“You either decide to start [a business] straight out of design school and learn from your mistakes, or you work for other people and learn that way,” she says.
Banning chose the latter and moved to Paris, where she worked as a jersey designer for the pièce de résistance of French fashion houses, Saint Laurent. She found the experience invaluable. It didn’t hurt that her time was spent working with beautiful fabrics and high-end products, meeting suppliers all over France and hopping over to Italy for factory visits.
Banning created her own brand two-and-a-half years ago, launching Ephemera in Paris before moving back to Australia when the time felt right. Her experience working with jersey lent itself to swimwear. In Sydney she followed a stylistic gap she saw in the market. “When I was starting there was still a lot of frou-frou around in the swim market,” she says. “It’s slowly becoming cleaner now”, she says, but at the time there was an opportunity to buck that trend.
The Ephemera collections are focused on beautifully and precisely cut bikinis and one pieces, in either single, bold colours – cerise, forest green, black – or interesting colourways. Banning has also introduced a few atypical beach cover-ups that are less kaftan and more shift and A-line in shape.
Throughout the collections there is an emphasis on the quality of fabrication and, in the use of Italian Lycra, Banning has brought a slice of Europe home with her.
Italian Lyrca is superior because of the research and treatment that goes into making it, in this case, Australia-proof. “A lot of people have started using Lycra from places like China and it’s just not treated for the sun, chlorine or sea. “After one summer, your swimsuit has sagged in all sorts of places,” says Banning. “Essentially, you want your swimsuit to last as long as possible and because it’s exposed to the elements and sunlight so much, I think it’s really important to use a really good-quality Lycra.”
Earlier this year, Ephemera was awarded Prix de Marie Claire for Best Swimwear Brand, giving Banning, “a really nice sense of recognition” and vindication for all the hard work she’s put in over the past few years. “When you’re starting a new business it’s not easy – it’s definitely challenging. So it really does give you that inspiration to keep pushing on and to keep investing in what you’re doing. I also find that when you have affirmation like that it helps you creatively, it gives you that boost to really believe in your creative ideas and keep going.”
Banning has many creative ideas and would eventually like to expand Ephemera into a full beach and lifestyle brand. “Unfortunately you can’t do everything at once,” she laughs. “I’d love to do sundresses that are in keeping with my aesthetic as well as hats, sunglasses, beach towels and all that sort of stuff.”
It’s not just Aussie beachgoers who’ll get to sport her wares: Banning sells internationally – the US is “a really great market” – and sees swimwear as an ideal Australian export.
“When I was living in France, you’d buy a swimsuit once every four years or something, because going to the beach is really not a big part of their culture. But because we know it so well – we know what we want to wear – I think it makes so much sense to export swim, as an Australian.”
Ephemera is available online at MyChameleon.