The well-known adage ‘success breeds success’ could not be further from the truth for designer Karla Spetic. From humble beginnings after fleeing war-torn Croatia as a child refugee at the age of 11, the now Sydney-based Spetic has been a quiet achiever.
Emerging onto the fashion scene with her debut collection at 2008 Rosemount Australian Fashion Week, her debut Synthesis collection piqued both local and international interest, with stockists calling for her collection in Singapore, Dubai and Indonesia. In 2009, Spetic was nominated as a finalist in the Best Up and Coming Designer category at the Prix de Marie Claire awards, and is now preparing the launch of her new swimwear line KS.
Looking back, Spetic has not followed the typical path of a designer. After graduating from the East Sydney Fashion Design Studio in 2005, she worked as a freelance patternmaker and was then called back to her roots in Croatia to spend time with her family. It was after her return Sydney that Spetic followed through her vision and co-ran The Graduate Store alongside her fellow East Sydney Fashion Design graduates.
Spetic approaches each collection as a journey that remains at the heart of her label. “It’s very much about my current state of mind. Most of the time, certain elements flow through to each collection, like silhouettes, but overall it’s a completely new story, a new beginning,” she says.
“I feel my evolution as a designer is a very emotional one. There’s always a strong personal growth behind each collection, as well as technical growth.”
However, Spetic is still a commercial realist, adding that growth and development “ensures both buyers and the public always get something new with each collection. You really have to make an effort to ensure each collection is significantly different from the one before.”
Spetic has carved a niche by fusing wearable garments with interesting uses of colour and print and combining traditional masculine tailoring with a feminine feel through cut-outs and prints, noting that she admires “simple cuts with a complex detail or a complex cut that is deceivingly simple to the eye”.
Her current collection, Heart, continues the journey with love as a central theme. But this isn’t love in the mushy sense. It’s more about the idea of the strength that love invokes, and Spetic applies this motif to a range of mediums, from the use of bold colours to Roy Lichtenstein comic prints, soldiers returning to their housewives during the wartime era and 1950s silhouettes.
To top it off, her eponymous swimwear label, KS Swim, launches in September. Tapping into happier childhood memories spending time on the beaches of the Adriatic Sea, it is a natural step for the label. “There is a strong beach culture in Australia and swim has always been part of my collections,” says Spetic. “But for some time now, I have wanted to separate the two…and fully immerse myself into a whole swim collection rather than just a few pieces.” The swimwear label promises colour and prints and unexpected combinations, similar to her mainline label, but reaching a wider audience and catering to different body shapes.
Spetic admits that bringing an idea to life in a garment is a key challenge. “I’m limited with certain things I can and can’t do to bring an idea to life,” she says, but her passion for collaborating with graphic designers and creative minds is one of her favourite parts of the design process, witnessing her “visions become a reality”.
Choosing to take inspiration from the everyday rather than slavishly succumbing to trends, Spetic notes that “we are surrounded by so much beauty…it can be a story or a person that you meet or even just a photograph. Any of these can take you to a journey from which you create your own story.” We are looking forward to the next chapter.