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MOD COVERS

Future Classic

Kym Ellery on quietly taking Paris by storm

Photography by Sascha Heintze • Fashion direction by Sally Matthews • Words by Elle Timms

Shirt by Ellery. Jeans by Ellery. Boots by Ellery.

One of Australia’s most innovative fashion exports with her line full of voluminous silhouettes, powerful and often modest, contemporary cuts, Perth-born designer Kym Ellery has settled in Paris and is turning the archetypal fashion show format on its head. The MOD meets her at home to discuss the future of fashion, female empowerment and what modesty means to her.

A far cry from a rural childhood in her native Western Australia, 34-year-old Kym Ellery has made the move from Perth to Paris via Sydney – where the bulk of her business is still based – and been happily nesting in the city of lights for just under two years. “Yes, you could say I’m very comfortable here now,” she laughs as The MOD arrives at the door of her airy third-floor apartment in Le Marais, gesturing us in wearing a black silk robe with fluffy white feather cuffs, floor-to-ceiling linen curtains billowing behind her at sunny French windows. It’s as Parisian as it sounds, yet instantly full of informal charm while Kym takes coffee requests, serving each member of the team like a personal guest, and croissants are swapped for an order of Acai bowls (you can take the girl out of Australia). Her playlist gets turned up – an eclectic shuffle of vintage Patsy Cline to Nino Ferrer and a little old school RnB.

It’s fashion week, where Ellery is now a regular fixture on the PFW schedule, and last night she held an intimate dinner at home for friends, a close-knit group of names-to-know including Vogue Australia fashion director Christine Centenera and influencer Veronika Heilbrunner. As Kym sits down for hair and make-up next to stacks of fashion history books, biographies (Lee Radziwill takes pride of place) and guitars (possibly belonging to her French model/musician boyfriend Maxime Sokolinski), she is chatty and upbeat, glued to her phone speaking both French and English. She is disarmingly down-to-earth, describing the manic, nerve-filled pre-show day as “always the night you just don’t sleep.” Although you get the sense that she runs at this level of pace regularly, on little downtime – her tenacious, determined work ethic is well documented.

Jacket by Ellery.

HERO BANNER FILLER

Women are realising there’s strength and respect in how they present themselves

– Kym Ellery

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Dress by Ellery.

In 2007, at 23 and employed as the Market Editor of Sydney-based magazine Russh, Kym started her brand as a dream project. Soon, a pair of sparkly tights she designed caught the eye of a stylist friend, who put them in Vogue, and Ellery the label began to catch fire. “When I started I was working full time. I would actually meet my label assistant before work, give her stuff to do for the day, I go off to Russh and come home and work through the night.” She says of her driven start. “It was my job then to know everything that was going on in the market – and I felt that at the time there was a gap for something luxury, innovative and contemporary like Ellery. Now there’s a huge number of brands in that space.”

Four months after appearing in Vogue her first collection debuted at Australian Fashion Week. In May this year, she was back in Sydney for the event, only this time at the helm of a 10-year celebration retrospective. While a move to Paris was always the goal, she describes her time in Australia fondly, “I do miss nature – I lived in a place called Palm Beach about an hour’s drive from Sydney – I had a view of the ocean and there were birds, lizards, rabbits in the garden. I loved that commute every day.” Now, learning French is a new aim, she wants to speak and write fluently soon, with the help of a tutor, schedule permitting. It’s little wonder she feels so at home in France, in a city of old fashion houses and new designers on rotation. Her strong aesthetic and empowering sense of self are a politely challenging the old guard, proving what it takes to be a modern designer today.

‘Change’ is the key word for Kym right now, not only is she submerging herself in the culture of her new country, she’s reimagined the fashion show format. For her Spring/Summer 18 display earlier in the week, she and the Ellery team planned and produced a runway, cast models and filmed a ‘guestless’ event, editing it into an art film, runway looks spliced with backstage close-up shots.

Jacket by Ellery. Trousers by Ellery. Top by Ellery. Boots by Ellery.

The results were revealed at an evening with editors and buyers. Simultaneously, the film was shared globally via ElleryFuture.com – merging the idea of both an intimate and vast audience. “We called it ‘the most exclusive show in Paris with no guests’ and were also able to present in a democratic way. It was us asking the question, ‘What is the future of fashion?’ We don’t think we know the answer, but we wanted to be experimental.” She says, laughing. “Our customer is modern and innovative and we wanted to give her something different.”

As conversation turns to those fearless industry game changers, Kym references are certainly women to respect. They include Miuccia Prada and Rei Kawakubo, “If I achieve a fraction of what they have, I’ll be happy.” Her mother is quickly cited as one of the strongest females she knows, encouraging at every step of the way, “She taught me to sew, and never said ‘no’ to what I was doing. It’s still very much a man’s world, I know that myself from being a business owner for 10 years, and how people treat you as a young woman. I face it every day as a female designer – it’s subtle, but the disadvantages are there still.” She says digital development has helped, “It might sound silly, but it’s because of [the Internet] that we are all more aware of a responsibility to stand up, speak for our daughters and make it better.” When it comes to feminism, an innate sense of modesty comes in to play. “The reason that demure style is becoming more popular now, I guess, is that women are realising there’s strength and respect in how they present themselves. We are living in a time where we can embrace that power. I personally align to that way of dressing, it’s why working with The Modist is organic.” A point easy to see with one look at Ellery’s collections – clever plays on volume and proportions, recognising the luxury in lengths of fabrics and flattering, rather than skimpy, shapes.

Before we head out into the sunshine Kym muses, “I think somehow that [modesty] is also our strength – I’m designing clothes for women like myself, like my friends and women I know, it’s why we have resonated with so many – creating a place to build a wardrobe of modern classics – like armour for our achievements.” A rally cry we’ll follow into the future (or streets of Paris), any day.

Dress by Ellery.

Coat by Ellery. Trousers by Ellery. Boots by Ellery. Sunglasses by Ellery.

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Top by Ellery. Trousers by Ellery. Hat, Kym’s own.

Hair + Make-up  Emilie Plume

Photography Assistant  Celia Marjolet


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