An Interview with Acler & C/meo Collective

Back in May, our editor flew over to Sydney for MBFWA. Viewing the latest Resort ’19 Collections from esteemed Adelaide labels Acler and C/meo Collective, we sat down with their head designers Siham Elmawey (C/meo) and Kathryn Forth and Julia Ritorto (Acler) to find out what makes their new Collections their best yet…  

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Siham Elmawey // C/MEO COLLECTIVE 

At just 26, Siham Elmawey already has four years under her belt as C/MEO Collective’s head designer and, while over the years she’s seen the label evolve and grow, the brand’s ethos remains the same – to create collections that are wearable and stay true to their strong customer base.  

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 The bright colour palette of the latest collection featured a wash of canary yellows with cherry reds, mixed with casual denim pieces for a relaxed resort feel. The strong silhouettes, luxe fabrics, directional colours and unique prints that have become signature C/MEO were intertwined with on-trend seasonal pieces such as full suits and checks (“my must-have would be the canary yellow check suit”, says Siham). The designer’s take on denim also featured heavily – “the Essentials Jumpsuit in blue denim is a favourite,” she says, “I wore this on show day with sneakers, but it can also be worn with a nice strappy heel. Perfect for summer!” 

 While some Fashion Week shows include flamboyant runways moments Siham says for her it’s all about the C/MEO woman. “We have customers who expect to see new, directional pieces each month at a reachable price point, and I guess that’s what differentiates us!”   

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 Of course, these days C/MEO also has a devout celebrity following too, with the likes of Solange Knowles, the Kardashians and Gigi Hadid all being snapped wearing the label. “I have always loved Solange Knowles,” says Siham, who names the American singer as her muse. “Her style is very on brand [so] it was a dream come true the day her team reached out to design a capsule collaboration range with us!” 

 This kind of collateral is a PR dream come true and Siham is quick to acknowledge the importance of influencers in the growth of the brand. “These moments are priceless – these girls are some of the most recognised influencers and are closely watched around the globe, so this kind of publicity is super important. Often the style they wear sells out straight away, meaning we’ll place a re-cut order because the demand is so high; it also creates a lot of hype on our social media outlets, generating more brand awareness globally.”  

 What’s your first fashion memory? 

My first fashion memory is going to the op shop every Friday at midday when they would have their weekly retro drop. I would find some gems and bring them home to alter! 

Kathryn Forth and Julia Ritorto // ACLER 

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South Australian fashion darlings Kathryn Forth and Julia Ritorto have become household names since Acler’s inception three years ago. The seasoned designers, who with their signature style and celebrity following have helped put the state on the fashion map, are excited for the future, not only of their own burgeoning label but also for Adelaide’s fashion future. “It has come such a long way,” says Kathryn, referring to the local industry. “I mean, we have both been in the game for over 10 years in South Australia and it’s exciting times ahead, [especially] with events like the Adelaide Fashion Festival!” For their Resort ’19 collection it was all about the statement sleeves, draping fabric and plenty of volume.  

 Inspiration for the show came from renowned celebrity and fashion photographer Roxanne Lowitt who pioneered the concept of backstage photography. “She was a photographer in the late 70s – fashion photography [was] a male dominated game at the time and she wasn’t able to access the runway or the media pit,” explains the second piece to Acler’s design jigsaw, Julia Ritorto.  

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 “There is a sense of drama to our label,” she continues, referring in part to the “quilted blanket moment” in which a Japanese-inspired quilted coat was effortlessly draped over a figure-hugging tube dress. “The quilted blanket was included for theatre,” adds Kathryn, “sometimes you need to have fun in fashion, take a risk and allow people to be taken on a journey!” 

 That “drama” is what the crowds love, and interspersed with a dash of technical design the label creates pieces that are statements, unique and (importantly) wearable. “We pride ourselves on making pieces women really want to wear and our customer is the first person we think about when designing,” Kathryn adds. “We have a moment when we see someone walking down the street wearing our clothes – it’s exciting.  All that time and effort spent creating pays off when you see that!”  

Where does the name ACLER come from? 

 “We used scrabble letters to rearrange words that reflected [our] ethos and the word ‘clear’ became ACLER!” Kathryn 

What is your must-have piece from this collection? 

The Roberts Dress. It’s nothing we have ever designed before but it encapsulates who we are as designers – metallic, feminine cool and just fun!” Julia 

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