Friday, May 7, 2010

Interview - Arabella Ramsay

Arabella Ramsay's winter 2010 collection - Nomadic Intellect. SERIOUSLY loving that cowgirl dress top left!

Arabella Ramsay's brand new Pop-up store in the GPO... Temporary Pleasures stocks Arabella's designs alongside a carefully curated range of pieces by Funkis, Superfine, Lucy Folk and more...

Beautiful designs from Arabella's latest summer range... Cuteness.

Arabella Ramsay is such a brilliant local design success story. After growing up in a very creative household in country Victoria, Arabella moved to Melbourne in 2001 to study textile design at RMIT. After graduating, she spent a year travelling and studying in Paris... and on her return, launched her eponymous label - in a kind of 'what the heck', round-about sorta way! Her unique handmade bags and accessories already had a word-of-mouth following, and it seems it was a natural transition for the Arabella Ramsay fashion range to grow from this foundation.

Arabella's designs strike the perfect balance - they're quirky but pretty, feminine but not too girly, they have a freshness and youth about them - yet each piece channels a distinctly folky, vintage feel. Arabella's passion for textile design is clear - she bravely unites an eclectic variety of fabrics in each new range, from Liberty prints to delicate French lace, denim, leather, and beautiful hand-finished detailing such as embroidery, patchwork, applique and crochet.

Arabella opened her first store in Armadale in 2006, and has quickly gathered a loyal local following. In the last few years she has participated in Rosemount Australian Fashion Week, Mercedes Fashion Week, the L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival and more... and has even collaborated with Sportsgirl!

Just this month, Arabella has opened a second store of sorts - Temporary Pleasures is a Pop-Up in Melbourne's beautiful GPO building. Alongside Arabella's own designs, the store features a carefully curated selection of pieces by other brilliant labels such as Funkis, Superfine, and jeweller Lucy Folk.. (Arabella's cousin!)

If you happen to pop into one of Arabella Ramsay's two Melbourne stores this weekend, I think you might see me there. I have not been this inspired to make a shopping trip for quite some time!

Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to founding your own label?

I grew up in country Victoria.. on a sheep farm… my family is very creative, my dad is an illustrator, my brother a photographer and my mum is the one who influenced me the most to get into fashion… being amongst a household filled with creative ideas led me to study textile design. I moved to Melbourne and studied at RMIT …I suppose after completing this course and travelling for a year I just thought what the heck… I had a bit of a friend following for my accessories and sold them in boutiques around Melbourne (although not many) and thus the label just grew.

I also studied fashion over in Paris for a year… so I think this stint inspired me in a lot of ways… my shops have a little French touch to them in some way… I collected posters from this great taxidermy shop in Paris called
Deyrolle and these are scattered throughout my stores… I also sent back a taxidermy French rabbit… who sits at the counter.

More shots from Arabella's new GPO Pop-up!

Your store in Armadale opened in 2006, and in just 4 years the Arabella Ramsay label has grown into a successful, well known and loved local brand. Did you ever expect this kind of success I such a short space of time? At what moment did you realise ‘wow, this is really going to happen!’?

You know I suppose I still don’t really think wow this is really going to happen…. does anyone? I think not knowing and having set backs every now and then makes you want to try harder…… I love a challenge and feel this industry is probably the best industry for that…. I started pretty young and just had big ideas and dreams that’s all that you really need is the confidence to follow your heart.

How would you describe the Arabella Ramsay design aesthetic? Is this a good reflection of your own personal sense of style?

Yes it definitely reflects my country upbringing and my love of textiles and colours and quirky na├»ve art… colour is very important to me it reflects my mood and I obviously want people to feel good about themselves so I always use lots of colours and prints in my collections….. I try not to take it too seriously and like to have a bit of fun…

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

After my morning porridge and tea... I get into work… check emails… read some bits and pieces that people have sent me.. look at swatch cards.. liase with India and China… have a few meetings a day with production / pattern maker / brand manager / store manager… I do like to go downstairs at some stage and do the windows or buy some flowers re-do the racks… (as I work above the shop). I try and be creative at some stage…

More from Winter 2010. Black and white check... simple gorgeousness.

Where do you turn for creative inspiration – books, international magazines, the internet, your environment, travel, nature, family or friends… etc?

I travel a couple of times a year and take lots of photos… go to lots of exhibitions … look at architecture… read...

I read a lot actually have a book buying addiction… I go through stages - right now I’m loving interior design books… I also travel to the country and to my house by the sea.... and hang out with my family...

Grazia story featuring Arabella's beautiful home in Apollo Bay. (Double click the image for a closer view in a new window) Photos by Chris Court, Styling by Sibella Court. Thanks to Grazia for allowing me to share!

Which other designers, artists or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?

Right now I’m obsessed with Josef Frank…. also aboriginal artist Wintjiya Napaltjarri… illustrator Aurel Schmidt, Lou Doillon….the V&A quilt exhibition in London…Tracey Emin.

What are you most proud of professionally?

Getting this far...

What would be your dream project?

I would love to open a shop in Paris or Berlin… or do some collaboration at say a store like Merci in Paris... and showcase an Australian fashion/textiles exhibition.. with all the help from my family… my brother could have his Australian photographs on the walls... my mum’s quilts would be turned into clothing and ottomans… my dad would do a massive mural.. my cousins jewellery and my fashion wares would be scattered around… I think something crafty and Australian would be such a great thing to exhibit overseas…

What are you looking forward to?

Camping this weekend and after that a trip to new york…

Melbourne Questions –

Your favourite neighbourhood in Melbourne for shopping / strolling / people watching?

Breakfast over northside / Fitzroy or the city… lots of interesting characters in the city...

Where do you shop in Melbourne for the tools of your trade? (fabric samples, threads, sketching materials, reference material?)

I go vintage shopping in Geelong and Daylesford… I buy remnants from everywhere… Kazari Warehouse in Richmond… Brunschwig and Fils for inspiration… Savers...

Where / what was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

Cumulus, steak tartare.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

In bed with the paper….a croissant.. and a cup of tea.

Melbourne’s best kept secret? Its coffee… would have to be the best in the world.

Huge thanks to Arabella for her time, and to Carli at Grazia for the hook-up! :) Also thanks to Grazia for kindly allowing the use of their beautiful story featuring Arabella's home in Apollo Bay.


  1. oh what beautiful clothes and styled stores - very inspiring interview!

  2. Great interview! I love Arabellla's style - thanks for the insight! KG

  3. love her clothes!

  4. Great post, love it all !!!

  5. Please stop posting articles that make me want to move back to Melbourne! I miss the fashion, style and general creative buzz... but seriously, thanks for the story, I love Arabella Ramsay clothes xx

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  7. Hi Lucy, what a great blog! I just moved to Melbourne, setting up my chocolate shop in Collingwood. I simply love your blog - wondered if you can be approached for helping me to design the shop interior of a 130 years old building and sourcing the "props"? I thought I try to entice you into a sweet project? Check out my website: - Cheers, Hanna