Louise Olsen and Stephen Ormandy met at art college in 1983. It was the beginning of a creative journey that has taken them from selling resin jewellery at Sydney’s Paddington markets to a business that employs 85 people, with nine stores around the world including in New York and London. With the launch of The Art of Dinosaur Designs last week, a new book celebrating 30 years of the couple’s creativity, Olsen reflects on the evolution of her personal style and why fashion is a transformative force.
Broadsheet: How has your style evolved alongside your designing career?
Louise Olsen: I was very into wearing vintage at art school because you are living on a budget. When I was studying at the College of Fine Arts in Paddington the local Vinnies was always great, and as a family we used to go to holidays at Palm Beach, and the second-hand stores at Woi Woi and Umina were also really good. Back then I had a 1940s or 50s kind of style. Today I love a tailored jacket over a loose dress because it gives you a really nice shape. I also love the thing going on now with loose overcoats; and what Dries van Noten and Miu Miu are doing. I still own many vintage pieces but these days I don’t have so much tolerance for the smell of mothballs!
BS: How would you describe your style today?
LO: I hate the word eclectic, because it’s really overused, but I would say that describes my style because I like pulling different things together and growing a look by always adding that unexpected element. I think jewellery does that really well. I go a lot with my gut feeling. If you plan it too much you can over think it.
BS: What was your most recent purchase?
LO: A black-and-white silk dress by Romance Was Born. I was in New York in July; there was the most insane sale at Bergdorf’s, so I went a bit nutty there. I got the most incredible Givenchy tuxedo jacket and a great tiger print jacket by Celine.
BS: How do you accessorise with jewellery?
LO: You can always tell when a piece of jewellery is worn comfortably and when it’s not. It has to feel a part of your body: as natural as your softest T-shirt or your most comfortable pair of jeans. At the moment I’m wearing a leather pendant, but mixing it with a sterling silver chain. I feel naked if I don’t have my rings on, and a nice arm of bangles. If I wear earrings I like to strip everything else back and just wear earrings with some rings.
BS: How do you dress for work?
LO: When I’m in the studio I need to wear things that I don’t mind getting splashes of paint on. Clothes that are easy to move in and natural fibres are key, and good, comfortable shoes are always important. Jac + Jack are doing the most amazing artist smock coats now. When I’m working I want things that have lots of pockets that I can throw pens and pencils into. I love pockets.
BS: What are your airplane essentials?
LO: I always carry face mist. I mix rosewater with a little bit of water and I just swim in it on the plane. Lip balm also keeps me hydrated, and I drink a lot of water but I also like to have a nice glass of wine to take the edge off my nerves! I always pack a sketchbook and pencils because sometimes when you look back on your travels it’s the things you create on your journey that stay with you longer than a photograph.
The Art of Dinosaur Designs will be in all good bookstores from October 3. Pre-order a copy here.