You know you’ve made an impact as a (relatively small) alternative fashion brand when celebrities leave their Chanel, Vuitton and Gucci Resort pieces in their wardrobe and hit you up for holiday suitcase essentials instead. But that’s exactly what’s now happening for Byron Bay-based sister act Elizabeth (aka Liz) Abegg and Isabella (Spell) Pennefeather.
Their brand SPELL & The Gypsy Collective owns almost cult-like status in the festival and boho fashion scene and boasts a rocketing list of fashion-focused celebrity fans including Margot Robbie, Alessandra Ambrosio, Sienna Miller, Katie Perry, Megan Fox, Vanessa Hudgens, Erin Wassan, Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Hawkins.
Credit: courtesy SPELL Blog. Photographer James Ambrose
Fellow Byron local and mum-of-three Elsa Pataky (aka Mrs Hemsworth) is rarely snapped not wearing the label these days. (Her current Instagram profile pic shows her hugging arguably Australia’s cutest animal, but it’s her floral SPELL dress that steals the limelight.)
Spell and the Gypsy Collective, Lovebird Bloomers in Chamomile, $34. SHOP NOW
The biggest news of the year for this brand – which started out as a jewellery label eight years ago and metamorphosised into festival-ready fashion like flowing floral dresses, super-short playsuits, cheeky hot pants, trucker tees and cool accessories – is that it added a swimwear collection for the first time to the agenda in November.
The collection of vintage-inspired one-piece swimsuits and tiny bikinis, all in the brand’s signature bold prints and bright colours, is called Isla Bay and a natural progression for SPELL given its ties to ocean-side living and the outdoors.
GRAZIA met with the laid-back blonde pair in the upstairs penthouse of celeb haunt hotel Rae’s on Wategos in Byron Bay to talk about the new Swim 2016 range, which just happened to drop on the same day as their pretty new ready-to-wear collection, aptly called Lovebird.
Sitting crossed legged on a giant daybed scattered with eclectic cushions as we chat, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly who inspires what. It would be easy to just assume that Spell and Liz’s clothes are influenced by the luxe beach vibe of Byron Bay, but in truth, it’s very likely to be the other way around.
Spell and the Gypsy Collective, Riviera Gown in white, $299. SHOP NOW
Little wonder Pataky quickly became firm friends with the pair, who also have young children and take coastal living in their stride. At one point during our catch-up, conversation is drowned out by the thunder of a helicopter passing overhead. Their response is so typical of someone who’s right at home living next to the ocean.
“Shark,” says Liz nonchalantly of the chopper’s likely surveillance purpose. “It’s just a shark.”
Credit: courtesy SPELL Blog. Photographer James Ambrose
Congrats on the launch of Lovebird and isla bay. How would you describe your brand’s aesthetic? [Liz] It’s feminine and soft and beautiful. One of the words that definitely doesn’t come to mind is cool. When we’re designing, we’re like, “Lets put this in, lets put that in,” but the ones that are best-sellers and our customers beg us to bring back are the ones that make them feel beautiful.
Spell and the gypsy collective, Magnolia Midi Dress, $299. SHOP NOW
how much does byron bay influence your approach to design? [Spell] I started in Melbourne, making jewellery, walking around Chapel Street and St Kilda selling shop to shop. I was always working with turquoise then and bought one silver chain and made enough money from that to buy another one. That’s how it started – so grass roots. I came up to Byron Bay, kept doing the jewellery and I don’t know if Byron inspired me, but it certainly inspired the floaty, more summery styles.
Are you determined to keep to that signature holiday style of clothing now? [Liz] The collections are all full of clothes like the kind of holiday pieces you’d take to Fiji. Every collection is a Resort collection. That’s who we are. We’re not making trench coats for the Melbourne winter.
Your new lovebird collection of ready-to-wear is brighter and more feminine than ever. Was that deliberate? [Spell] We definitely just wanted summer range to be happy and colourful. There are little birds flying through the whole collection. They pop up in both collections [swim and ready-to-wear]; they’ve got little birds everywhere, just keeping all the free spirited and happy summer vibes.
Would you agree women can now wear long, flowing skirts and still feel on trend? [Liz] Yeah. You look at Zimmermann and they are just like just the gods of creating beautiful, beautiful clothes that are so wearable. So we love creating that for our customer too.
This new swim collection carries on the same philosophy [Spell] We definitely drew inspiration from all our past collections [for Isla Bay], so there’s a lot of those signature spell florals and bird motifs quite naively drawn and the bright colours, so we pulled all those ultimate favourite colours, pretty bold, brave colours.
