Second act: the new guard of stylists turned designers
As if their chic CVs weren't impressive enough already, three Australian fashion stylists are adding designer to their bows. Ilona Hamer and Megha Kapoor (both ex-Vogue) and Marina Afonina (ex-Harper's Bazaar) have all seamlessly translated their expert market knowledge into fresh and exquisite offerings. From couture-cool swimwear, clever jewellery and breezy resort capsules, these collections are unlike anything you've seen before. And boy, do they hit the sartorial sweet spot.
"As a stylist you're constantly seeing new things," explains Ilona Hamer, who has just launched her swimwear label Matteau. "A couple of years ago I was looking for a bathing suit. I just wanted the simplest, most non-descript style - nothing fussy or crazily expensive, just a simple, black, well-cut, triangle bikini." A humble request, surely, but one that was left unfulfilled. "It was impossible to find, so I sat down with my sister and we started working on ideas." And from there, Matteau was born.
Hamer's design process is complemented by her ongoing styling work for publications such as Russh and her own magazine, Unconditional. She stresses that this practice has been essential for the work she does on Matteau. "As a stylist you are exposed to so much product and photo research for shoots - it helps to know what works and what doesn't." The clean, minimalist, all-black collection certainly works. Modestly, she adds, "The styles almost designed themselves once we knew what we wanted."
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MPNT's subversive, yet refined ear pieces of Megha Kapoor's fine jewellery label were born from her tendency toward a similar reform in her styling work (See: edgy singer Sky Ferreira in a cutesy, all-Miu Miu editorial or a model shrouded in a velveteen blazer for a sun-soaked surf trip). "Designing has really been an extension of my skills as a stylist," she acknowledges.
"Stylists are constantly looking for little twists and touches that make a look complete and that's where my ideas stem from for MPNT as well." In the spirit of her bold editorial choices, the collection is intended to inspire individual interpretation; the wearer is encouraged to take on the role of a stylist themselves, to keep adding to their collection and mix-and-match styles.
Tending towards a more classic aesthetic, Marina Afonina's label Albus Lumen (meaning 'white light' in Latin) was a reaction to a gap in the Australian market for luxury resort wear, with a premium placed on effortlessness. "I always wanted to design but I wasn't ready for it until now," explains Afonina. "I'm really glad I spent so many years styling first. That gave me a lot of market knowledge as well as an understanding of the Australian fashion sense." The label uses only natural, quality fabrics such as silk and cotton linen blends and is realised in artful drapery and deconstructed utility.
Though the brand itself only launched within the last week, Afonina notes an enthusiastic response to her easy, yet considered designs. "A few styles sold out already! It's very exciting to see people wearing the collection." Her favourite thing about her new life after magazines? "I have a great balance at the moment - being a mum, freelancing as a stylist and designing Albus Lumen, which gives me a new creative outlet that I have craved."
Related story: Honestly great: KITX's ethical Resort collection
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