Australian fashion labels, many of which are in the spotlight as Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, tours the antipodes, have long been popular in Southern California, where the climate and beach culture mirror the land of Oz.
Spell & The Gypsy Collective, the 10-year-old contemporary brand started by sisters Isabella Pennefather and Elizabeth Abegg, opened its first stand-alone retail space in the U.S., a pop-up at 1108 Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, Calif. Open through Nov. 25, the shop has attracted cult lovers of the brand, some of whom traveled from as far away as Florida and Canada just to shop.
“Because we’re slow fashion, we don’t make too many pieces so they tend to sell out very quickly,” said Pennefather, who started out in 2008 making jewelry that she sold at the open-air market in Byron Bay, Australia. When her sister, Lizzy, came on board a few years later, they expanded into clothing and e-commerce, and the business grew from there.
“I remember when we had a clunky web site and early bloggers such as Oracle Fox [whose given name is Amanda Shadforth] bought our things at the markets,” she said. “Now we have a warehouse in L.A. so we can ship locally and replenish the pop-up.” She won’t rule out the possibility of opening a permanent shingle in Venice — currently there’s only one retail store, in Byron Bay — though she said, “we probably won’t make money on it, more to have a presence.” Given that Spell has already sold out of the first week’s worth of merchandise in two days, she might be wrong.
Now wholesaling in 100 boutiques in the U.S. and 200 worldwide and comprising women’s, kids, bridal and swim, plus a once-yearly jewelry capsule, Spell has developed a sustainable business model sourcing and manufacturing around the world. (The original pieces were made in Bali and now are produced in China, Peru and India.) It’s also cultivated a celebrity following that includes Vanessa Hudgens, Margot Robbie, Chrissy Teigen, Alessandra Ambrosio, Blake Lively, Miley Cyrus, Lana Del Rey, Jessica Alba, Lucy Hale, Nicky Hilton, Mila Kunis, Kate Hudson, Zoe Saldana, Hilary Duff and Sienna Miller, to name a few.
Among regular folk, the line has spawned social media groups that meet to trade clothing and organize shopping trips. One Facebook page has more than 33,000 followers. “We joke that we’re the bohemian Supreme because so many people resell our stuff,” Pennefather said.