After several years leading Harper’s Bazaar Australia – and with 70 glossy editions under her belt – backstage whispers about what editor-in-chief Kellie Hush would do next began to circulate a couple of years ago. Would she get the seven year itch and leave? Who would replace her? And with the privilege of all that front-row experience and travel, observing and reporting on the ebbs and flows of the global fashion industry, would she ever found something herself?
Hush stepped down as editor-in-chief in August 2018 after six years at the helm – the September issue was her last – silencing rumours that same month by confirming she was leaving the magazine to launch a fashion brand of her own.
Her label, The Way, launched last week. It's her response to a decade of learning and analysis about what Australian women want when it comes to fashion: a one-stop online shop for quality, affordable bags and jewellery. Bricks-and-mortar stores will follow.
“I reached that [six-year] milestone and knew that the magazine needed some fresh blood,” Hush tells Broadsheet. (Former deputy editor Eugenie Kelly succeeded Hush.) “I knew I always wanted another bigger challenge.”
Hush didn’t take a break after her Harpers departure: she gave herself just four days off before assuming the role of founder (and creative and marketing director) of The Way. And those four days became working ones when she had a change of heart on the brand name and had to workshop a new one.
The main impulse behind starting the label was her frustration at the lack of affordable accessories available in Australia.
“I travelled a lot for work and while I think it’s great all these [international] fashion brands have come into Australia, they’re not doing accessories well at all,” she says. “You go into stores and you can get the latest jeans or trainers, but accessories aren’t up to scratch. I’ve seen overseas affordable accessories that were great value and right on trend. I saw that gap in the market, which The Way fills.”
Given Hush’s role as an arbiter of high-end luxury fashion and style for years, it’s perhaps surprising that The Way doesn’t operate in the luxury space at all. It has a more accessible pricepoint, with a collection of 167 bags and 510 jewellery products, which range in price from $12 drop earrings and cocktail rings to $99 totes.
“I was lucky to work at that very, very pointy end of fashion for quite some time,” she says. “But I knew the reality of fashion isn’t available to the masses. I’m sure the market may have been surprised that I’ve gone into a mass-market brand – but that’s what excites me. I grew up in Canberra. A big fashion expense to me was catching the bus up to Sydney to go shopping with the money that I saved. What excites me is bringing great style to the women that can’t afford a Louis Vuitton bag.”
Hush was seen recently at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia in Sydney armed with a few different The Way bags. “I wore a pink fluffy one to one of the shows – The Kiki – everyone wanted to have that.”
Every bag designed by The Way fits seamlessly into a modern woman’s busy and dynamic lifestyle. “I’ve been looking at how women wear bags,” says Hush. “I understand girls are going to take a massive bag to work, to carry around an iPad or computer – they might throw in an envelope clutch to take out after work.”
After writing about the work of other designers for a decade, how does it feel to launch something of her own?
“It’s been interesting not being the journalist,” she says, laughing. “After interviewing people a lot, I know that you have to have brand vision. You're very naive if you think you can go into a crowded retail space not [having done your] research. We know what that sweet spot is for women of all ages."