Launched in New York in 2002, Gail Elliot and Joe Coffey’s boutique fashion label Little Joe Woman has come a long way. One move to Sydney, six retail stores in Australia, one online store, and a successful runway debut at Rosemount Fashion Week later, and you could say that Little Joe Woman’s star is shining more brightly than ever.
And speaking of stars, Gail Elliot is a star in her own right. A supermodel of the 90s who walked for design greats such as Karl Lagerfield, Marc Jacobs and Donna Karan, Elliot was in the same league as superstar models like Yasmin LeBon, who she remains close friends with today.
FJ was able to have a chat with both Gail and Yasmin when they were both in Sydney earlier this month.
FJ: Gail, you’ve been designing for 10 years now. How have your design influences changed during your career? What were your design influences for your current collection?
GE: Little Joe Woman will celebrate 10 years in business this year. We started with just silk six slips and six silk camisoles in six different colours – try repeating that quickly! Over time the collections have evolved and consist of at least 80 pieces. We always include our signature silk slip dresses and camisoles but we now also design cashmere knitwear, pants, jackets and use leather shearling and suede. What I also love is that we design our own prints in-house which is one of my favourite parts of the design process. So much influences me but I guess it’s my life that gives me the most inspiration – travel, books, movies, restaurants and the outdoors.…there’s always something that catches my attention and finds it’s way into a collection.
FJ: What is your pick from the current Little Joe Woman collection and how would you style it?
GE: From our current collection Dreamweaver, my favourite piece is a Chantilly lace and silk chiffon dress called the Lace Magic. It’s delicate and girly but I wear it with Jimmy Choo booties and a leather cuff bracelet to give it a little edge.
FJ: What are the trends that you think are the must haves for this season. What should fashionable Australian girls be wearing?
GE: Little Joe Woman isn’t a trend driven brand but every fashionable Australian girl should have a butter soft lightweight leather jacket in her wardrobe and our Snake Eyes jacket is the perfect fit.
FJ: You’re known for your timeless, elegant pieces. What do you consider your wardrobe essentials?
My wardrobe essentials are a well tailored blazer in black, in white and in flesh – silk chiffon, printed, flowing maxi dresses, jeans, white, grey and black loose fit v-neck tees, a leather jacket, ballet flats, booties, heels and bags. It’s a simple wardrobe but it works for me.
FJ: You were both supermodels in the 80s. How was that experience? What were your favourite shoots?
YLB: It was a really busy time. There was so much work and travel, which was great, we were young and needed to be kept occupied. I then popped out my first daughter and things got even more hectic. I always loved working with Arthur Elgort, he is so charismatic, and I loved working with Peter Lindberg, even if he could drive me to distraction with really long days. The results were always amazing.
FJ: When did the both of you first cross paths?
YLB: Milan. Gail was doing the shows, and I met her in the hotel lobby.
FJ: Do you have any funny stories about modelling jobs?
YLB: I remember one great shoot. I was shooting a shoe advert for Clarks. They wanted daredevil shots with different models, but of course they hadn’t actually told me this. I got lost on the motorway to the shoot, so arrived really late, not realising that there was a time limit due to water levels. I got the suit on and the shoes, and was then plonked on the wing of a sea plane. The stupid thing was they had gone to the trouble of getting a stunt guy there, who promptly told me that the sea plane was going to drive at just below take off speed, but because of my outfit and the shoot angle I couldn’t wear any harness! “So, you’re on your own darling!”. Because I had to lean back with the shoes at the best angle I spent the whole shoot holding on to wing of the plane with one butt cheek. I’m not sure health and safety would let you do things like that now. Insurance wasn’t even mentioned!
FJ: You’re both very close and Jasmin was a bridesmaid at Gail’s wedding. Are close friendships between models common? Or is the perception that the modelling industry is an unfriendly one true?
YLB: I really can’t speak for the whole industry, but we were a close group of girls, we helped and looked after each other. It’s a difficult job to do without good friends, and I see models of every generation forming great friendships. It is such a rarefied business, something you can’t talk about to anyone else but a model. Mind you I think Gail and I would have hit it off even if one of us wasn’t a model. We are just happy in each others company.
FJ: What advice would you have for any models or aspiring models nowadays?
YLB: Keep on top of your finances, learn to decifer model statements, and always remember to have fun and smile. Nobody wants a grouch about, and nobody put a gun to your head to be a model.
FJ: Who are your favourite models of the moment?
YLB: I love Freya, Liya Kebede, Karlie Kloss, Lakshmi Menon and Aline Weber. Actually there are so many, I’m a total model groupie.
FJ: You’ve been friends for 25 years– what have been some of the highlights of your friendship?
I don’t think real friendships have “highlights”. Some of the best moments are the simplest or usually dumbest. We do laugh a lot together, but we have total trust in each other. Being able to confide wholeheartedly in your best friend is one of the best gifts of humanity.