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If you know anything about Acler, you’ll know the Adelaide-based label is on fire at the moment. Still in its infancy (the label launched July last year), Acler has delivered consistently strong collections, a clear aesthetic and has already entered the global celebrity market. There’s no question designers Kathryn Forth and Julia Ritorto know what they’re doing.
Perhaps it’s due to their strong vision for the brand or perhaps it’s business acumen (the girls have already launched into Myer). Either way, we wanted to know the secret to their success. We caught up with the ladies to chat first steps, aiming to soak it all up like a sponge.
Tell us a bit about how you two met.
We actually met while we were both designing and heading up separate labels, within the same company. We had always loved working together side-by-side on different projects but always wanted to create something together.
When did you realise you wanted to take the plunge?
When you’re working for an established label with a solid following, it’s hard to step out of character for a moment and take creative risks. It also means sometimes you don't necessarily identify with the customer or even wear the clothes you are designing. We wanted to design beautifully-sculpted pieces and choose amazing fabrics from around the world. We wanted to be passionate about design again, and create pieces people would cherish in their wardrobes for years.
Was creating your own brand always something you wanted to achieve?
Yes, but maybe not consciously. We have both always been ambitious, so I think we would never have been satisfied with forever designing under someone else's vision.
Was starting the brand a difficult experience? Tell us about the process.
Yes certainly. It’s amazing how many roles you need to adopt and how many skills you learn in such a short period of time. It has been a lot of long hours but on our own terms, which makes all the difference. It’s amazing having each other, to share the stress and to celebrate the good times with. We are amazed by anyone who has managed to get a label off the ground solo.
To what would you attribute the brand’s success?
Probably never thinking we have succeeded yet. We’re always working forward to the next deadline, the next step up. It keeps us moving and working tirelessly.
We do need someone from the outside to make us step back and appreciate where we are.
What do you each bring individually to the business, any clashes?
We both have a pretty similar skill set and after working together for so long, we’re at the point at which we know what the other is thinking and can finish each other’s sentences. We have the same vision for Acler but we do approach design and business in our own unique way, which means we each bring our own strengths to the table. Having two minds is great for solving problems and tackling different challenges.
Describe Acler's style in three words.
Feminine, layered, sculptural.
What inspires your designs?
All of our designs start with the fabrics. We pick a colour palette, beautiful prints and textures first. Then, over the course of a few weeks, we lock ourselves away draping and sketching in our studio. Certain fabrics will dictate how they are manipulated and into what shapes. We really let the fabrics, and an open mind, lead us to our designs.
Which labels are you a fan of?
The clean elegance of The Row, the sculptural innovation of Maison Margiela and the layering and detail in Haider Ackermann.
How would you describe your own personal style?
Julia wears more clean, feminine tailoring while Kath wears oversized androgynous or sculptural pieces.
If you could dress any celebrity in head to toe Acler, who would it be?
Alicia Vikander is our new love, she is such a beauty and incredibly talented. She hasn't been in the spotlight for long, but her style is very versatile, she looks great in every look.
Do you have any advice for aspiring fashion designers who want to start their own label?
The key is having a drink or coffee with as many people in the industry [as you can], and just asking what advice they have to offer. Don't restrict your questions to what you think you need to know, as you may miss out on some valuable advice. There are so many pitfalls you can avoid by just asking openly for help.