The One Thing This Cult Australian Label Did Differently
Byron Bay-based bohemian fashion label Spell Designs has enjoyed enormous success and gained a major cult following since it launched seven years ago. Founded by sisters Isabella Pennefather and Elizabeth Abegg in 2009, their savvy social media skills (627,000 Instagram followers and counting) and huge celeb fan base (Miley Cyrus is often snapped in the store), has helped them succeed in a notoriously tough industry. But there’s one clever shift the label made in its early days, that’s been critical to its success.
Spell Designs caters to girls who want to achieve a relaxed, boho vibe, but if you dig a little deeper, there are pieces in the collection for every girl. From kimono jackets, to maxi skirts, and little lace dresses, there’s a piece that can slip into any wardrobe.
We sat down with the sisters to discover what they did differently that’s been integral to the growth of the label today. Keep scrolling to be inspired!
Pictured: Isabella Pennefather and Elizabeth Abegg.
Who What Wear Australia: How did you launch Spell Designs? What’s been critical to your success?
Isabella Pennefather and Elizabeth Abegg: When we started out we were designing jewellery and clothing and selling it at the Byron Bay markets. Around the same time, I decided to start a blog to chronicle the journey of our label. We realised that if we directed our efforts from the market stalls, into creating original content for our blog and online store we’d reach a far wider market. We always loved the elaborately shot editorials in fashion magazines, so we just started shooting our campaigns like that. We styled our collections with vintage accessories from all over the world, which kept it exciting and nostalgic. Then our blog started gaining traction and soon our customers were coming to us from all over the world.
WWW: What does an average day look like at Spell Designs HQ?
EA: Our days are so full, but no two days are alike. We might start with a design session at the studio, Isabella sketches and we work with our team on new shapes and prints. Then we’ll step into a fitting, one of our best friends is a perfect size eight so she comes in and we fit the collection on her. Then I’ll move into a marketing meeting at HQ and Isabella will sit with her textile designer to work on colour-ways. For lunch we’ll usually head to 100 Mile Table where they source all the produce from within 100 miles of Byron Bay, it’s pretty special. The rest of the day might be filled with production meetings for upcoming shoots or meetings with our buyers, but we never know where the day will end. Yesterday we headed up to the hinterland to shoot some content, and today we met with a local designer who’s been hand-making accessories in Byron Bay since the ’60s. We wanted to chat about a collaboration.
WWW: You recently shot a new campaign and we have to ask—what was it like producing a major campaign like this one with Shanina Shaik? Shooting in the Australian outback would have its challenges!
EA: We usually have a very clear vision of our campaign by the time we’ve finished designing a collection. From there it’s all about perfect timing—juggling the models, agents, photographers, hair and makeup team, and location is such a big task. We’ve developed great relationships with the model agents over the years so we work closely with them to find the right faces. Shooting with Shanina Shaik was a dream. She was so fierce out there in the desert and such a good sport, even when we asked her to walk through a dust storm! We’ve shot many of our campaigns in the U.S. so shooting on home soil was a special experience and our whole team was kind of in awe of the landscape the entire time.
WWW: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt about the fashion industry?
EA: Recently, I’ve found that it’s important to be continually networking and also to be open to new experiences. Running a business makes you laser-focused and before you know it, you’ve become insular. I’m learning to extend my focus to other conversations and evolve beyond just my day-to-day running of a business.