Two best friends + one shared obsession with fashion = Ela and Jackson, a sleek line of swim, beach and yoga wear perfect for the active Perth lifestyle. The Perth Collective talks to co-creators Keely and Ela about fashion, inspiration, and running a successful business when you work full-time.
Tell us a bit about yourselves…
Keely was born in the rural south of WA in a little sleepy town called Pemberton. Growing up on a farm, she is naturally fearless, and confident in demobilising spiders and using firearms. She is also a coeliac so don’t feed her anything delicious with gluten!
Ela was born and raised in the leafy green suburb of Subiaco to Polish parents who migrated to Australia in 1985. Her name is spelt with one ‘L’ which belies her Polish heritage – she speaks the language fluently and loves pierogi.
We also both adore dogs, the beach, travelling, coffee and anything made from potato! Oh, and of course fashion!
Our obsession with fashion came from a young age, with both of us constantly drawing pretty dresses and collecting Vogue magazines. When we met it was like we had finally found another person who was on totally the same wavelength with regards to fashion design and potato-based foods. We would always speak of having our own label and how wonderful it would be to create the clothes we wished existed. You know what I’m talking about, when you find this piece but it’s not quite right?
How was Ela and Jackson founded?
The two of us met through mutual friends and after initial resistance from being told we would be a perfect match, we actually realised we got along like a house on fire.
We became firm friends very quickly and as we got to know more about each other we discovered that we both had aspirations in fashion. Deciding that two heads were better than one, Ela & Jackson was born.
Where are you based?
Our workshop in based in Wembley at Ela’s house. Keely lives not too far away in the leafy suburb of East Perth, so early morning breakfast meetings are easier to get to.
What inspires your collection?
Ela & Jackson’s spring/ summer 16 collection captures the active seaside culture of our home, Perth. The essence of health, beauty and activity bonded to create swimsuits and beachwear that translates from the great Indian Ocean coast to the sweat dripping onto a yoga mat.
Each piece is an extension of our own personalities, wrapped into the seamless nylon-lycra with a palette of rich earthy tones and attention to detail, and glimmering from the stunningly vibrant silk we’ve hand-sewn into a collection of magical kimonos.
The natural beauty of the female silhouette paired with clean, sharp lines and influences from our yoga practice has brought you a collection that is hardware-free and of the highest quality and, most importantly, comfortable. Each piece can be adapted in various ways providing a wealth of self-expression in form and function. What serves you for flowing in the ocean will serve you for flowing on the mat in your next Vinyasa class
Whether it’s down at Cottesloe Beach, island hopping in the Pacific or in a yoga class, Ela & Jackson can be there with you in spirit joining you on your journey.
Do either of you have a background in fashion?
Ela studied Fashion as well as Public Relations and Marketing whilst Keely studied Design – however we also both have an extensive history within the fashion industry, with involvement in the Telstra Perth Fashion Festival, management in high-end fashion retail and experience working as stylists on numerous occasions.
What is your current favourite key piece from your store?
We are obsessed with the Dhyana Top at the moment because it is just so versatile. A simple shelf bra available in 6 colours, it’s perfect for wearing as is on the beach, or with yoga pants in the studio. It even stands in as a layering piece to give a little more coverage underneath that one dress/ top we all have that is just too much to wear with just a bra as coverage!
Where can we purchase your label?
As well as our online store www.elaandjackson.com, we are stocked exclusively in Merge Clothing in Northbridge. We also take appointments from home via email for our local Perth gals.
Where did your business name come from?
Our business name came actually came from Ela’s partner Bart. He had the clever idea of using Ela’s first name and Keely’s last name to create Ela & Jackson. It rolled off the tongue and it just stuck!
What do you find is the biggest challenge of owning your own business?
The biggest challenge is time. Both of us work full-time and in the early stages Ela was also studying full-time – now we find balancing much easier. Being the faces of our company, we also need to be fit and healthy and always bikini body-ready, and trying to fit all this in with full-time work can be difficult.
What do you do for your full-time jobs?
Ela works at Kookai and Keely works for lululemon – both are companies we love, and they support our aspirations. We do this outside of our full time jobs – basically every spare second we have is put into Ela & Jackson.
What has been the best moment so far in your business?
Being in such early stages of our business, it’s hard to just choose one as so many moments are on par with each other. Some include getting our first order from someone that wasn’t one of our amazing friends, getting our first stockist, and having our first show (Melbourne Cup 2015). However the best moments are when our stock arrives and we see our ideas become tangible in lycra. Then we’re obliged to go straight to the beach to celebrate. Also seeing people wearing our product is probably the most rewarding feeling! It’s solid proof that people actually love what we are making!
Most memorable challenge you’ve had with a client or stockist?
The most memorable challenge would be with the first stockist we had late last year. A customer appropriated one of our bikinis and then posted a photo of herself wearing it on Instagram. Then she actually tagged us in the photo! This was rather emotional as we weren’t able to follow up with any formal kind of action and just had to sit back while she continued to post photos.
Your favourite quote or mantra?
If it is to be, it’s up to me.
Basically if you want something done, work hard and do it yourself. Most things in our business we have learned to do because we had to. For example, Ela built our website from scratch and we think it looks pretty damn good. The more we learn to do ourselves, the more we can control.
Who do you look up to for inspiration or admire for their business growth?
We know so many inspiring hard-working women that we look up to so it’s hard to name one, but if we had to? Sophia Amoruso of Nasty Gal. She’s a badass CEO who makes no apologies for who she is and where she has come from. She freely offers a whole host of good advice with a huge side of reality to anyone wanting to get into business, plus is all about supporting new talent!
What is your advice to WA women who want to start their own business or turn their hobby into a small business?
If you have an idea then go for it. If you want it enough you will find a way to make it happen! Work at it every day and be realistic about how much you need to do to get there! Also create a support network for yourself to get you through the hard times, because there will be hard times. Plus, starting your own business is probably the most rewarding thing you could do.
What is your vision for your business?
To create a label that truly expresses who we are through classic lines and high quality fabric as well as empowering women to feel comfortable in their own skin. We want to be able to grow from swimwear to resort and ready-to-wear and not limit ourselves with what we might do or where we might go.
Favourite WA coffee – Tropico , Foam Coffee Bar
Favourite WA fashion label – Natalie Rolt, Morrison, Bruug
Favourite WA homewares– Empire
Favourite WA bar– The Cottesloe Beach Hotel
Favourite WA restaurant– Ingredient Tree
Favourite WA Instagram account – Salty Wings (@saltywings)
25% off with the code EJLOVE25
Edited by The Write Stuff Collective