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Meet Acler, the Cool New Label By Cameo’s Former Designer

By now you’ve almost certainly heard about Cameo, the cool fashion label heralding from Australia that bridges the gap between runway trends and your budget. However you might not know Kathryn Forth, the head designer who took Cameo from a fledgling Aussie fashion label to an international hit.

Forth has a knack for interpreting runway trends into modern, flattering clothes that a fashion girl with a modest budget can wear on almost any occasion—or, when it comes to the more casual looks in Cameo collections, any non-occasion. Now, she’s left Cameo to channel her energy into a project of her own: She’s partnered withJulia Ritorto, the former head designer of Cameo’s sister label, Finders Keepers, and together the pair have released Acler, a hip new label based in Sydney but stocked online and at retailers worldwide.

The debut collection has just started to hit stores (yes, it’s available in the U.S.) and offers what Kathryn describes as “feminine draping and androgynous tailoring.” Unlike Cameo however, Acler isn’t exactly a budget brand—the line starts at $200 for simple dresses and tops and caps at around $700 for more detailed pieces. (Still less than your favorite runway brands, which is a plus.)

Read on to find our more about how Kathryn and Julia’s new label came to be, and check out some key pieces from the collection.

Acler label

Photo: Acler

What made you leave Cameo and Finders Keepers to start your own label?

Julia: I’d taken Finders Keepers from be being fairly unknown in the Australian market to international success in a few short years. I felt like my work was done and I knew I was ready for a new challenge.

Kathryn: I wanted to work with Julia of course! We had always loved working side by side on different projects but always wanted to create something together.

I heard it takes 12 months to create each piece—why so long?

Julia: We really wanted Acler to rebel against two-dimensional cookie-cutter design. So much of the fashion that is out there at the moment is following the high- street formula. Really price pointed, churned out quickly, disposable. We wanted to pull our brand away from the chaos, we give ourselves a six month design window allowing us to redraft and redrape along the way. Each design has the time to take on its own form naturally, and we have the ability to focus on finishing and attention to detail.

Kathryn: A really tactile design process is also important to us. Jules and I try as much as possible to step away from the computer and do everything by hand, including hand sketching designs, hand draping ourselves, and hand drawn artwork. It is really easy for a design to look flat or disjointed if you are conceptualising it on the screen. Of course a big part of a tactile design process is picking amazing fabrication, and that is absolutely paramount to the Acler product. Our debut collection for Spring Summer 2016 has some beautiful fabric sourced internationally, like Italian embossing, textured Korean acetate blends, and soft washed silks.

What were some of the biggest challenges leaving your jobs to launch your own business?

Julia: I think you can never be prepared for what’s needed when starting your own business. I do feel like it would be a breeze to just design again [for Finders Keepers] without the business side of things, but I love the challenge of being thrown in the deep end. It’s daunting and so incredibly rewarding.

Kathryn: Being all over every aspect of the business has been so exciting. We have been forced to learn so many new skills and have really surprised ourselves by how we have been able to adapt to so many roles.

Acler label

Photo: cheap bridesmaid dresses sydney

Did anything surprise you about starting your own brand?

What has surprised us the most is that everything so far has gone to plan! Seriously, life never really does and we’ve hit all our milestones, and we are totally on track—to us, that is surprising!

Where can we buy the collection right now?

We’re stocked in some really beautiful retailers across Australia and the U.S. like Satine, Mimi Nola, Revolve, and Canvas. We’ve also been picked up by Australia’s biggest department store Myer, which is fantastic.

How often will you release new collections?

Four times a year with small capsules dropping in store every month. However, we are looking at introducing a new collection six times per year in the very near future

Where is Acler being manufactured?

We source our fabrics from all over the world, and have the advantage of having great relationships with our manufacturers in both China and Hong Kong. We work really closely together to bring both quality and and attention to detail to each and every piece. We’ve also started manufacturing in Australia.

What’s next for Acler?

We’d love to see growth into Asia and the U.K. We’d also love to crack the Northern European market, with Sweden and Denmark being high on the target list. We have had some successful collaborations with artists and stylist to date and feel it’s such an important part of evolving as a brand. We’d like to keep moving with this and potentially delve into other areas like footwear and accessories either on a collaborative level or as part of Acler’s collections.

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