Eight powerful duos shaping Australia's fashion industry

ROMANCE WAS BORN

Who are they?

Sydney-based design duo Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales.

What's their thing?

Known for dramatic, creative designs and spectacle runway shows, RWB is one of Australian fashion's biggest names. "Romance Was Born celebrates the idea of making a connection and feeling an emotional resonance," says Plunkett. "It's in our DNA to represent the same attitude towards fashion that we did when we first started 10 years ago – a spirit of independence, a sense of nostalgia and a considered, creative edge."

How do they work together?

The pair met while doing a fashion design degree at East Sydney Technical College. "We've always been able to tell a two-way story through our designs; it's like a negotiation between the two of us," says Sales. "Often, when we feel a collection is too flat, we realise it's because we have agreed on too much. So, we then try and identify a juxtaposed vision; it's become a trademark for us, for sure."

Plunket says they simultaneously play off and respect one another. "We also like to leave each other to do our thing, which I think is all part of the trust we have built over the years together."

 
 
 
 
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Why do we love them?

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For their distinctive style and rock-and-roll attitude. "What sets us apart from other brands is that we don't really have a filter," explains Plunkett. "We have been recognised for our broad range of taste and influences throughout each collection and we like to think there is something for everyone to explore"

What's coming next?

The duo is currently working on a spring/summer collection and enjoying being based in Australia once again. "We have been travelling so much, so we're playing catch up and enjoying some quality time with our puppy, Billy," says Sales.They are also working on launching the first physical retail space. "We'd love to tell the story of each collection, and create an environment for our clients to be able to touch and feel our world," adds Plunkett. –JB

AJE

Who are they?

Artist-turned-fashion designer Adrian Norris and former Russh magazine stylist and journalism graduate Edwina Forrest both grew up on the Sunshine Coast and became friends after a chance meeting on a Brisbane street when he asked her for directions, then met formally at a friend's birthday party later that same night. They launched Aje in 2008.

What's their thing?

The womenswear brand has reached cult status in just 10 years with its linen, cotton, denim and leather pieces driven by a '90s aesthetic. "We feel very connected to Australia and where we grew up," says Forrest.

How do they work together?

Forest says it comes down to a deep understanding and consideration for each other. "We are best friends and business partners," she explains. "We are both creative, and kind of organically had to fall into different roles … Adrian found a passion for the business side, I sit across marketing, press and brand tone of voice."

Things really started to take off when the pair closed the wholesale side of the business. "More money was going out than coming in, so for me, the turning point was when we started treating this like a business and making sure we could continue to do what we loved as Aje and make money at the same time," says Norris.

 
 
 
 
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 ‘Bloomscape’ // Jess PW @SaltyAlien wears the Mimosa Blooming Gown with the Aje x @Superga_Australia Resort 20 Sneaker as captured by @KristinaYenko  #AjeTheLabel #AjeResort20 #MBFWA #Superga #SupergaXAje

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Why do we love them?

They have found a niche in the market between surf culture and city style. "We wanted Aje to be fashionable and aspirational," Forest explains. "Everyone is jumping on planes like they would into cars many years ago, so there's a need for clothing that can shift various situations."

Norris says quality is key. "You know the pieces will fit you properly. So whether it's leather skirts, voluminous sleeves, denim and blouses – we've found our thing and have perfected it."

What's next?

Aje is expanding into accessories – think earrings, necklaces and bracelets. "We feel accessories and leather goods are the missing part of the puzzle." –JR​

THE DAILY EDITED

Who are they?

Alyce and Caroline Tran: Sisters, entrepreneurs, curators of style, and VIP regulars at Sydney's most stylish soirees: Alyce is the queen of accessories in Australia with her brand The Daily Edited (TDE) while Caroline dictates the fashion trends at Harper's Bazaar magazine. They've come a long way from the family farm in Adelaide.

What's their thing?

If you know someone with a smartphone, it's likely that you know someone with a phone case made and personalised by The Daily Edited. While Alyce launched her label back in 2011 with fellow former lawyer Tania Liu (who remains an internationally-based partner in the company), Caroline has been by her side as muse and prophet for the brand's evolution.

 
 
 
 
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What fits into our travel bags? Check out our stories!

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How do they work together?

"Caroline is really the oracle of what is on trend and chic," explains Alyce, who lives with her sister in Sydney's eastern suburbs. "Our house is really a space where the conversation is about fashion, retail, trends … It's basically a wardrobe with a kitchen and bathroom so it is a constant flow of ideas and feedback on what we are both working on."

