Jade green smock dresses, scalloped linen coats, liquorice striped kaftans and voluminous drill suiting all laden with slick handbags, gold chain jewellery and leather flatforms. This might sound like a resort offering from the likes of Coach or Tory Burch or maybe even Valentino, but this collection is far closer to home. This is the latest from Australian leatherwear brand Oroton. A new ready-to-wear that is quickly moving this once dwindling label back into the psyche of the country’s most fashionable people.
In 2017, after Oroton was placed in receivership due to poor sales and a reported loss of AU$14million, former board member Will Vicars purchased the company for some AU$25million. His first port of call was enlisting the expertise of Sophie Holt. As former creative director of Country Road, Holt has been credited with their major brand turnaround circa 2012 and subsequently known for her Midas touch. Although this is Holt’s third year at the refurbished Oroton, yesterday’s runway show marks their Australian fashion week debut and, despite a 30 year career, Holt’s first runway show, ever.
Resort ’22 offers a chic romancing of vintage Australian holidayisms. Smocks and headscarfs, shorts and cover-alls that boast vintage throwbacks via matchbox prints, chintzy florals, and even doily appliqués. Alongside them, more modern offerings of elongated blazers, laser cut shirting and tailored safari cuts proving this is a label worthy of its emerging sartorial buzz.
The wanderlust – accentuated via a fantasy set of Greek Island-esque sculptural white boulders – offered wilful escapism but more importantly, each look was beautifully constructed using superb fabrics and well thought out detail. The daisy print pyjama set, the long creamy ribbed knit dress, the burgundy jacket and culotte set were, among others, particularly memorable. Long gone is the idea of singular addition trench coats to support Oroton’s seasonal leatherwear. Now, fashion and accessories are creating a cohesive wardrobe offering and a detailed trend direction.
“We are all feeling hopeful,” Holt explained to GRAZIA. “It felt right to work towards a mood that is lighter, with a new kind of freshness, energy and happiness. There is a sense of ease throughout the collection. We were thinking about spending an afternoon outside in the garden, how it felt, and as always, colour was our starting point.”
“We’re still living in an uncertain world, but I think it’s made us more resolved than ever to focus on the positive, to look to the future. It’s about embracing colour and whimsy, to wear something special, anything that makes you feel happy. I love the idea that we are all starting to feel energised again, that we’re all looking ahead,” continued Holt.
Optimism has been a key aesthetic for many labels this fashion week, something thoroughly relieving given most would have been less so this time last year. But for Oroton, the optimism is particularly poignant. That a brand so close to extinction could be back with gusto.
And although the apparel is being lauded, Oroton’s accessory establishment has also undergone changes. Satchels and bucket bags in rich browns and ivories modernised through smooth finishes and quilted leathers as well as forest green clutches and classic market totes boasting new-look gold fastenings. Many also featuring a rebranded insignia – a metal ’Oro’ dangling throughout.
The reception to Holt’s first official presentation was exceptionally encouraging. The murmuring among the industry crowd was wildly positive with many guests detailing pieces they were keen to snap up as soon as they’re available – the inspired matchbox print causing particular excitement.
There was a time in the early 2000s when no woman’s birthday was complete without the receiving of an Oroton accessory. So to see the brand reinvigorated is a good story for the Australian retail industry. After the show, members of the extended Oroton team stood beside me, audibly and visibly excited by what they had just witnessed. Holt is offering a new prosperity, not only as an aesthetic but for the brand and company as a whole.