Bringing together a unique mixture of clean cuts, original fabrics and a newfound love of sustainable technology, Paris-based fashion brand Ellery is leading the pack. Born in Australia, the brand debuted in Paris Fashion Week in 2013 — now Kym Ellery discusses her passion for architecture, her family and technology. Her know-how is what sets Ellery apart as a brand that is confident to make a statement.
Ellery’s pieces are noticeably inspired by both artistic and architectural references, with their bold structures, sharp lines and perfectly-placed cuts. How was your idea of incorporating such qualities to a fashion brand born?
My mother is an artist, so growing up I was heavily exposed to the arts, especially from an early age, and it became very much a part of my identity and how I work creatively. Later on during high school I developed a passion for architecture, so much so that after graduation I enrolled in university to study how to become an architect, but upon being accepted I decided that in fact my true passion lies in the creation of fashion so I decided to pursue that path instead and take inspiration from both my love of art and architecture.
Fashion is such a powerful language and I really enjoy using it as a tool to express my ideas and point of view
Showcasing from romantic voluptuous garments to unique colourful prints and what might be a nod to genderless fashion via tailored pieces, Ellery brings many different approaches that still perfectly coexist. How would you describe the brand’s style?
Well first of all I am flattered by how you summarised it so beautifully in this question!
For me the style of the brand is about always creating timeless pieces, taking classic pieces and reinventing them with both unexpected details and masterful cuts.
I love to promote timelessness and think that a wardrobe is a life-long project where one can endlessly collect and curate pieces. I believe that quality fashion consists of pieces that you can keep forever and over the years experiment different ways to style and wear them, as both they and you pass through different phases of life.
I believe that as you evolve your wardrobe should also evolve with you and that fashion pieces should be able to be kept forever.
I love the thought that the people who love Ellery are out there collecting our pieces for that reason.
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The Fall 2021 collection has as its main character a recently turned Parisian who’s not-so-new in town anymore and is finally taking ownership of the city. Being a brand based in Paris, what kind of influence does French aesthetic and pace have on the creative process of a collection?
Since moving to Paris I have been constantly inspired by the city - how it moves and evolves.
Growing up in rural Australia I wasn't exposed to such style in the community and now being here for five years I find it both fascinating and endlessly inspirational to watching passers-by.
I love to see how the different generations dress, from my local arrondissement of the 11th through to over in the 8th arrondissement. I think the French do the classic aesthetic so well but the youth also dress with so much direction and freshness. As you move through the city from arrondissement to arrondissement the style of people changes so much and I adore that.
One of my favourite places to go and people watch is the 16th arrondissement. I love to see the older residents of the 16th wear garments that were incredibly well chosen and you can see have served them so well but also appear still practically brand new and they wear their garments so effortlessly.
The French pace is also much slower and more detailed and complex in some ways. I find that they find enjoyment and pleasure in things that are difficult. They have managed to create such a difficult society that when something is too easy for them they are almost displeased because it is boring to them.
I think that due to that way of thinking that when it comes to creating garments, the work can be more detailed as everything has a story. The Savoir-faire here is incredible and being exposed to it of course has helped my collections evolve into something more complex and detailed than they were before.
My friend describes Australia as ‘a field full of daisies’ and France as ‘the old dark woods’ which I think is such a great metaphor for not just the people and culture here but also the creative process.
The fashion industry is one of the most water draining ones. By taking an important step towards changing that, Ellery’s newest collection is 90% made out of upcycled raw materials. How do you see environmental awareness fitting in the industry at the moment?
I recently saw Greta Thundberg on the cover of Vogue Scandinavia and when she posted it on her Instagram she called out the whole industry for green washing which I thought was so interesting because she is right, it is true.
It is impossible to make garments that are good for the environment. The best we can do at this time is use what already exists and encourage the reduction of producing things that we don’t need. For us at Ellery it's very important that the industry changes its behaviour. We take pride that right now we have been using raw materials that already exist so there is no need to manufacture new materials. Our collaboration with Duran Lantink was also an exciting one for us to explore, taking dead stock to create a new garment. It felt good to take apiece that would normally be just thrown on a sale rack and instead breathing new life and energy into the pieces and turning them into something new that can be re worn, appreciated and collected again.
The industry has a very long way to go and as technology advances I hope to see the way everyone's work completely transform.
When describing where the visuals for the Fall collection come from, you’ve mentioned that you were looking to have its main character out and about, but still “keep her safe,” due to the current situation. How would you say the pandemic environment impacted your creative process?