For Caroline, Alyce provides insight into where both consumer and brand markets are heading. "Because my job [at Harper's] is a lot more creative…I get to see the more commercial side of the fashion industry [through Alyce]. It's a totally different way to look at things," Caroline says.

Why do we love them?

The daughters of Vietnamese immigrants, the pair have inherited a hard-work ethic that has seen them catapulted to the top of their respective industries. "We're lucky because we really like each other," says Caroline ("I'm obsessed with my sister," quips Alyce), "And we share a lot of friends … I know so many siblings that aren't on the same level of friendship."

What's coming next?

"Lots!" says Alyce, who now has nine TDE stores, including one on Bleecker Street in NYC. –BJ

DOUBLE RAINBOUU

Who are they?

Toby Jones and Mikey Nolan launched their unisex fashion label Double Rainbouu in 2016.

What's their thing?

Beach culture meets street style with a cheeky Sydney swagger. The brand has a huge following in the US, accounting for about 70 per cent of its wholesale business, with stock in department stores such as Nordstrom and Opening Ceremony. "There's a growing demand for womenswear and it makes sense for us to cater to the biggest spending demographic, too," Jones says. "We are definitely more focused on that going forward. You'll see more sundresses and shirting. We've had a huge success and we'd be mad not to pursue that."

How do they work?

Jones and Nolan met in 2002 working for surf label Insight followed by a six-year side-by-side at Ksubi. "We are both from a graphic design background and that really helps," says Nolan. "We enjoyed working together in the past and that's really been the main reason we knew we could work together - it was a natural evolution."

 
 
 
 
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Glossy Possy 

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Why do we love them?

Whether you're a pool shark, a skater punk or looking to have some fun on casual Friday, Double Rainbouu delivers. The pair launched a new business Uuave (pronounced "wave"), and recently teamed up with Japanese giant Uniqlo for two collaborations on Hawaiian-inspired shirts. "It's been one hell of a journey because we started as a single category brand and now we are doing so much more," says Nolan.

What's next?

The future is all about men's board shorts, which are fit enough for a swim but cool enough for a bar stool. "When you're in the startup mode of a small business like we are, it's good to have our studio, Uuave, on the side, it's great for cash flow," says Jones. "Our fashion label brings a different approach to beach wear and one that was lacking in Australia – it's resonating here and with Americans the most which is a great thing." –JR

NEUW DENIM

Who are they?

Richard Bell and Par Lundqvist, whose denim brand is now stocked in stores including Selfridges in the UK, Bloomingdales in the US, and Solo of Sweden.

What's their thing?

Denim. And more denim. Like all good things, Neuw started over a beer. Sort of. The pair met at a denim conference in Hong Kong while working for two of the biggest global denim brands. They saw the need for high-quality jeans that were designed to be lived in for longer than a season. Neuw is more than just a source of jeans – it's a celebration of denim history. Lundqvist's personal archive of vintage denim had, at last count, reached 3800 pairs (including some dating back to the late 1800s). The collection serves as mood board and inspiration for the brand.

How do they work together?

Trust, passion, and dedication to quality underpin the relationship. "We have been working together now for 15 years," explains Bell. "We have a deep understanding and respect for each other's differences, while sharing a common goal."

Lundqvist says: "We like to think of starting a company together like any relationship. At the very start it is so fragile, working with each other 24 hours a day and sharing every up and down together. Since then we have built the team from five (us being two of them) to over 100 employees."

 
 
 
 
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Why do we love them?

Neuw's denim range comes with the kind of attention to cut and detail that only a true denim lover understands. And they're dedicated to a more sustainable method of production. Their new Zero range has zero water waste and zero chemical processing, making these some of the most environmentally woke jeans on the market.

What's coming next?

"We will continue working on perfecting our fabrications and focusing on our dedication to quality," says Lundqvist. "And we will do all this with a focus on ensuring we minimise our carbon footprint along the way." –BJ

INCU

Who are they?

Twin brothers Vincent and Brian Wu.

What's their thing?

Incu, a chain of contemporary streetwear stores that stock some of the most hyped products of the moment. . "Vincent and I would regularly visit Hong Kong, where we were born, and see some really interesting brands and retail concepts, and we saw a gap in the market here in Australia back in 2002," Brian explains.

