is, but I feel like this is the start of some­thing.’”

Fast for­ward a few months and it oc­curred to her that what she had was the be­gin­ning of Homage, a pro­ject-based brand built around self-con­tained col­lec­tions. “It’s not a jew­ellery brand,” says Kayla. “Yes, the first col­lec­tion is jew­ellery, but the next one might be an­tiques. I’ve de­signed it as a plat­form for me to ex­plore dif­fer­ent cre­ative pur­suits.”

This said, her heart is “still very much in fash­ion”. And, in fact, it was her ob­ses­sion with vin­tage lux­ury fash­ion ad­ver­tis­ing that in­spired Homage’s first col­lec­tion. “It’s that ’80s power-dress­ing thing. I was look­ing at this old Chanel cam­paign and there are all these beau­ti­ful women dressed in suits, and they all have jew­ellery lay­ered on — pearls and huge ear­rings — and it made me re­alise that it’s def­i­nitely a look that’s hap­pen­ing again. And I think it’s to do with this fem­i­nist resur­gence and women feel­ing re­ally em­pow­ered.”

Equal parts em­pow­ered and em­pow­er­ing, while at Trelise Cooper, Kayla seized the op­por­tu­nity to give sev­eral ‘women in busi­ness’ pre­sen­ta­tions. She says the ex­pe­ri­ence of telling her story to women work­ing in dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries was as in­spir­ing for her as it was for her au­di­ences.

“I think it’s be­cause I want to be known as a woman in busi­ness my­self. Not a fash­ion de­signer or a jew­ellery de­signer — a woman in busi­ness.”

Homage, she be­lieves, is her key to un­lock­ing that dream, es­pe­cially if she can se­cure as her cus­tomers the busi­ness­women she so ad­mires. “I do want to tar­get fash­ion­able women, but I think the brand has a sense of so­phis­ti­ca­tion to it. The whole brand iden­tity is some­thing that I want to see more of a ma­ture woman buy into.”

A black-tie launch event at Auck­land’s Gus Fisher Gallery in the fi­nal week of Au­gust will go far in set­ting this so­phis­ti­cated tone. The evening will cen­tre around an ex­hi­bi­tion of prints shot by Robert Hart of photography

“I was just like, ‘Trust me, I need them. I feel like this is the start of

some­thing’”

stu­dio Shad­ow­lands, show­cas­ing pieces from Homage’s in­au­gu­ral col­lec­tion paired with a mix of high and low food items.

“Half of it is re­ally deca­dent — think oys­ters and cray­fish, al­most

‘power food’, to play up the pow­er­dress­ing as­pect of the brand. And then the other half is things that re­mind me of my child­hood, like

Chex and peanut but­ter on toast,” says Kayla. “I want ev­ery­one to look at the prints and feel a sense of nos­tal­gia, like, ‘My mum had a pair of ear­rings just like that.’”

Kayla’s own mother, Shona Jurlina, re­mains a muse and motivator. “When I was lit­tle, she was re­ally big on cos­tume jew­ellery, and [later] she al­ways used to say to me when I was trav­el­ling on buy­ing trips, ‘Look out for clip-on ear­rings, Kayla!’ It’s funny, you never want to do what your mother says, but some­how it’s come full cir­cle.”

In­deed, fea­tur­ing sev­eral pieces sourced from tex­tile fairs in Paris and the south of France, Kayla says her first col­lec­tion — and, for that mat­ter, the brand it­self — is an homage to the woman who raised her. Or should that be women?

“Ab­so­lutely,” says Kayla. “I’m pay­ing homage to my mum. And to my grand­mother, and to Ju­dith… and Trelise, who has been huge. We all have peo­ple in our lives who help us on our jour­ney, and I’ve been lucky enough to have a few. Homage is my way of ex­press­ing my grat­i­tude for that.”

Pieces from Homage’s first col­lec­tion in a print shot by Robert Hart, part of an ex­hi­bi­tion to be held for the brand’s launch. Op­po­site: Kayla Jurlina.

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