Peek Spell’s Sell-Out Collab With First Nations Artist Kylie Caldwell
Kylie Caldwell, a proud Bundjalung Woman and multidisciplinary artist, remembers the exact moment her journey of creating a collaboration collection with fashion brand Spell first began. Her husband Ashley Moran had gotten home from doing a cultural awareness training with the Byron-based brand.
“He really is the best PR an artist can ask for, and, during the training, he mentioned that I do weaving and art, and passed on my Instagram profile details,” says Caldwell. “I remember him saying, ‘Hey, I mentioned your name to Spell — they might call you for a weaving workshop’. I thought nothing of it as I get a few of these types of requests a year.”
Fast forward a few weeks, and Caldwell got a call from Mel Carrero, Head of Brand at Spell, wanting to meet to chat about potentially using one of her painted artworks for a collaboration. The two met at the Quad in Lismore where they talked about Caldwell’s art, fashion and textiles, the Spell brand and the collaboration opportunity. Caldwell then took some time to think about the opportunity, and once she’d decided she was keen, they met again at Spell headquarters.
“The meeting was quite daunting,” says Caldwell. “I was really nervous. Here I was, rocking up to this large plush office with a cardboard box of woven examples of bags and a portfolio of watercolour artworks. From that first official meeting, I could tell Spell was keen to have me as an artist and willing to answer any questions I had, which I liked. Once I agreed, contract negotiations began.”
Around two years later, on January 18, 2022, the Spell x Kylie Caldwell seven-piece collection launched in stores and online, with many of the pieces selling out within the first couple days. The artwork featured in the collaboration ‘A Beautiful Chaos’ is inspired by Caldwell’s culture and Country, Bundjalung. It explores the emergence of old and new patterns, and the discovery of beauty within life’s chaos.
“I have been smiling all week,” says Caldwell. “I am rapt that people love the collection and wear it proudly. When I first saw the garments on the model, during sample testing, my focus was the fit, the length, and how many ways it could be worn. During launch, seeing people dressed in the clothes, I was stoked and just feasting on how good they all looked. Thinking to myself: I like how you paired that shirt with pants; those shoes look fantastic with that dress.”
Elizabeth Abegg, Spell Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer, says the team knew embarking on a collaboration like the one with Caldwell would bring rich connections with the First Nations Community, especially those on Bundjalung Country.
“Forging these meaningful relationships has been the cornerstone of Spell’s Reconciliation Plan since we began it almost two years ago,” says Abegg. “We hoped a collaborative approach, one that was First Nations lead, might increase the economic opportunities for other First Nations artists and other creatives who are significantly underrepresented in our industry.”
Abegg says her favourite piece in the collection is the Akirra Koo Mini Dress. (Like all the pieces, the dress was named after one of Caldwell’s nieces.)
“[Caldwell] wanted big sleeves with drama, something you could wear and feel really special in,” Abegg says. “We reworked the capsule so many times, finessing it and getting it just right, but this piece was there from the beginning.”
Caldwell says that while the last year was tough for those affected by the Northern Rivers’ devastating floods, it was art that helped many people to cope, relax, and connect. “Community pride in the collaboration has been far-reaching,” she says. “Many well-wishes and love for what was created. It’s been nice to have a positive story shared here with everyone and a reason to celebrate.”
Caldwell and Spell also worked together on an open-source blueprint outlining the process, as well as any details of the collaboration. They hope it to be a resource for other artists and brands to use to stimulate, assist, and inform potential other new collaborations.
Spell x Kylie Caldwell is available to shop online and at Spell’s Byron store. A limited run will be available at Spell’s Sydney pop-up in Paddington.