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Sep 2016
If anyone can make a feral animal print cool it’s Arabella Ramsay. The designer, who skipped the city in favour of the coast a few years ago, has launched a new lifestyle brand in collaboration with her dad Dougal Ramsay, an accomplished artist who has designed ranges affectionately named after all things Aussie; Hello Cocky, G’day Love, Veg Out.

Burnt out from more than a decade in the fashion industry rat race where she had amassed a cult following among adoring 20-somethings and private school girls for her unique apparel, Arabella shut her Melbourne shop five years ago and moved to Jan Juc where her husband has a yoga studio, her daughters play with bunnies and organic eggs are collected from the backyard coop.

Yet the fashion industry has come calling again, albeit in a different guise born of her slower lifestyle and rearing two children. A born and bred farm girl from Kyneton, she has forgone on-trend collections and retail overheads for family-friendly leisurewear and an online boutique.

The print-heavy collection features irreverent Australiana imagery created by her dad: “Bonza” bunnies, cheeky runaway gnomes, larrikin cockatoos, and come summer, a “******” croc print. The coloured sketches run across all-over yardage on leggings, hoodies and T-shirts for men, women and kids.

Dougal says his brief comes from his daughter who then “weaves her magic so the next time I see those drawings they are transformed into cute frocks and tops”.

She has a great eye for pattern and scale. “I enjoy seeing the finished product where a small crab on a skinny leg can grow into a giant monster crab on a rounder leg.”

A successful illustrator and author, Dougal has been fascinated with Australian culture for years, his nostalgic pencil sketching idiosyncratic scenes of country town lifestyles and coastal culture; seedy caravan parks, fishing hamlets and an architectural vernacular that “sadly has pretty well gone now”, he laments.

It was these scenes and Arabella’s own wholesome rural childhood that inspired the father-daughter label. In the spirit of Linda Jackson and Jenny Kee, Arabella wants to “show people the exciting things our country has to offer”, she says of her desire to “celebrate what’s in our back yards and in doing so, tap into the tourist market with a bit of style”.

Manufacturing is done in Australia where possible; a favoured maker is Cheryl, a woman Arabella’s nan found years ago while shopping at Spotlight in Ballarat. “She works from her small shed and has been making my clothes for years. It’s nice having quality control so we don’t overproduce.”

Lighthearted and a little bit kooky, the Dougal range is cultural cringe re-imagined as contemporary cool. Its Instagram (@wearedougal) is a feed of everything from Aussie idioms (Stoked! Strewth!) to summer vacations in Menorca, photography honouring Rennie Ellis, Dougal in the home studio, surf reports and Arabella’s idyllic beach house that has graced the pages of international magazines. Her own sartorial style is an inimitable mix of “70s vintage, preppy, **** and even a bit dorky” that’s equally at ease with the yuppies and the grommets.

“You can basically wear your pyjamas to school pick-ups and your wetsuit to the supermarket,” she says of the local surf town look. “But I still love high fashion and just bought a pink lace Gucci suit for my best friend’s wedding.”

An online purchase, it arrived via the dirt track leading to her secluded beach house. Fair dinkum.Read more at: |
judy smith
Written by
judy smith
   Elizabeth Squires and ---
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