As children, Hayley and Lauri Smith, from Melbourne-based label Serpent & The Swan, never imagined that they’d wind up working together. Yet they now find themselves at the helm of a successful fashion enterprise. For this design duo, life and art is all about finding the middle ground. Despite hailing from different creative backgrounds, Hayley and Lauri founded the label on a shared vision.
The sisters have brought a dark and mythical aesthetic to life, in a midst of delicate fabrics, unique textures and hand-stitched embellishments. Rather than slaving over runway trends, Hayley and Lauri offer theatrical designs that are inspired by their own visions.
It’s been an eventful 12 months for the pair. They made their highly anticipated debut at MBFWA 2013 and recently launched their AW2014 collection. Here at TheTrendSpotter, we racked their brains to find out the highs, the lows and everything in between.
First things first, why ‘The Serpent & The Swan’? Is there a story behind the name?
We knew it had to be an animal based name as we are both obsessed with animals. We also wanted something that represents duality in nature. So we decided on the Serpent & the Swan. Both animals have symbolically represented many different things for many different cultures. In some of mankind’s oldest rituals, the serpent represented the duality of good and evil. It also represents transition and change. By contrast, the swan represents beauty, grace and patience.
Did you always imagine that you would work together?
No we never intended to work together as it is not something we had previously ever done before. But now we can’t imagine ever creating this label with anyone else!
You’ve both been working the creative industries for quite some time. What made you branch out and start your own label?
Hayley: I have always dreamt of starting my own label since I could talk. Life is all about timing, the right time presented itself so we grabbed the horns with both hands and have never let go!
Lauri: It’s not something that I have ever have imagined I would be doing. We are creating something truly unique and artistic that is true to myself, otherwise I would have zero interest in having a traditional trend based fashion label.
When you’re designing, do you have an ideal ‘The Serpent & The Swan’ man or woman in mind?
Not really to be honest. Our customer is anyone who appreciates attention to detail and doesn’t want to follow anybody else really. He or she is an independent soul who creates their own path.
You debuted at MBFWA 2013. What did you learn from that experience?
Many things! We learnt to let go a bit, as you can’t control everything. Also that MBFWA is the BEST platform to put your name on the map both locally & especially internationally.
How is AW2014 different from previous collections?
For this collection entitled ‘Lady & Ermine’ we were inspired by the 14th Century Renaissance period, particularly the painting by Leonardo Da Vinci’s entitled Lady with an Ermine. We were fascinated with the domesticated pets that the aristocracy and royalty of that period kept.
Lets just say this little ermine sparked the inspiration for the whole collection!
Can you explain the ‘sculpt it’ feature of your online store?
The idea of ‘Sculpt It’ is that you can select from our hand made trimmings and leather pieces to add to your basic premium garment. You as the customer can create your own unique style and sculpt your look, which is an exciting new avenue for us to create & connect with the customer!
Why do you include unique and handcrafted trimmings on each garment? Do you consciously avoid mass producing garments?
Our handcrafted trimmings have become our signature as it’s a natural part of our creative backgrounds. Lauri: I come from a fine arts and special effects background. I sculpt the trimming from clay, then make the mould, pour the resin, once resin is set, I pop it out and sand it to make it perfect.
I guess yes that would make it harder to mass reproduce which is great!
You have once mentioned “Music has always been a big part of the label”, tell us more about your visual and performing arts inspirations.
Music is one of our main sources of inspiration. When we conceptualize the theme and mood of each collection it is always accompanied by a particular sound. So it takes its form from sound to reality.
So naturally we tend to work with musicians who align with our brand aesthetic.
You’ve been on a rollercoaster for the past 5 years, with a lot of hype surrounding your collections. What have been some of the highlights?
Yes it sure has been a wild rollercoaster! Some of the highlights would have to be being selected by G’Day USA to go to NYC and show our collection to top NYC media. We also had the divine sounds of Sarah Blasko singing at our MBFWA show earlier this year, which was incredible. Recently the lovely Megan Washington modeled for our latest transeasonal collection we just shot last week.
What’s next for The Serpent & The Swan?
Lots! Going forward we have changed the nature of how we are realizing our collections, we are moving away from the traditional fashion seasons and creating transeasonal collections. Also some really amazing music collaborations are on the way.
Serpent & The Swan Autumn/Winter 2014 Women’s Lookbook