Acler is Kathryn Forth and Julia Ritorto. In three short years the Adelaide label has become a celebrity and runway favourite. Though they set lofty goals when they started their label, the Adelaide duo didn’t anticipate the global reach that their Acler brand would have.
“We definitely had our goals for where we wanted the brand to be at this point and are pretty proud to have achieved all of the key milestones,” answers Kathryn when we ask whether they had given any thought about where they would be in three years.
As a result, they have almost outgrown their office they recently moved into and have filled their team with South Australian talent. “For a long time Adelaide creatives were moving interstate to pursue a career in fashion,” says Julia.“It’s so nice to provide opportunities on home soil to keep talent here and bring talent home.”
Kathryn chimes in, “We are so lucky to have such passionate, intelligent and hardworking women under our roof at Acler HQ and we cannot thank them enough for getting the brand to where it is today.”
We ask them whether they see themselves continuing to grow in SA, and they confirm that they plan to stay. “We really love our lives in Adelaide and we feel that we can attribute a huge part of our success to this city,” Julia says.
“There is a great sense of community here and we have had a lot of support to get to where we are today, the kind of support you just wouldn’t get in other cities.”
This growth has seen them stage their first national runway show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia in early 2018, where critics and fans alike gave resounding feedback that it was one of the more polished shows of the week. “When you are on a schedule with institutions like Camilla and Marc, Romance was Born and Camilla, that feels pretty great to hear,” Julia says. They didn’t get to see much of the show itself though, having been hands on backstage making the final touches to garments and styling. “The experience itself was pretty hectic – lots of adrenaline, late nights and Uber Eats,” Kathryn laughs. “As you might imagine the show itself was total organised chaos backstage.”
But the real recognition of their hard work paying off was an appearance on vogue.com’s Runway section. “Being recognised by Vogue in any capacity is an honour – but [seeing Resort 2019 on] Vogue Runway, their international website and app has been a huge achievement,” Kathryn says.
It’s connected them to new international buyers and as a direct result, has made the collection the most successful to date. But it wasn’t easy to gain access to the fashion crowd’s most trusted platform. “They actually had to book an appointment to come and inspect the clothes as they need to be confident that they are promoting a well-made, premium product that they can see longevity in the market,” Kathryn explains of the stringent process.
And now that they’re in, it’s just further confirmation on the quality of their design and manufacturing, which is something they put a lot of time and effort into perfecting.
“We visit our suppliers at least once every collection,” Kathryn says when we ask about their manufacturing process. It’s actually a part of the reason why it’s almost impossible to catch the two women in one place at once. “It’s a great way to finesse our product on the ground but also to build relationships with our suppliers and get transparency on how our garments are made,” she explains.
Both the designers have invested interests in ethical fashion and making sure their own line is meeting standards. “Being on the ground means we can see firsthand the working conditions, and see the processes and resources available… [It] also improves us as designers and ultimately improves the product for our customers back home, too.”
A part of their popular appeal – other than their clear vision and design talent – comes from the fact that they are star stylists’ darlings. Kourtney Kardashian, Katy Perry and even Beyoncé are fans. In fact, while we were shooting this feature, they were getting ready to send off one of their Resort samples to Bey herself. But Rihanna also wanted to wear the same dress in the same colour. It’s not exactly the worst problem to have. “In Adelaide we feel pretty removed from celebrity culture, sometimes that world doesn’t even feel real,” Julia says. “So to see that your designs have not only made their way across the globe but onto the likes of Beyoncé – it’s a weird feeling, for sure!”
Acler’s silhouettes are distinct yet they differ from season to season. We ask where they find inspiration. “We love texture,” Julia explains. “Starting with the colours and textures we are gravitating towards is always the starting point for a collection. “Often we will get yardages of all the colours and fabrics that we love and then we lock ourselves away for a few weeks physically manipulating the yardage and playing with shapes and contrasts. That is usually how a collection evolves.”
Going forward – what’s in store for the next three years? Kathryn says, “there’s hopefully a lot of travel involved to reach out to new marketplaces across the globe, and maybe even a few more runways in Sydney or abroad.”
“It is a really interesting time to be in fashion as the world of retail is changing so rapidly – especially with developments around e-commerce and social media so your plans need to change as quickly as the tides.”
Photographer: Peter Fong
Hair: Ben Gully – Mabe Hair
Make Up: Millie Herd
Assistant: Isabelle Byrne