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Aurum’s Interview with Lita Magazine

Earlier this year, AURUM’s signature suit featured on the cover of Lita Magazine and AURUM’s Founder offered Lita’s readers behind the scenes insights into the making of a fashion house. Now you can read the full feature article here. 

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The creative force behind Australia’s newest fashion house THE AURUM COLLECTIVE is ASHLEY FREEMAN. Her debut collection is centred around the perfect travel wardrobe for the modern woman and will have us suiting up for success. Her designs seamlessly transition from the desk to dinner and have been created to reflect the dynamic lifestyles of hard-working women. Ashley reveals the secrets to her fashion empire…

Q: Thank you for joining us, Ashley! Please introduce yourself and a little about your background to our readers.

Thanks for having me! I’m Ashley Freeman and I’m the founder and creative director behind The Aurum Collective, an online fashion house for the modern professional woman. Throughout my working life I have been a retail shop assistant, waitress, tutor, marketing assistant, events planner and for the last seven years I have been a lawyer.

But I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide I’d give fashion design a go. I grew up immersed in the fashion industry. My mum is a seamstress and fashion entrepreneur and as a child my family home doubled as a design studio. So fashion design came naturally to me.

Q: Tell us about The Aurum Collective. What inspired you to create this fashion house? When did you know you wanted to be a fashion designer?

I created The Aurum Collective for ambitious, career-driven women.

Working in the corporate arena, I was frustrated with the lack of beautiful, functional and high quality clothing available to young professional women. It felt to me like women were often an afterthought when it came to corporate fashion.

Over the last ten year, I found that women’s corporate fashion has changed very little, yet the corporate landscape itself has changed considerably.  The number of female entrepreneurs and female professionals is growing – and fast! These women are ambitious, hard-working and intelligent. They demand efficiency in every aspect of their lives. They need a wardrobe that serves multiple purposes to accommodate their multi-tasking lifestyles. They are also conscious of the important role that image can play in relation to their self-esteem and building their own personal brand.  

I also now appreciate the lifestyles of female entrepreneurs. These women prefer a more relaxed look and don’t want to dress in the traditional office attire. Their lifestyles are extraordinarily dynamic. They need clothing that will move with them and not slow them down. It was these jet-setting, entrepreneurial women who inspired me to create my first collection (the Travel Collection), which is centred on the perfect travel wardrobe.

Q: What is The Aurum Collective’s core mission and philosophy?

I believe that confident women have the power to create significant and remarkable change in our world. I also believe that what we wear can affect our self-esteem. The Aurum Collective’ pieces are designed to empower women.

Our underlying mission is to positively influence how women feel about themselves and encourage women to seize the power of confidence.

Q: What do you want your customers to feel when they wear your designs?

Confident. Strong. Feminine.

Q: How do you remain innovative in such a competitive and saturated industry?

Innovation is usually born from frustration. And that is exactly how The Aurum Collective came to life.

Working as a litigation lawyer, I lived in suits. But I always felt like the people designing the clothes I was wearing hadn’t walked in my shoes. They hadn’t experienced the 15+ hour working days, walking 2km to Court dragging a large suitcase full of documents in high heels. They hadn’t felt the urgency of trying to race to a mediation wearing a pencil skirt that allows a range of movement of about 5cm per step. They didn’t even seem to understand that we actually need to be able to sit comfortably in our clothes. And the list goes on!

So how is The Aurum Collective different? We are different because we understand the needs, desires and concerns of this generation of hard-working women. We have walked in her shoes.

The other way we will ensure we continue to innovate and remain relevant is by involving our community in the design process. I want the designs to be created in collaboration with other ambitious, hard-working women. I  invite their feedback and ideas on what they would like to see in future collections.

Q: Describe The Aurum Collective’s design aesthetic.

The Aurum Collective strives for nothing short of visual perfection. Our style is inspired by feminine silhouettes, structured tailoring and high-end sophistication.  As our pieces are designed for fashion-discerning working women, they need to be functional, versatile, comfortable and effortless, while still conveying sophistication and beauty.

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Q: Guide us through the design process. How does a collection come to life?

Designing a collection is a long and detailed process. There are several different approaches designers might take to start a collection. For me, the first step is thinking of how I want the designs to make woman feel while keeping in mind the practical applications. Where will she wear the design? When will she wear the design? What will she be doing in the design

All of my designs are made in Australia. As the collections are made for career-driven women, I wanted to partner with #girlbosses throughout the journey of bringing the collections to life. I was fortunate enough to meet an incredible woman who owns a highly reputable and ethically accredited production house in Melbourne.  I partnered with her and together we started the next steps of creating patterns and samples.

As a perfectionist, it’s important to me that the detail of each design is perfect. That meant that the designs were thoroughly tested,fitted and re-sampled before they were approved by me.  

