Fashion and design are so interlinked. They feed off each other in a cycle of inspiration and reflection. KWD sells fashion – fashion for the home – creating colour and texture with hard finishes.
Clothing is of course more transient than hard finishes. Hard finishes are there for the long haul. They are an investment that will last for many years, and can often last a lifetime. Fashion clothing is seasonal, and while there are seasonal elements in fashion for the home as well, these take the form of soft furnishings, rugs and furniture, and even paint colours, rather than tiles, stone or joinery.
If you look at the fashion trends over the years, you can time stamp a look. Ken Done scarves epitomise the 1980s. We’ve seen the art deco pink and green of the 1940s and 1950s, the terracotta phase of the 1960s and the marriage of orange and brown in the 1970s.
In the early 2000s everything was either cappuccino, latte or mocha. Now we’re getting into shades of grey.
The Pantone colour of the year is so influential, and both reflects what is trending and guides what will be popular for the coming year. This year’s Greenery Pantone colour is being used in fashion for the body and for the home, in varying shades and tones of green. We may use beautiful emerald green tiles for a project where the owner wants a bold look, or for those who just want to reference the key colour, we will use a mosaic tile that has a hint of green or use soft furnishings in green shades that can easily be replaced.
“I get a lot of my inspiration from fashion,” explains Kate. “The turnaround time for fashion is so much faster than it is for a hard finishes. Garment design is often 15 steps ahead of tiles and related hardware. I love to look at the design of clothing. The patterns and the textures of the fabrics, the treatments used be it pleating or felting or patchwork. And I look at the quality of the clothing as well.”
Kate’s love of fashion is reflected in the clothing she wears. “I always try and wear natural materials. You’ll seldom see me in synthetic fabrics (other than Lululemon),” says Kate. “I wear silk and wool and cashmere. I love natural fabrics like I love natural hard finishes for the home that are given to us by Mother Nature – like stone, marble and timber. I blend colour and texture to reflect nature, with nuances of form and tone.”
“In my wardrobe I invest in classic pieces that will last for many years and that will never go out of style, mixed with fun fashion pieces and accessories that will last for the season – the same concept is used in designing a home, where it’s important to invest in the best quality hard finishes, and create a fashionable look with soft furnishings that can easily be changed from season to season.”
It’s also really important to Kate that she supports Australian designers when it comes to the fashion she wears. “My two favourite stores are Smoke & Vanilla on Main Street, Mornington and Emia on Ocean Beach Road, Sorrento. The service is incredible and they are so design savvy. They are to fashion what KWD is to hard finishes. They are trend setters,” enthuses Kate. “They support local brands like Zimmerman, Camilla And Marc, Viktoria & Woods, Dion Lee, Aqua, Christopher Esber, Ena Pelly, Primness, Steele, Spell and so many more. Australian designers for me are it and a bit. I don’t really shop at department stores, I like to support local business where possible.”
“It’s really difficult for businesses in suburban areas like Mt Martha and Sorrento to compete with the chain stores and department stores that have a huge marketing budget and a massive buying power. They hand select each piece of clothing and the accessories that are in their stores, and there’s a limited number of each design. They only buy quality, and they have something different to offer so you don’t see anyone else wearing what you have bought. They work with local agents that specialise in leading international brands, and wherever possible they invest in their business by travelling the world to find interesting designers. It’s important to them that they offer their customers something original and unique, as well as supporting amazing Australian designers. And I do the same thing with hard finishes. I travel the world to find the most innovative, cutting edge, quality materials so I can offer my clients the latest and the best products available. Then KWD works with local importers, architects, builders and craftsmen to bring dreams to life.”
“It’s so lovely to walk into a store where they know your name and they know your children,” says Kate. “They show such generosity, giving me clothes to wear in my photo shoots and delivering them to me because they know how crazily busy my life is. They call me when they get a piece in that they know I’ll love and if I buy a present for someone interstate they’ll wrap it beautifully and send it off for me. They understand customer service and know how to make their customers feel special. They’re beautiful people.”