Since we have been unable to go out, to galleries, the cinema and spend time together as a creative community I have had to adjust my creative process.
I started to spend more time in my books and actually pulled out the vintage books that I had collected and put in storage and love to spend time now leafing through them searching for that little spark.
What is more interesting to me is that since the pandemic the way that people engage with fashion has changed so much. I enjoyed the slower pace of life and having more space and time to think about what fashion means to me, how I want to approach and engage with it personally, and in turn reflect on my creative process.
I personally now want my garments to be more than they ever were before. I desire that they have the ability to transform and become multi-functional, so in turn, I want to offer that to our customers too.
Our mantra at Ellery has always been for the brand to create quality pieces for people who want something exceptional so that they can step out each day and achieve their own personal goals. The recent pandemic has not changed that at all, in fact, it has almost reinforced to me the importance of our mission.
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Ellery debuted at Paris Fashion Week in 2013 and now, in 2021, it has showcased the newest collection as a digital fashion show. How was the process of migrating from the traditional show setting to this completely new one?
I am a huge fan of technology and always have been. Actually fun fact, in my very first collection ever in 2007 I had a t-shirt that said on it “Technology Turns Me On” (laughs).
Our first digital fashion show was actually in 2018 pre-pandemic so it was a space that we had already started to toy with some years ago. Back then we were questioning the relevance of live fashion shows in the future - I look back now at that body of work and it is like we were predicting what unfolded.
But if I was to be honest I really miss the energy of doing live shows - the crowded room, the loud music and feeling of the hot lights. I am excited for that to come back but also still have the freedom to experiment with both formats based on what is best for the collection.
Your inspiration from art is even more evident when looking at Ellery’s prints and certainly ranks high on the brand’s mood board, which makes every piece more unique. How does the print creation process work?
For me creating print can often be my biggest design challenge, so I am very flattered by this question!
I was lucky enough to grow up with my mother who is an artist who majored in textile design so I often look to her work and swatches for inspiration when creating prints.
One of my favourite prints that Ellery has created was from our Fall ‘17 collection when I took some of Mum’s Japanese shibori technique dyed swatches. In the atelier, we scanned them in then adjusted the colours in photoshop to push them to a really colourful and unexpected place.
The inspiration of the collection was the idea of a psychedelic bourgeois world so we went really trippy with the colours, I loved it.
Those pieces will always be the most sentimental pieces that I have created. It is also a nod to the many, many years that my mother invested into developing my creativity. For me that print was the ultimate collaboration.
Collages are an aesthetic medium which can often be spotted on your social media pages, bringing a rather interesting contrast between high fashion garments and an artistic do-it-yourself feeling. Is there any particular reason why this method is adopted for the visuals?
One of my dear friends Kitty Callaghan is both an inspirational artist and an inspirational human being. She is a cool girl and we have had a lot of fun together.
Sometimes when I feel that the images could go on a bigger journey I pick up the phone and we collaborate. I love to see how she will interpret the imagery and the playfulness that she brings. Her wicked sense of humour often comes through or sometimes she will pop in a little personal joke which I love.
She is just an excellent person who I love to have around. So, basically I am the president of the Kitty Callaghan fan club (laughs).
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How do you see the impact of fashion trends on your creative process?
I remember when I was growing up in the 90s there was always one big trend for the season that everyone wore but now fashion seems to be a little less like that as there is just so, so much out there.
I have never really cared too much about fashion trends partly because my creative process is heavily about design development - taking an idea and moving it along to who knows where it will go. I am always amused to see at the end of a season what trend forecasts Ellery has been included in by the editors, it is so fun and often unexpected.
From sourcing fabric materials to arranging them in harmony, textiles seem to play an important role in Ellery’s production and creation. The Fall 2021 collection brought a series of recycled textiles as well as vegan faux-leather. Why did you make the decision to turn to more sustainable fabrics?
Textiles are a huge part of my creative process and I have been working to educate myself more on sustainability to push the brand forward in this area.
We are always trying to source alternative fabrications which we hope will be an improvement to what we used to use however it is still very challenging as the industry has such a long way to go. As technology continues to advance there will be many more exciting things that designers will be able to create to in turn contribute to a better future.
What will we see next at Ellery?
We continue to be excited by all the opportunities of the future, especially where fashion and technology can work together both in the process of creation as well as the communication of concepts and collections.
I look forward to launching a hand bag in 2022 and also we have a few other exciting projects that I cannot speak about yet but I invite you to watch this space.
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