Australian designer Kym Ellery appears to be succeeding at one of the trickiest moves in the business: Having won success abroad and fans among the likes of Rihanna, Solange Knowles, and Elle Fanning, she’s on track as an indie in Paris. In the two years since she moved here, her impromptu dinner parties have become a hot ticket, too.
For Spring, her namesake label continues to highlight a love of retro-leaning style while sampling from across the ages. The designer recently learned, for example, that her ancestry includes a Huguenot woman named Nora Gravelle who fled France for Ireland four centuries ago. That distant French connection inspired her to “create a closet full of the best pieces that I feel might have been worn by the many women who contributed to me being here today,” she explained. “I consider myself an extension of her.” Closer to our times, a quirky cowgirl boot with an angled, square toe nodded to a great-grandmother who once pioneered the Outback. (Just for the record: Ellery’s own parents are from New Zealand and her father is Maori.)
Her freestyle riff across time included plenty of the ample, flowing shirts her clients love, crossed with historical references, like a corset-inspired cropped white top with flowing sleeves, in Lycra. Corseting cropped up again on hybrid high/low-waisted trousers, jersey dresses, and in contrasting stitching on a trench (which put this reviewer in mind of Jean Paul Gaultier).
Ellery also honed in on handmade embellishments, with mesh brassieres and tunics made of silver circles or macramé-wrapped metal discs—layering them over a tie-dye jersey dress or a cropped top and flares, for example. On cotton shirting or a laminated jacket, it took on a more underground attitude, but a first foray into logo messaging in mesh-like print was less convincing. Ellery’s signature is strong enough; she doesn’t need to go that route.
Looking toward the near horizon, Ellery is busy ramping up her studio. Some of the Syndey design team is on its way to Paris, and she has a handful of new recruits from some of the top names in the industry. It may be early days to start thinking about heritage, but come Fall her French roots will be solid. Paris can take note: She intends to stay for good.