"Yeah, we didn't see any stores [in Australia] focus on in-store experience and actually create something interesting," Vincent adds. "Things have since changed but back then, we saw a gap in the market for something that was personable; something that customers could have a passionate attachment to."

One thing remains relevant 17 years on: the notion of inclusiveness. "The fashion industry can be so "exclusive" so we wanted to do the opposite," says Vincent. "We wanted to remove the snobbery that was associated with higher-end clothing."

 
 
 
 
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How do they work together?

"Vincent is the creative one and I crunch the numbers and look after the back-end business side of things," says Brian. "Our roles don't really overlap but we always share ideas with one another. I might have some feedback on the creative side and Vincent might have business recommendations.."

Vincent says he is the dreamer. "I come up with the crazy ideas and then Brian puts the logic and sense into it."

Why do we love them?

Two humble brothers with no fashion background who have gone on to build a fashion empire; a brand that has become a part of the everyday streetwear vernacular here in Australia.

What's coming next?

"Our main goal is to grow our own brand, Incu Collection. We love the idea of controlling a brand and its destiny so we are really excited about that," says Vincent.

"Our online store is also a big focus for us. There is heaps of potential to grow that platform, as we don't really have much competition in the online space where we sit as a brand." –JB

PJ FEMME

Who are they?

Sydney-based husband and wife Patrick and Tamsin Johnson. Patrick has led a new generation of Australian men to appreciate fine made-to-measure European tailoring through his business, P Johnson Tailors, while Tamsin is a leading Australian interior designer.

What's their thing?

PJ Femme, a made-to-measure service for women which aims to bridge the gap between women's casualwear and workwear. "We have taken the time to perfect the design, the fit and the production of the garments and service," says Patrick. "We didn't want to create a man's suit for a woman, but rather a suit for women that they would feel comfortable and empowered in. The rules that apply to men's tailoring aren't very applicable to women's tailoring, so it gives us the freedom to explore more options."

Tamsin says launching the new business has been a positive learning curve. "Every element is so personalised and women love that one-on-one service … We remove the intimidation and stigma associated with made-to-measure experiences; it's not stuffy but fresh, exciting and fun."

 
 
 
 
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Pink glaze  #pjt

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How do they work together?

"Tamsin pushed me into doing women's clothing," says Patrick. "I'm a difficult client as I have clear ideas of how I want things, but Tamsin can interpret these wants and necessities, go away and come up with a fantastic concept. She's an incredibly natural designer."

From designing to critiquing each other's work, the pair are always at work. "Most importantly, we value each other's opinions," says Tamsin.

Why do we love them?

PJ Femme is a step forward in Australia's relatively young tailoring scene, and adds a fresh take to the national womenswear landscape.

What's coming next?

"We want to keep on improving our services and what we do, and ultimately, help clients improve their lives through what they wear," says Patrick.

"We will also continue to create beautiful spaces, Tamsin adds. "It's been a service that has been a long time coming for women here in Australia, so watch this space." –JB

BASSIKE

Who are they?

Deborah Sams and Mary Lou Ryan.

What's their thing?

Bassike is a stalwart brand for men and women featuring wearable everyday pieces with a minimalist disposition. "We saw an opportunity in the market to create Australian-made, sustainable wardrobe staples that you could piece together with other items you own," explains Sams. "In 2006, there was a lot of noisy fashion brands with big logos. We wanted to create a brand that had longevity in mind; it wasn't fast fashion but rather a brand that created staple pieces for life. And that hasn't changed today."

 
 
 
 
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How do they work together?

The two met 20 years ago while working as buyers for General Pants. Both moved to Ksubi before launching their own label. "We are extremely lucky when we work together as we honestly create magic, which can be seen in our brand as it has grown and evolved over time," says Ryan.

"The fact that we are aligned with strategy and how to best move forward is super important," adds Sams."We believe in clear and open communication, especially as the business grows and you're pushed and pulled into different areas."

Why do we love them?

For their sustainable efforts, local manufacturing, garments of integrity, and organic cotton jersey. "We exclusively developed a jersey that you could machine wash and it would hold its shape and wouldn't lose its quality or be displaced in your wardrobe," says Ryan.

"Using organic cotton in a new contemporary design space was just not done before us," adds Sams.

What's coming next?

While they'll continue to grow the brand in Australia, they are also looking to enter the US market. "There is a big potential for bassike there, so we have appointed a US agent to get in contact with the right retailers who can stock our brand," says Ryan. –JB

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