Meet the Maker: Acler

Established in 2014 in a small home studio in Adelaide, Kathryn Forth & Julia Ritorto took the plunge and set out on a mission to design product that was clean and polished. From there, Acler was born and has been delivering classic yet modern pieces ever since.

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Acler Founders, Kathryn Forth & Julia Ritorto

 

When and how did Acler come about? 

Julia: Kath and I started Acler from humble beginnings back in 2014, designing from a small home studio in Adelaide, South Australia. We both were at a crossroads in our life and decided it was time to take a leap of faith towards our dream. I quit a lucrative international role and moved back home to Adelaide and Kath closed the door on her medicine degree- what would have been a ‘safe path’ to take a plunge into the unknown. From this, Acler was born!

Acler is actually an anagram of the word ‘clear’! It was a cheeky play on words as our mission was to design product that was clean and polished. Since we started the brand we have found “clarity of mind” to be one of the most important philosophies that we have strived to achieve not only in our designs, but our professional lives too.


How would you describe the Acler customer? 

Kath: We want women to feel assertive and in control when they wear our designs. The Acler woman isn’t afraid to push boundaries - she is determined and enigmatic. She values quality over quantity, timeless design over fads, she is always the most effortlessly styled person in the room. Often going from desk to dinner the Acler woman is strong and sociable, she knows what she wants, and she is going to get it!

 

Any advice you would give to someone thinking of starting a brand?

Jules: Like anything, following a dream means hard work and risk, but this is something Kath and I will always be unapologetic for- we both took the plunge when we were at a crossroads in our life and listened to our gut. We knew it was a big risk, but often the biggest risks are those that pay off. We would urge you to take the risk, continue to dream big and work hard for it come true!

 

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Parkway Shirt

 

What’s your design process and is there anything you do to help to get the ideas rolling?

Kath: From day one we have been hand-draping rather than relying on computer generated 2D design methods which seem to, sadly, be the way of the industry these days. Because of this, our design process is much slower which means we of course are always working hard to keep up with the fast pace of the fashion industry. But the result is Acler - garments created by playing and manipulating fabrics with an open mind, seeing where it naturally fits and falls on the body to ensure each piece wears perfectly to fit the female form.

 

What inspires your collections and aesthetic and how do you keep it relevant? 

Jules: This is always one of the hardest questions! because for us, inspiration comes from many avenues and it is often a magic mixture of these factors that brings together a considered, multi-faceted and engaging collection that tells many stories. We find inspiration from past era’s, world art and architecture, all the way through to music and literature. One common starting point of each collection is often art or a beautiful print. We then curate a complimentary colour palette around this and develop silhouettes to best compliment the sourced material.

 

Do you have a favourite style that you’ve created over the past few years?

Kath: We released a gorgeous black blazer dress a year or so ago which had the most amazing laser cut petals, which were all tucked and stitched in cross hatch tufts all around the lower arm, creating an almost feathered look – it definitely remains my favourite piece in my wardrobe.

 

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Acler Marita Dress, 2019

 

What is something not that many people know about you or your brand? 

Jules: most people are still really surprised when we say the brand started and is still based out of Adelaide, South Australia. I guess it is not the most obvious fashion state, but there is so much hidden talent here! Thinking back to when it was just Kath and I in our living room, we are so proud to now employ 23 women here in Adelaide and we are one big family of work wives!

 

What has been the absolute highlight of your brand / career to date?  

Kath: I honestly love being involved in each of our photoshoots and I always feel like each collection is better than the last. So probably each time we finish a shoot and select imagery, I always think that is my career highlight... and then three months later it happens again!

Jules: As many brands have the story of starting from humble beginnings, working from their living room, we’re much the same. After a couple years, we rented a small studio space that we quickly grew out of, but made do for as long as we could even though we were packed in like sardines! So last year, when we finally moved into what I would consider my dream studio space, it felt incredible and extremely surreal – it was a real pinch myself moment as we reflected on how far the business has come.

 

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Waterman Dress | Parkway Dress

What are you watching at the moment?

Kath: The Walt Disney documentary & The Watchmen TV series.

Jules: I mean who isn’t watching Season 2 of Dirty John: Betty Broderick?

