Bermagui’s Simone Ellis seized an opportunity offered by an Instagram post, added crowdfunding and a whole heap of rope, packed a surfboard bag with her high-end fashion designs and headed to the runways of New York Fashion Week (NYFW) recently.
As an independent fashion designer, Simone showcased eight of her extraordinary designs at the ‘Flying Solo’ show, one of the most cutting-edge and innovative events of NYFW.
“It’s pretty cool when I think about it, only my second collection and it’s on show in New York – that’s huge!” she says.
From a self-declared rebellious teenager growing up in the Bega Valley to her recent standout success at the NYFW, Simone describes her career as a “slow burn” but what’s impressive is the unique personal philosophy she’s developed and now embeds into her clothing design business, based in Byron Bay.
“Making beautiful clothing for people is my gig this life – it’s where my gifts lie and we are here to use these gifts to serve others – that suits me fine.”
“I have seen first-hand the magic of clothing people when you connect to who they are first, and then what they wear. My design is only there to confirm their own amazingness!”
Sewing lessons from her mum, Helen, a liking for dressing a little differently as a teenager, being part of the dance scene in Sydney and Byron Bay, and a four-year stint running a second-hand clothing and alteration business in Bermagui were all experiences along the way – giving Simone the chance to experiment with fashion and making outfits.
“It wasn’t until my late twenties when a friend asked me to make an outfit and paid me for it, that I knew it was time to go back to school and study the fundamentals of making and designing clothes.”
Since then, Simone has built up her high-end couture design business – La Studio in Byron Bay, where she employs a seamstress and two interns. Most of her creations are for one-off couture clients; many are brides-to-be who are after something a little different and individual.
For people who don’t see the value in high-end fashion, Simone explains “for me, it’s not just about the wearer but also the viewer. My designs are wearable art that communicates the essence of the wearer and that’s the most important thing!”
An Instagram post – “does your collection have what it takes?”- first pricked Simone’s ambition to show her designs in New York.
A few weeks later, she found out she would be one of the ‘designers to watch’ at Pier 59 Studios in Manhattan, a prime location during NYFW!
Facing a $6,000 entry fee as well as other costs, Simone called out for help through a crowdfunding campaign and thanks to the generosity of supporters she was able to present six designs from her ‘We Are Flowers’ collection and two others featured in the ‘From The Stars’ collection. She transported her precious gowns in a surfboard coffin bag to keep costs down. On the plane, it went with her as excess luggage!
The inspiration for ‘We Are Flowers’ came to Simone as a line of verse that popped into her head a few years ago: “I am a Flower like no other – yet I am a Flower.”
“We Are Flowers is about living our full potential. Coming into full bloom and not comparing ourselves to one another but appreciating ourselves and what each one brings to the world.”
Even the cloth for the ‘Hero Gown’ is bespoke. Simone collaborated with artist Diana Watson, who painted the flowers, to create a custom print for the collection. There are three prints and the other two, just-as-stunning, are yet to be released.
Simone, a true maker, doesn’t limit herself to traditional materials. Her ‘Lady Rebellion’ gown is actually made from the skin of a rope, which has reflector ribbon running through its weave. An unlikely sponsor for a fashion designer, GRUNT rope contributed to Simone’s crowdfunding campaign and provided the rope which became ‘Lady Rebellion’.
“I feel like I’ve been a master at rebellion in my life and I wanted to express what I have learned about rebellion in this piece. The rope represents the binding to your true self in that moment when you push back – rebel,” Simone explains.
After showing at such a high calibre event like NYFW and with valuable exposure in one of the world’s most influential fashion spheres, Simone’s aiming to develop a celebrity clientele and feels that it’s time for her to produce a ready to wear collection.
“I’m looking for investors to support me as I grow the business and to develop and inspire a global fashion brand.”
“Seeing your work come to life – it’s the highest point for a fashion designer.”
Words, time, passion, and energy by Linda Albertson.