Welcome to: Meet The Creative
Lately, I’ve had an urge to go back to my journalism roots and include more in-depth pieces and interviews on my blog. Interviewing creatives in the fashion and beauty industries has always been something I have thoroughly enjoyed – not only do I get to find out more about people’s lives, jobs and the path that has led them to where they are today but I also get to share this with all of you.
For this series, I will be interviewing various people that work in the creative industry, whether that be a photographer, blogger or fashion designer, etc. I have a few creatives lined up, but if there is someone in particular you would like me to interview, then please let me know in the comments below! First up is Courtney Price, the Founder and Creative Director of Melbourne Fashion Label, Elka Collective.
Meet the Creative: Courtney Price
Elka Collective is a Melbourne-based fashion label, born from a desire to curate a wardrobe of interchangeable, complementary and timeless styles that last beyond a single season.
Courtney first launched her label and its first collection in the summer of 2014. Fast forward until today and Elka Collective is a well known staple in the Australian fashion industry, with 3 bricks and mortar stores; 2 in Melbourne – Windsor and Brighton – and one in Brisbane, within the thriving James Street retail precinct.
Elka Collective is particularly known for its signature relaxed aesthetic, excellent quality and premium craftsmanship, with knits and butter-soft leathers heroing their collections.
I caught up with Courtney to discuss her background prior to Elka Collective, the challenges that come with owning your own fashion label, her thoughts on the fashion industry’s move to be more sustainable and ethical and her advice for anyone wanting to break into the fashion industry.
Esther: Let’s start at the beginning – tell me a bit about how you started your career before Elka Collective.
Courtney: After I completed my studies in Graphic Art & Design, I began working for an Australian clothing label as their womenswear graphic designer — designing placement and yardage prints and executing their seasonal lookbooks and catalogues. The company had around 15 staff at the time and had a large open plan working space. Looking back, it was the perfect opportunity and environment to learn all areas of an apparel business.
After a few years I transitioned to marketing, then eventually found myself back in the garment design team when a temporary womenswear role turned into a 3 year stint as the lead designer.
I think having a background in graphic art and design allowed me to visually communicate concepts easily to the very talented design and production team, who could then execute those ideas and bring them to life. I felt very lucky to work for a company that allowed me to expand my skillset in so many different areas of the business and encouraged me to take on roles that I didn’t think were achievable for me at the time.
What led you to launch your own fashion label?
In 2014 while working with a design team for a youth wear Australian label, I felt there was gap for affordable quality clothing, made from premium fabrics and fibres, and that suited a slightly older age group than the brand I was working on was targeting at the time. I wanted to create an Australian brand that was accessible in price, yet still felt exclusive and luxe. We were lucky to have the resources at hand while working for an already established brand in the apparel business.
You launched Elka Collective and its first collection in summer 2014. 7 years on and Elka Collective is an established brand within the Australian fashion industry, known for its beautifully constructed and timeless garments with an easy to wear sensibility. What inspires you when designing a new collection?
Travel, interiors, architecture and fabrication have always been a great source of inspiration.
Though a difficult time for retail, the pandemic has also been a great opportunity to reflect – we’ve really internalised our creative direction and looked further into what the evolving Elka Collective woman needs from us. What occasions is she wearing our garments to? What fabric does she prefer? Why is she choosing to shop with our brand?
More and more, the current and future Elka Collective customer is what inspires our collections and continue to influence the evolution of the brand and its offering.
The Elka Collective Ethos
Elka Collective pieces are designed to be timeless, worn over and over again. What are some of the sustainable and ethical practices you have implemented at Elka Collective?
We design with longevity in mind, our hope for our garments is that they’re worn over and over beyond seasons, they can be worn for different occasions — dressed up and down. They’re versatile enough to form elements of an everyday uniform, rather than design to a seasonal trend.
We have a long way to go before we can call ourselves sustainable, however we are committed to ensuring we are all educated as a team in sourcing quality materials that have less impact on the environment. This includes looking at each garment’s traceability as a whole including trims, but also the full supply chain process and how we can be environmentally responsible right along this chain.
We develop strong relationships with our suppliers and their employees to ensure that working conditions adhere to a high code of conduct standard, and ensures they are not overworked or underpaid.
Being a Founder and Creative Director comes with a lot of responsibilities. What’s something about your role that most people wouldn’t know?
We begin designing seasonal collections over a year before customers actually see the pieces in store. The process begins with research, mood-boarding, colour palette refinement and of course an analysis on sale history.
Being the Creative Director you need to conceptualise the entire life cycle of a garment; from fabrication, colour, fit, which manufacturer is best suited to produce the garment, the price point, when it should launch into stores and online, how the garment will be outfitted in campaign and eComm shoots, how it’s merchandised in boutiques, what will our customer pair it back with, what occasion the garment will be suited to. There’s a lot of thought that goes into a garment before it’s even been made.
Enabling your team to execute your vision with complete trust in their particular skill set is imperative, there are so many touchpoints in the production of a single garment and each member of the team has their responsibility in the production timeline.
What has been a career highlight for you?
Seeing my designs hanging in our first flagship store in Windsor when we opened it in December 2018. Prior to this, we had been purely wholesale so to see a collection in its entirety on the shop floor was amazing.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career within the fashion industry?
Work hard, do internships or call upon mentors where possible. Continue to build on a strong folio that represents you.
Expand your knowledge; be open to learning all areas of the industry – you might be surprised what areas you enjoy more and continue to pursue in the future. And knowing the other aspects will help when designing collections.
Be open to building upon your knowledge by utilising short courses in areas like adobe creative suite; extra skills can only work in your favour when applying for positions.
What’s next for you and Elka Collective? Where would you like to be in 5 years?
Hopefully a few more retail stores are on the horizon as well as international wholesale expansion for Elka Collective.
Shop Elka Collective
You can shop Elka Collective pieces at elkacollective.com
I’M WEARING: Frankie Shop Lui organic cotton-poplin shirt, Elka Collective Frame Knit Top in White, Elka Collective Paradise Pant in Oat, Acne Studios Musubi Mini Bag, Tony Bianco Ives Black Como Sandals.
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*This post features gifted products. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.