Featured Interview: Isabella and Elizabeth {Founders of Spell & the Gypsy Collective}


Interview by Angel Quintana
Photo Credit: Spell & the Gypsy Collective
Magazine: Issue #33

Isabella and Elizabeth, founders of Spell

Isabella and Elizabeth, founders of Spell

Isabella and Elizabeth are the sister brains behind Spell & the Gypsy Collective; A fashion brand with a bohemian, vintage, and artistic twist. This gypsy inspired brand started when Isabella began selling hand-made jewelry at local markets at Byron Bay. Prior to joining her sister, Elizabeth (with a childhood nickname of Spell) was a film editor. She soon decided to leave that career behind and start a new path in Byron Bay with Isabella. Not long after, their brand transformed and grew into a successful business that began incorporating their image into clothing, accessories, and home-ware. You can learn more about Isabella, Elizabeth, and their knockout fashion brand at SpellDesigns.com

Between the two of you, is one more of the creative mind and one the business mind?
Lizzy: Spelly definitely heads up the design, and has boundless creativity in that realm, but I have a kind of business/creative fusion, I don’t have any kind of head for figures, but I just understand how to communicate a brand. We’ve both said many times, on our own, neither of us had a business, but together we thrived, so it must be some kind of sisterly business/creativity exchange.

What inspired you to choose bohemian style for your brand?
The term ‘bohemian’ is how we communicate the brand, but really Spell is just our style. We never chose it as a style. It was definitely not a business decision or calculated. We literally just started creating things we wanted in our own wardrobes.

Who or what inspires your looks the most?
Spelly: We obviously have a bit of an obsession with the 'folk singer' or the 'gypsy woman of the 70’s – but we’re also in love with all sorts of vintage eras. We once found a stall at LA’s Rose Bowl Markets, that stocked all this lace from the late 1800s and we spent a fortune because we just had to have all of it!

What is the biggest hardship you’ve overcome or lesson you’ve learned since you’ve started your own business? 
Lizzy: One of the recent things I’ve learnt was that while ‘gut feel’ is invaluable in business (I’m lucky to possess a really strong intuition and ‘gut feel’ has always been my compass), data and statistics are equally important. I only recently learnt about SEO and Google Analytics for instance, so it’s all a wonderful new world of spreadsheets and pie charts… But on a personal level, probably the biggest lesson (something I’m still trying to master!) is a work/life balance, especially both being full-time working mums. Dealing with the 'Mum guilts' is the hardest. Taking to other working mums helps a lot. 

What’s the best part about being sisters and business partners? Does is ever complicate things? 
Spelly: The best part is we kind of read each others minds most of the time. From inspiration and mood boards (often we’ll create the same mood boards) to design decisions and styling. And of course we both completely understand the hardships of being working mums and are very flexible with each other.

What’s one piece of advice you wish you would’ve known when you first started your business?
Lizzy: 6 hands are better than four, eight hands are better than six… Don't be afraid to grow your team, having a team around you will allow you to keep doing the things that made you want to get into business in the first place.

What’s the most rewarding part of being self-made women entrepreneurs and essentially working for yourself?
Lizzy: Before I went into business with Spelly I spent so much time trying to find ways to nurture my creativity or to sustain it, or to rediscover it, but now my creativity is literally funnelled into every single thing I do every day at Spell. I think running a business is so creative, even if it’s not a fashion label. Every decision is like a dance with creativity!

What, to you, was the more successful way you gained your following?
We adapted and embraced the online world early (in a sense of other brands and retailers moving from bricks and mortar to online) and we were on Instagram within weeks of it launching, which helped! But really we were very authentic in our business approach, we were just ourselves, and the brand reflects us completely.

What made you decide to leave your career as a film editor and join your sister in the business?
After a rough year in Sydney, my best friends gave me a personal development course as a birthday gift. I don’t remember anything I learnt at the course but the day after the course I had a bit of an epiphany and called Spelly to see if she needed a business partner. She did. So I moved up to Byron within a month! 

Did either of you have training in design/business or are you both self-taught?
Spelly studied fashion design and worked for a fashion label in Melbourne before she moved up to Byron and started hand making jewellery. She still calls on her drawing skills and pattern making skills every day when designing – but a lot of it was pretty intuitive. I had no training in anything… I’m a bit rogue, haha!

When was the first big-break in your business and how did you achieve that?
Lizzy: Embracing the online world is where we felt that we sort of “broke” into a customer base that was global, but notable times that we experienced growth was when US majors Free People and Revolve picked up our label. We also have some beautiful blogger friends who we’ve worked with from their early stages so when they’ve grown, we’ve grown too. 

How has your design aesthetic been influenced over the years? What was the most significant change made?
We design what we want to wear, and of course that’s changed as the years have passed, so our aesthetic has evolved and ebbed and flowed. At the beginning of Spell we were very obsessed with all things leather, turquoise and feathers but over the years we’ve matured and so too have our designs. Our jewellery became a little more refined (though of course it’s still pretty out there) and our garments grew up a bit, as we did. 

What your favorite and least favorite part of the design process?
Spelly:  I LOVE choosing colours, but the decision is hard. If you have ever looked at a pantone swatch book, you would understand that there are so many shades of pink, turquoise, coral, purple and the weight of that decision is sometimes really hard (I know, what an amazing problem to have?), but I’ll literally agonise over a shade of blue for hours. The girls in the design room think I’m mental! The best part is watching it all come to life, once the final samples come in and we just try things on and start choosing which things we’ll be taking home and putting in our wardrobe!

How do you balance your professional and personal life?
Lizzy: It’s so hard. Being a mum and running a business is difficult. Both Spelly and I are lucky to have amazing husbands, and we have daycare too. But some days you just don’t want to leave the kids, there are days I’ve been in tears about it. But we love what we do and try to create a balance by surrounding ourselves with a good team. 

What advice would you give to aspiring self-made clothing designers?
Stay authentic, design what you love. Be inspired by what you love. Be humble and generous of heart, and it will always shine through! 

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