Your clothes often look and feel like they’re designed to be worn over swimsuits anyway [Liz] It feels almost strange that we hadn’t gone into it [swimwear] earlier. We had these intimates that we released years ago with one of our first collections, they were basically intimates that were printed, and everyone took it upon themselves – or I don’t know if it was us that started it – at the beach, I want to go for a swim and you just whip off your dress or top and go.
one of the many things that makes Byron so different to other beach capitals [Spell] In Byron Bay it’s completely acceptable to go swimming in your underwear or intimates. But after a while of everyone wearing intimates to the beach, they were like, guys can you just make swim. When are you bringing swim out? All of our customers were just writing to us all the time so asking for it.
Spell and the Gypsy Collective, Alina Luxe Lace One Piece in White, $189. SHOP NOW
What have been your hottest sellers to date? [Spell] One that definitely took us by surprise was this embellished army jacket two seasons ago in a collection called Wild Flower. Margot Robbie snagged one before it sold out and she was spotted wearing it, which was like ‘woaaah’ for us. That was a big seller. [Liz] We designed it and Spelly loved it but we were like: “Are people gonna love it? It’s quite expensive for our customer, so let’s only make this many.” And it literally sold out within 45 minutes – actually before it even came out, between all the bloggers taking it and people buying it. We were really shocked. We’ve just re-released it.
Credit: Courtesy SPELL and the Gypsy Collective
Margot Robbie wears the Panther Embellished Army Jacket, $299. SHOP NOW
Credit: Instagram @spell_byronbay
Credit: Instagram @spell_byronbay
What are you predicting to be the sell-outs from this collection? [Spell] It’s like a game sometimes, we try and guess, but then sometimes a horse comes out of nowhere and wins. [Liz] We can often tell from the things that are getting pulled at our media days and from our showroom. I think for swim the blue and white one-piece will be popular for swim. It’s the one that’s gotten the most interest so far. I think one-pieces are so shootable and beautiful, and you can only get so much of a print on a bikini.
SPELL and the Gypsy collective, Hotel Paradiso One Piece in Bluebird, $169. SHOP NOW
What about your newest ready-to-wear collection? [Spell] I think the white story in Lovebird. But also the prints – in the end, people just want to have a long floral dress especially at this time of year when they’re all going on holiday. Strappy dresses – mid length, flowy dresses always seem to be big sellers.
Spell and the Gypsy collective, Lovebird Midi Dress in Chamomile, $299. SHOP NOW
Your accessories are just as unique as the clothes. will that be an increasing focus? [Spell] We actually started off in jewellery. We originally just did jewellery, then went into fashion. I used to make everything, buy all the turquoise stones for them myself. Then I started going to Bali and working with all the tailors there, and that’s how I got into making clothes, drawing pictures and getting them made instantly. And as soon as we started making the fashion that’s when it reached more people and took over.
Spell and the Gypsy Collective, Magnolia Mini Dress, $269. SHOP NOW
Elsa Pataky is probably your most high profile fan, along (it seems) with Margot Robbie. How did that friendship come about? [Liz] She arranged a meeting and we just met up purely to talk about the collection and the pieces she loved. So we turned up and thought we were going to talk fashion and we’re like “So how old are your kids? How old are your kids? We should have a play date.” She left her shoes on the ground, because she runs around everywhere barefoot and then we meet up for little ‘mamma plays’, then we obviously see her at all the festivals and around and every time you see her she’s wearing SPELL. So it didn’t feel like a very big step, it just felt very authentic.
Credit: Instagram @elsapataky
Was she a fan of the brand before she moved to Byron Bay with her husband Chris Hemsworth and children? [Liz] I’ve actually never asked her if she wore SPELL before she came to Australia, but she moved here and she said that she used to dress a little bit differently. Obviously being in Australia and in this environment influenced it, but she said she discovered our clothes, it’s like she found herself and her whole wardrobe changed. She said that now when she goes back to Spain she’s wearing it all the time.
Spell and the Gypsy Collective, Lovebird Half Moon Gown in Deep Sky, $299. SHOP NOW
What’s next for you and the brand? [Liz] We’re hoping to expand to a few more retails spaces in Oz. We have so many retail customers already. Eighty percent of our business is online, a lot of those are in Europe and America. We’ve just launched a US website and have a warehouse there so we can ship to our customers in America and they can return really easily. [Spell] We definitely want to open a few more stores – to create our SPELL boutique somewhere else, so more people can have that hand-on experience of the brand.
Part Two of the SPELL & The Gypsy Collective’s Lovebird collection, called Kombi, dropped in stores and online on November 30.