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What SPACE Designer Kym Ellery Was Doing 4 Days Before Her Paris Fashion Week Show

It’s Saturday evening on a quiet street along the Seine, and inside the grand old Haussmann-era flat where we’ve been asked to find Australia-based designer Kym Ellery and her team, “24 Hour Party People” by the Happy Mondays is charging through the speakers. The mood isn’t necessarily celebratory—it’s too early for that—but neither is the song’s, really. It’s the round-the-clock part that seems apt.

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All images by Jessa Carter

This team has less than four days to finalize and style the collection, fit all the models and make sure every element of the runway presentation has as much amplified grandeur and glamorous grit as these clothes do.

Inside the flat, there are only women—the solitary man we see is a photographer, sitting alone in a makeshift studio with a white seamless backdrop covering the ornate wall and ceilings. Kym greets us like she’s hosting an early cocktail hourshe’s relaxed, unhurried, in her element. Her team arrived this past Thursday and unpacked four dozen or so made-in-Australia looks, including shoes and jewelry. It would be pretty easy to make oneself completely at home in this space, but there isn’t a lot of time to indulge in fresco ceilings and Parisian light.

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Right now the most pressing matter is how to get another dress made. Kym has just decided that one particular grouping of styles needs one more look to make it stronger, so someone from Sydney is flying in with the pattern and fabric to make it. She tells us it’s going to be challenging because the dress in question requires a lot of hand beading and detail, but there’s a full seamstress and detailing setup in a back room, and she seems completely confident that it’s the right thing to do.

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In one small room, stylist Ludivine Poiblanc is watching intently as a fit model walks back and forth, about the length of on old pickup truck, in a white dress. She feels pressed for time and isn’t able to speak with us, but judging from her posture and energy, she seems to be studying each of the looks to find the essence of its character and add just the right extras—or maybe none at all.

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Kym tells us that spring ’17 is about “rebel girls—the women who birthed counterculture revolution in different eras.” She’s about to give me some specific examples of what, and who, she means by that, but she only gets out the word “poets” before someone comes by to politely interrupt us with a question.

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“So, rebels; poets and…?” I ask, attempting to pick the conversation back up.

She grins and says, “Yeah.” Satisfied with that one simple personification.

Over the last few seasons, many of her silhouettes have trumpeted out with dramatic, lyrical sleeves and romantic, ruffled hems. There’s something very Shakespearean about the brand, but this season Kym’s rocking it up.

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Speaking of which—as she shows me this season’s book (she leaves them on all the runway seats), we talk about the show’s music too. The former model and stylist is pretty into tunes, and she feels like this season’s literary dissident is too. The DJ and producer she’s working with for this show came to see the collection the other day, and since that meeting they’ve been mulling over French electronica, ’80s tunes, layered Japanese drums and ethereal chanting: the music of warriors, lovers, movers and shakers.

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As we sit and chat some more, Kym tells us she’s fallen off a few of her regimes of late; she’s had to cancel on her Parisian kickboxing teacher a few times, for example, and her usual daily meditation routine hasn’t been all that regular. But that seems pretty fair. Maybe all’s fair, really, in love and war and Fashion Week.

Eventually we excuse ourselves so everyone can get back to work, and then eventually after that it’s Tuesday and we’re at the Palais de Tokyo, where Alice Coltrane—a fine example of elegant defiance—is on a loop as the audience files in and takes their seats.

Sure enough, in the past few days every iteration of the Ellery muse has actualized, and there she is on the runway: a walking battle ballad, looking to change the world with beauty and a fierce kind of grace. 

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—Laura Cassidy