Once the samples are signed off, there are a few more behind the scenes steps before production can commence, including grading (i.e scaling a pattern to different sizes, which today can be done using sophisticated grading software), ordering fabrics for manufacturing, ordering trims (such as buttons and zips) and garment labels. With so many moving parts in the design process,  exceptional time management is key.

Once a collection is completed, it is then time to start the process all over again for the next collection!

Q: Tell us about your first collection. What inspired these styles and what fabrics can we expect to see?

The Aurum Collective’s first collection is the Travel Collection. It was inspired by the active lifestyle of the modern jetsetter. It combines performance with style.

To enhance the performance qualities of the collection, I selected ultra-luxurious fibres that flex with natural movements, are breathable, trans-seasonal and have a quick recovery from creasing. Among the fibres selected was pure Australian Merino wool, that has been long favoured by the bespoke tailors of Savile Row for its remarkable natural properties. One of the other reasons why I selected Merino wool for the Travel Suit is due to its incredible endurance. My favourite suit in my wardrobe (before I designed my first collection, of course!), was a pure wool suit I purchased almost 12 years. It still looks like I bought it yesterday.  I wanted to create a suit that is heirloom quality.
I added in functional pockets (perfect for storing a passport, boarding pass or other travel essentials) with some other practical details, and what  emerged was a series of resilient designs that offer versatility, comfort, functionality and ease.

The collection mixes structured tailoring with feminine silhouettes to create a sophisticated look that is adaptable to any occasion. Paired back with sneakers or elevated with heels, the travel collection can effortlessly transition from the airport to the office or from the desk to dinner. 
Equally important to performance and style is how the garments make us feel. I want the women who wear the Travel Collection to feel confident, strong and feminine.    

Q: How do you select the materials you use?

I source all of my fabrics through Australian suppliers so that I can support local businesses.  I have a pretty long list of criteria which differs depending on the style. But in essence, the materials need to be  high quality, feel great, look great, be breathable, flexible, drape well and, where possible, be wrinkle-resistant and made from natural fibres.

The colour palette is also very important when selecting materials. For the label’s Autumn/Winter collection, I have selected a bold monochrome colourway.

Q: Where are your pieces produced and why?

It is important to me that all of my designs are manufactured in Australia. This means that not only am I able to support local businesses and female entrepreneurs who are paving the way in their respective industries, but I remain hands on throughout the entire design and production process.

An absolute essential for my designs is that they are ethically made. The production house I have partnered with in Melbourne is ethically accredited through Ethical Clothing Australia and each piece is carefully handmade. The finish and attention to detail is exquisite!

Q: What has been the best business advice you have received and how have you used this in the evolution of The Aurum Collective?

It is so difficult to pinpoint one piece of advice! I have however been absorbing as much information as I can from a diverse range of sources. I have really tried to immerse myself in the world of business, from working as an in-house lawyer in a fintech company to listening to countless audio books when I travel and reading every newspaper, magazine or blog that crosses my path.

Where I feel there is a gap in my knowledge, I either try to sponge up all of the information I can on that topic or I find a specialist in that field to make sure I am doing it right. I don’t cut corners. Last year I completed two fashion courses to gain more knowledge of the fashion industry beyond what I had learned from my mum (who is a seamstress and fashion entrepreneur) and years working in retail. What can I say? I just love learning! I believe that all of the knowledge I pick up along the way plays its role in helping to shape my judgment so that I can trust in my instincts.

If I had to narrow it down though, I would say that Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, and Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, are probably the richest sources of business and life advice that I have come across.

Q: Who is the ultimate Aurum Collective muse and why?

The Aurum Collective’s muse is not a single person, but a collection of powerful and inspiring women. Today’s working woman takes on many forms. She may work in a traditional professional services firm, run her own business, work from home or work between multiple offices across the country. I have a different muse for each of these roles so I can make sure that my designs are relevant.  And I am very proud to say that these inspiring and driven women are all my closest friends.

Q: Is there someone in the fashion industry who inspires you?

I am inspired by the styles of Yves Saint Laurent and Victoria Beckham. Both designers create beautiful, bold fashion that is still practical, modern and luxurious. But beyond the design aesthetics, I admire Victoria Beckham’s mission. She aims to create designer fashion for real women and encourages women to be proud and confident.

Q: What is the best part about being a fashion designer?

There are many rewarding features of being a fashion designer. Probably the most rewarding part is the fact that it has allowed me to connect with some incredibly talented and inspiring people.

Q: What has been your career highlight thus far?

In my career as a fashion entrepreneur,  the highlight has been  previewing my first collections at a private showing to various industry specialists,  influential business women and powerful members of the media. Not only was it the first time I got to see all of my designs displayed together in a single location, but the response I received from the guests was overwhelming. That was the first time during this journey I had to stop, reflect and feel proud of my achievements.  

 

You can buy your own copy of Lita Magazine’s Issue No. 12 online at www.litamagazine.com.

Date Published: 17 September 2017

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