Few labels are fortunate enough to have the inauguration Kahlo has had. Only in its second season, the Sydney-based label is considered one of Australia’s most promising up-and-coming labels. Filling editorials, blogs and closets, and gaining stockists countrywide, it is safe to say Kahlo’s future is looking bright.
Founded by Rachelle Sinclair and Fay Ogunbadejo, Kahlo has achieved that desirable balance of being fashion forward yet wearable, nodding at trends yet sticking to a slick, understated aesthetic. On a recent trip to New York for media showings, Fay and Rachelle say US editors compared Kahlo to T by Alexander Wang and 3.1 Phillip Lim.
It’s hard to believe then that neither Sinclair nor Ogunbadejo has had any formal training. Prior to launching their label last year, 26-year-old Sinclair was working as a freelance stylist who interned at Russh before working in fashion PR in Brisbane, Sydney and Los Angeles. Ogunbadejo, on the other hand, was originally a registered nurse, but has worked in retail for years. After quitting nursing, the 32-year-old worked with a few emerging Australian fashion labels, assisting with their PR, sales and production.
The girls believe that there’s an advantage to the fact that their backgrounds weren’t in fashion design. “It makes us look at the holistic approach to managing our brand and not just focusing solely on design.”
The pair met at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week in 2010 and hit it off. Suffice to say, they didn’t wait around to launch their label. “We figured that there wasn’t much point in continuing to talk about it – we just had to get on and do it… Everything happened pretty quickly.”
Their first collection was released in April 2011 and immediately threw them into the spotlight, gaining Kahlo a great deal of encouragement from press and stockists.
As the name suggests, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo serves as a key inspiration for the brand. And while the label’s restrained aesthetic is miles apart from the eccentric, eclectic style of its namesake, Ogunbadejo and Sinclair aspire for their designs to embody the strength and confidence of the artist.
Their second collection, Autumn/Winter 2012, is another strong offering and also pays homage to a hugely influential woman. Titled Awkward Presence, the collection finds inspiration in Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids, exploring the musician’s journey through New York’s underground art scene in the 1970s.
Smith’s relaxed, androgynous style is present in the understated, cohesive collection, while the muted colour palette, asymmetric cuts and raw edges reference the gritty downtown streetscape. As with their previous collection, the designers have included several leather pieces, affirming their affinity towards the material.
Having already received an overwhelmingly positive response from the Australian media, the designers are now focusing on gaining Kahlo awareness overseas and international stockists.
“LA is our second home at the moment,” say the girls, who have just sold their Fall/Winter 2012 collection to a select handful of stores in the US. “It will be really exciting to see the response we get when that drops into stores later this year.”
If their first year was anything to go by, things are looking up far this ambitious label.