 

What are you listening to right now?

Kath: I’m actually staying with my partner interstate and we are both in self isolation. He tends to be in charge of all the sounds in our home, so I am being entertained with some very eclectic tunes! My favourite evenings consist of a Sam Cooke soundtrack.

Jules: I’m a podcast junkie, and a bit of a true crime buff - so I’ve always got one the go.

 

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Sam Cooke

 

Describe your style in three words:

Kath: Feminine, Effortless, Confident

Jules: Tailored, Classic, Relaxed

 

What’s your daily go-to outfit?

Kath: A feminine blouse and high waisted pant – feminine and practical

Jules: A tailored blazer and jeans- sophisticated and effortless.

 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? 

Kath: Pick a business partner like you would a marriage because you will spend more time together than any romance! You will be tied together financially, emotionally and in countless other ways. I certainly listened to this advice and am so lucky to have an amazing business partner in Jules!

Jules: The advice was quite simple, and it became and remains my mantra: Never Give Up. It was given to me in the context of this being a cut-throat industry and that as a new entrant I’d experience as many shattering lows as incredible highs. As we approach our 6th year, we are reflecting on those really tough early days, where it was just the two of us working in a borrowed front room day and night. I’m proud we never gave up – and yet again, with all the uncertainty this pandemic has brought to the globe, these words have never been more important.

 

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Blair Coat

 

What should every woman have in her wardrobe?

Kath: A beautiful tailored blazer than you can dress up or down, is trans-seasonal and makes you feel instantly your best

Jules: An array of gorgeous classic and statement blouses – whether it is paired back with a skirt or your favourite pair of jeans, there is always an occasion for a beautiful blouse. 

 

What’s your favourite thing about living in Adelaide?

Kath: The beautiful character homes at every corner, the beaches and the gorgeous wine regions that are only 20 minutes to the city. The lack of crowds and the ease to get around… it’s an amazing city.

Jules: The very close proximity to the most amazing beaches this country has to offer and the delicious wine, right at your doorstep. It’s also home, I grew up here, so now with a little toddler I have grandparent cuddles and babysitting on tap!

 

 Can you share with us any of your local hidden gems?

Kath: I think anyone coming to Adelaide needs to go to Peel St in the city which is a gorgeous little street lined with ‘hole in the wall’ boutique wine bars. There is always a big crowd, music in the air and people spilling out onto the streets drinking cocktails.

 

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Peel Street, Adelaide

 

Jules: If you’re going to visit South Australia in the Summertime, then I highly recommend renting some wheels and heading south to the Fleurieu Peninsula. We have a family holiday house in Normanville, a cute and quaint town with yummy eateries and crystal-clear beaches. Very close by is Second Valley, which if you squint, I swear you’ll feel like you’re in Santorini.

 

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Second Valley, Fleurieu Peninsula (image via Journey Era)

 

Where is your favourite destination of all time and why?

Kath: Given the current times, I try and think local because that seems to be what is in reach at the moment. I love Kangaroo Island which is an hour and a half drive and then a half hour ferry from Adelaide city. A beautifully secluded island where you almost feel like you have travelled back in time, as the pace is slower and life feels simpler.  

Jules: Travel just seems so out of reach right now, so I will tell you about a place that I’m often dreaming about re-visiting someday. I more recently fell in love with (quite unexpectedly) was Kyoto. There was a sense of calm that washed over me as soon as I set foot in the city and there was order and purpose to what felt like everything surrounding me. Oh and the ramen, I still dream about that!

 

Where to from here, what’s next for Acler?

Kath: From a product perspective we have so many stunning pieces coming out in over the next few months and continuing into 2021– so many gorgeous fabrications, colour pops to brighten your wardrobe for any occasion and some amazing investment pieces that will be a go-to for years to come... Certainly, the collections coming out this year are my favourite yet.

 But from a more personal perspective, we have really used this difficult year as an opportunity to speak to our customers and ask what exactly they are looking for in fashion label as we enter into a new era globally. We have had so many requests to show more of the behind the scenes and to meet more of the talented women behind the business and so you can look forward to learning more about the people and places behind the label if you follow us on Instagram @aclerwoman.

 

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