“We love giving our customers access to global fashion as well as showcasing our favourite Australian designers,” explains Raluca of Smoke & Vanilla. “We really focus on our role as stylists. Our retail girls are trained in every piece of clothing we carry, trying on each item so they know how it sits on the body and how different items can co-ordinate. Our team is always observant about how our customers wear their clothes so that when they come in we all know what styles we can recommend. Sometimes we push them beyond their comfort zone with designs they might not usually choose, but if they trust us they often fall in love with a new look. It’s about knowing our clothes and knowing our customers.”
“Fashion and interiors are so interlinked. I have never met a fashionable woman who doesn’t have an appreciation for texture and colour in the home,” says Raluca. “And conversely anyone who loves having a beautiful home with the best quality finishes, also loves to wear quality garments. The structure and the texture of the fabric, the seasonal colours and the quality of the cut are so interconnected with the design one chooses for one’s home.”
“I love supporting Australian designers,” says Emmanuella of Emia. “Two of my all time favourites are Zimmerman and Nobody Denim. Another one of my absolute favourites is Primness. They offer luxury basics using natural fibres like wool, silk and cotton and all of their clothing is made in Australia. The handle on the fabrics is to die for, and the fact that they are made in Melbourne by a Melbourne designer means the turn around is quick and efficient.”
“I also love Viktoria & Woods. Their style is a little more structured and fashion forward with beautiful blazers, tailored pants, shirts and 100% Australian merino wool knits. And I love Fiona Myer. Her collection is called White Story, and she has created beautiful shirts with couture shaping on the sleeves and collars, and again all Australian made. At Emia we love offering quality fabrics and classic styles that customers will keep wearing year after year.”
“It’s also really important for me to travel. I worked with the fashion house Christian Dior for 11 years, and when I opened the boutique I decided to continue to source items that can only be found in Europe. For example we carry fragrances that can only be bought in Capri (George Clooney’s favourite fragrance and one that Princess Grace wore). So we travel to Italy and to Paris Fashion Week, and to New York in September to select the Spring/Summer season which is ideal for our transeasonal climate. We’re also carrying beautiful shearling coats from Denmark at the moment. However travel is mainly for inspiration. To look at the street style and understand the trends so I can buy the right looks from Australian designers.”
“Emia is all about the intent to serve.” explains Emmanuella. “And our staff are all trained in this philosophy. It’s not about selling, it’s about listening to our customers and helping them find what they need. Emia has been open now for 11 years and we have customers who will travel from Melbourne and spend the day with us selecting their wardrobe for the season. When I do my buying appointments, I buy for specific clients because I know what will work for them and what will excite them. We know our customers so well and they trust me and my staff. Relationships are paramount.”
“Fashion for the home and the body are so aligned. The colours, the lines, the patterns – I follow Kate and see what she is doing with colour and design and see the way it reflects what is happening in fashion,” says Emmanuella.
“Every season we see fashion translated in the home, whether it’s in paint colours and tiles, or furniture and soft furnishings. I love Tom Dixon when it comes to fashionable homewares.”
“Fashion is definitely a precursor to hard finish designs,” confirms Kate. “Right now we are seeing beautiful burgundy shades in fashion, and these tones will definitely appear in fashions for the home. And tile innovation is now so amazing with colours, patterns, textures and glazing, that we’re seeing tiles inspired by what is happening on the catwalk.”
If you’d like to have a chat with the KWD team about getting the right look for your commercial or residential project, please call KWD on (03) 5974 1800.
Images from Houzz, KWD, Emia and Smoke & Vanilla.
Featured designers: Dion Lee, Christopher Esber, C & M, Spring Court, Acler, Bassike, Wittner, Anine Bing, Philippe Model, Nobody Denim, Viktoria & Woods, Fiona Myer, Steele, Tom Dixon and The Bag Department.
The Sheraton Mirage designed by Mim Design.
Kate Walker styled by Tilly Walker, dressed by Emia and Smoke & Vanilla and photographed by Brent Lukey.