Walking into the Arabella Ramsay Store on High Street, Armadale, is like walking into a country home. Natural light pours in through the large windows, bathing the shop in a soft honey glow. A taxidermy rabbit sits next to a stack of quilts knitted by the Amish. An antique dresser displays handmade aprons. I half expected to see a pie cooling on the windowsill. Unfortunately there’s no pie but there are racks of clothes bursting with colour and texture – not a bad compromise.
Arabella has captured both the purity and the grit of the country and poured it into her brand. The theme resonates throughout her collections, her shop and her brands ethos. “I would describe my label similar to how I would describe myself: it has a girly, soft element but also a tough country spirit,” says Arabella, who grew up on a sheep farm in Kyneton, 85 kilometres out of Melbourne.
She moved to a property outside Geelong when she was 12 and then to Melbourne after high school. “I moved (to Melbourne) when I was 18 so by then I was pretty excited about the big smoke. I guess you could say that my brother and I were like kids in a candy shop,” she remembers.
Since then her career has flourished. Apart from opening her own store, stocking in the US, designing a capsule collection for Myer and maintaining her own label she’s also found time to get married and is about to have a baby. Personally she feels she’s also matured a great deal. “I guess I’m becoming a lot smarter and cautious about the next steps I take,” she says. “I think as you get older you slowly become more wise.” Her latest collection, Alice, was inspired by a trip to the Kimberly in the Northern Territory, where she says she fell in love with the solitude, landscape and natural terrain. “I designed the collection with this in mind, putting together prints with colours of the landscape: desert reds, sandstones, ochre, gumnut grey and eucalyptus.”
The collection reflects Arabella’s penchant for juxtaposition. Buttercup-yellow polka dot dresses and yummy knits your grandma would love sit next to fitted black-leather mini dresses and strong on-trend shearling vests.
Arabella plays with the length of her skirts, offering some adorable 50s-style longer pieces as well as some flirty minis. A strong, feminine aesthetic shines through the collection. The vintage-inspired materials sourced from around the world are bold, bright and quirky.
Leather pieces have garnered a reputation of their own. “I love designing the leather and my customers seem to love wearing them. They’ve become our best sellers.” Alice showcases this exceptionally with leather jackets, trenches, vests, skirts and dresses that are sure to sell out.
Arabella also is working on a new leather collection, Ryder, which she is creating for Myer. “It’s an exciting new concept that will sit in with their denim collection. It’s been an exciting start to the year,” she adds. One day, she says, she can see herself moving back to the country. But with plans to open more stores nationally and expand the brand’s reputation internationally, it looks like that won’t be for a while yet.