Kym Ellery talks style, specs and why she would never show in New York
Nope; it's the round tortoiseshell specs she's sporting (she wears them for reading). It's fitting, because we're here to talk the Ellery X Specsavers collection - a capsule comprising 14 optical glasses and six prescription shades that launches nationwide tomorrow.
For anyone with Ellery in their wardrobe or on their wish list, it's big news: one of the country's most sought-after designers, Ellery is only the third Australian to ever be invited to show at Paris Fashion Week, and her star is rising globally - Rihanna, Chloë Sevigny, Elle Fanning and Rita Ora are just a handful of the style-savvy celebrities recently spotted in her designs.
Her debut frames campaign is fronted by Aussie super Gemma Ward (pictured below) and is inspired by icons of the silver screen: think Diane Keaton in Annie Hall; Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise and Woody Allen. "I wanted to embrace the same philosophies that we have at Ellery - modern classics," Ellery tells me. "It's nice to wear something that expresses who you are somewhat, since it's on your face, it's the first thing people see." Read what the designer has to say about style staples, style stealers (yep), accessory regret and fashion industry favourites below.
Have you ever worn a pair of glasses that, looking back, makes you cringe?
I remember my favourite pair, which I would never wear now: they were a vintage '50s frame that was one of those Dame Edna styles, really winged, but the screws were stars, which I loved. I remember being more about the screws than the frames themselves. I've definitely evolved in terms of personal style since then!
You looked to film icons for the inspiration for this collection - where do you tend to find inspiration for Ellery more broadly?
It's film, it's art, it's a visit to the art gallery or just a song or seeing something in the car when you're driving or travelling - I take a lot of photographs so I'm constantly looking at details and the landscape and photographing it.
Who's had the biggest influence on your work?
My mother. She's an artist and she taught me how to sew when I was eight. I grew up in Perth, which is very isolated and in the '80s and '90s, there wasn't anything really to do. There wasn't much television. So I spent a lot of time in the art societies and studios my mum would be a part of, and she was also at university when I was at school, doing fine art and textiles and things, so I spent a lot of time working in different mediums with her, and she taught me a lot about design development.
Who in the industry do you admire?
Emanuelle Alt, who just shot some Ellery for Vogue Paris, which is very exciting. Fabien Baron, the art director. He did all those iconic Balenciaga campaigns. Christine [Centenera, from Vogue Australia], who is a good friend. I think what she's doing is very exciting. I love Chris Esber too, he's adorable. I just want to cuddle him when I see him! And Luke and Anna of course, they're just something else. I love their stuff; it's crazy and great and they're beautiful people as well. And Eva Galambos from Parlour X, she's a dear friend. She's fearless.
How has showing in Paris changed the business?
Every season we just keep growing and it's a very exciting time for us. Showing in Paris - it's the only place I've ever wanted to show, it's the only place I think is relevant for us to show. People ask me all the time, 'oh why don't you show in New York?', but I think Paris is the home of innovation and it's where the most risks are taken and it's not about commerciality necessarily, it's about having a vision and they're all the things that I set out to do when I created the brand. We're still evolving every season and I'm constantly trying to make the collection better and better, but I figure there's no better place to do it than Paris.
I associate Ellery with voluminous sleeves and flares, which are now everywhere - what do you think of industry copycats? Does it bother you?
No, it's very flattering. I mean, it depends on what level; it's upsetting when people do copy things blatantly, and unashamedly, and they're trying to bite your same stockist list. My mum taught me at a young age to not be affected, to take it as a compliment and move on. The more frustrating part is when it's a cheapened version of your aesthetic, and that's because we put so much love into creating these garments from the best fabric we can find in the world, from Italy, or Switzerland, and then to see someone imitate it in a poor way is disappointing.
Suzy Menkes posted a Dior couture look [on Instagram] recently and someone wrote, 'that looks like Ellery.' And to be honest, it has a very similar vibe, but I thought that was amazing! I'm not saying they copied us but the fact that someone out in the general public, that I don't know, has recognised it as something that is our aesthetic, and it's Dior couture, I mean, that's probably the greatest achievement I've ever had [laughs] I mean not quite, but you know!
Who's the Ellery girl?
I think she's an intelligent woman who wants clothing that says something, that doesn't overpower her - so you know, when she's wearing a garment it doesn't wear her, she wears it. She's ageless, she appreciates quality and she builds a wardrobe, she's a curator, she's not just buying fast fashion and falling for trends, she's really collecting pieces that she wants to keep for the long term.
Who have you been most excited to see wearing Ellery?
Chloë Sevigny, Elle Fanning, Rihanna... Rita Ora wore something yesterday. Rihanna wore it to a New York Fashion Week party she threw, which I thought was awesome - I love her; she's such a rock star.
What's the most treasured piece of clothing you own?
I love my flares, obviously, I find them a very important thing to have on me all the time because they're just so easy to wear and dramatic and appropriate for lots of different circumstances, I find. And they're a very big part of our brand's DNA.
What wardrobe staples do you think every woman should own?
Ankle boots, a leather jacket, a nice cashmere knit, a well-cut pair of black pants and obviously, a classic pair of sunglasses.
Ellery x Specsavers drops in Specsavers stores nationwide on July 28.
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