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Weathering Fashion’s Boom-and-Bust Trend Cycle

What happens when your brand’s signature shape is all of a sudden everywhere?

A shot outside a show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia Photo: Keishikibi

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You know Ellery, I know Ellery — Rihanna and Solange know (and wear) Ellery. In fact, you probably spent the better part of 2015 weighing the pros and cons of investing in the flared-sleeve trend, a look the brand has been churning out for close to a decade.

Despite the fact that Australian designer Kym Ellery has been weaving exaggerated volume throughout her namesake line for nearly 10 years, it wasn’t until last February, when the blogger and industry crowd showed up for the fall shows wearing almost exclusively bell sleeves and flared pants, that her signature look reached a fever pitch.

By time Australian Fashion Week hit in April, the Ellery-esque silhouette was popping up on just about every blog, Instagram account, and Pinterest board. Céline debuted stretchy, fitted knits with thick belled cuffs, and Rosie Assoulin went hard on structured, ruffled sleeves.

Unsurprisingly, fast-fashion brands were quick to take their cue. And with that, Kym Ellery’s signature became another trend in the boom-and-bust fashion cycle.

As you’d expect, the increased visibility that accompanies pioneering an industry-wide trend has been a big opportunity for the designer, who was invited to show on the official Paris Fashion Week schedule last year. “It’s definitely strengthened our business,” Kym said over the phone earlier this week, referring to the trend. “We sell a lot of styles that have that flared silhouette.”

A shot outside a show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia
This iteration by C/meo Collective retailed for $149.95 — and was a massive blogger hit. Photo: Keishikibi

Indeed, the past year has been a period of particular growth for Ellery — ”exponential,” according to the designer — who noted that for this resort season, she’s added another 40 accounts around the world to her stockists that already include Net-a-Porter and Nordstrom.

“It’s pretty intense at the moment to run a business where there’s such huge growth. We’re hiring new team members every other month,” she says.

With less than three weeks to go until Ellery’s spring 2017 show in Paris, Kym confesses that she’s faced with a pretty unique problem: how to honor her signature silhouette without sending a collection down the runway that’s instantly dated. “It’s a weird thing actually,” the designer admits. “I’ve been thinking to myself, ‘OK, this is not good. It’s everywhere.’”

The key now, she says, is to continue evolving without being repetitive. “There’s a lot of other silhouettes that we’re working with, and we’re also evolving the brand each season. We keep looking forward, but making sure that we create collections that still embody our DNA. There’s a lot of other things in the collection aside from flares that I hope people will respond to and that we can explore further in the future.”

Specifically, that means listening to her customer feedback and experimenting with moving volume around the body (read: not just flares at the wrist and ankle). “For pre-fall, we did volume in the shoulders instead of in the wrists,” she explains, adding: “It’s very easy to see what people want with the internet. [On our Instagram], we can see if they respond to an idea or not.”

Part of the experimentation also includes exploring new categories on top of new silhouettes. This year, the brand released denim, footwear, and most recently, a hugely-successful eyewear collaboration with Specsavers. (There’s also another category in the works, though Ellery says it’s too early to chat about details.)

For now, Kym says she won’t be giving up that ultra-flared sleeve, so long as women are willing to cough up for it. “We want to supply demand, and people still want [the flared sleeve] from us,” she says. “People who are faithful to the brand and serious fashion wearers do come to Ellery for that shape, because they know it’s where it’s been for a long time, and where it will always be.”