Designer Spotlight #5: ARNLEY - Urban Chic

Butter-soft leathers, lavish silks, delicate wool and even fine woodgrains are some of the luxurious materials used by Newcastle-based designer Kelly Sharples for her fashion-forward label ARNLEY.

Two years in the making (ARNLEY released its first collection for Winter early this year),  Sharples describes ARNLEY as a "brand for confident women".  Having viewed and touched ARNLEY's current winter collection and upcoming Spring/Summer 2013/14 collection "The Line" at a private press preview, we at commend Sharples' attention to detail and praise her impeccable choice of fabrics.


ARNLEY's pieces utilise a neutral colour palette, are double-seamed and lined in quality silk or cotton for comfort, durability and practicality.  The label's fabrics are sourced from either Australia or Italy, with Sharples making twice yearly pilgrimages to the latter for the purpose of sourcing high-quality textiles for her collections.

Formerly an architect, Sharples' prior vocation manifests in her designs, which are detailed by clean lines and sharp silhouettes combined with an urban sensibility. Born from free-hand illustrations, ARNLEY's pieces are given life right here in Australia, fully supporting the local manufacturing industry.

ARNLEY's upcoming SS 2013/14 collection is inspired by the beach, minus the quintessential beachside references:

"It is a quiet concept that looks further than the aqua waves and golden sand, but to the deep blue of the horizons, and the rusted hulls of gigantic coal ships that seem to balance on them," Sharples explains.

Editor, Michelle Larin, briefly spoke with Sharples about her label and career changeover from architecture to fashion design.

Q: In comparison to buildings, what do you love most about designing clothes?

A: What I love the most is the dynamic nature and pace of fashion design. I can develop an idea and have a finished product in my hand within days; unlike buildings where it can take years to see my design come to fruition. This makes for a very exciting and vibrant process. From an initial concept to finished design, designing clothes also allows me more freedom to experiment. 

Q: Did you find the transition from architecture to clothing design difficult?

A: Not at all! I studied pattern making, fabric capabilities and had to wrap my head around the production specifics as part of my Diploma in Fashion. My architecture training, which involved working simultaneously in 2D plan and 3D renders, assisted my pattern making - my sense of composition and proportion translated quite seamlessly. I even now run my collections like they are small building projects and it works well for me-designing for one season, while coordinating production for the other.

Q: How do you conceptualise your designs?

A: Inspiration is everywhere. I sketch, sketch and sketch, on napkins, on the foggy glass in the shower, in a book by my bed at midnight, wherever! Everything is documented- no idea is a bad idea. Beauty can be found everywhere and I am intensely aware of my surroundings. Every decision, however small, effects how you draft a pattern or cut a fabric. When formulating a concept for a range, I balance design pieces and beautiful basics - the conceptual and the practical. This is an important foundation when building a collection.

Q: What influences your choice of cuts/fabrics?

A: I love high quality, natural fibres and always lean towards silk, wool and cottons. Man-made naturals like cupro and lyocell are great to work with too, and are always comfortable to wear. I think people are busy and don't always have the time to obsess over their wardrobe, so I design garments that people can put on and walk out of the house, knowing they look super chic. Style and comfort is key.

Q: What is your ethos as a fashion designer?

A: Quality and good design will always last. Perfecting the details allows me to achieve a cool, quiet design aesthetic, with that slight urban edge. As a designer, it is important to constantly ask yourself who you are, and what you want to achieve, and then be true to yourself. Creating a simple, beautiful garment can sometimes be more challenging than creating a complex design because a simple design must speak for itself.

Q: Describe your personal style.

A: Relaxed but sophisticated. Kate Moss is my all-time style hero for her polished, yet seemingly ‘thrown together’ looks. Day-to-day, I tend live in jeans and T-shirts and throw on a blazer when I need to look smart. For evenings, I love structure - a dress or a great jacket and skirt - but overall I really like clothes that take very little effort to look great. I keep that in mind when I design. ARNLEY is all about being effortlessly cool. 

ARNLEY is stocked at its e-boutique and at online stores The Grand Social and Olive & Finn, with pieces retailing between $300 and $800.