How the creative director’s discerning fashion eye and unique take on the relationship with what we wear informs this exciting new platform.
Words Elle McClure | Visuals provided by Kelly Atkinson
‘Pivot’ is up there with ‘unprecedented’ on a list of words we’d like to leave firmly in 2020, but despite launching her digital platform-cum-online store Showroom-X with partner Richard Poulson in the midst of a global pandemic (and on the precipice of a national recession) for Kelly Atkinson, a pivot wasn’t really necessary. That’s because pandemic or no pandemic, the pair had recognised the value of a space that showcased pieces in a way the designer intended, in order to spark a connection between a garment and its potential owner, even from — or rather, especially from — a distance.
With her insight from a career spent in the fashion industry, largely in visual merchandising and creative direction, Kelly felt that the online shopping experience too often flattened (or entirely erased) the narrative that designers and makers try so hard to imbue their work with. After all, how much can really be gleaned while scrolling aimlessly through the ‘new arrivals’ section on an iPhone?
“The one thing I found when visiting showrooms while buying was the designers would talk though each of their pieces, and give insight into the motivation behind them, and each garment’s fabrications or points of difference. The key sellers and the season picks. But that all drops off when it comes to the customers – so we are filling the gap whereby our customers get the full showroom experience.”
With Kelly’s discerning eye and Richard’s business acumen (she’s the platform’s creative director while he acts as CEO), Showroom-X came to be in April, with a sharp sustainability focus. The platform showcases and stocks ready-to-wear pieces, accessories and art in a truly considered context, and instantly attracted labels such as Ellery, Christopher Esber, Bassike and Lee Mathews, with many creating bespoke styles that are now only available on Showroom-X. Then there’s the art annex, which is filled with a mix of up-and-coming and more established local artists - such as Hannah Nowlan, Bec Smith, Justin Scivetti and Evi O - you’d want to have on the walls at your place too.
Much like Worn for Good’s credo, Kelly holds the belief that the best fashion is conscious, well-crafted, and sustainably-minded. When it comes to her own wardrobe, she eschews seasonality, instead drawn to wearable tailoring with a soft edge, in classic cuts. We’re lucky enough for Kelly to have passed on some beloved pieces so that you can in turn add them to your wardrobe, and continue to appreciate the consideration and craftsmanship that went into them for years to come.
Tell us a little about where the idea for Showroom X came from.
Showroom- X was born from a passion for Australian brands and their distinct aesthetic in a global market. Richard and I wanted to bring them all together in one luxurious and curated online platform. Unlike other online businesses, we want to tell the stories behind each brand and develop their narrative for the consumer.
What’s been your favourite thing to come from the project?
The best part is developing the exclusive styles with the designers. It’s really amazing being able to collaborate so closely with our key stakeholders. Working with Rich is quite fun too.
And the biggest challenge?
Working with Rich (ha!). No, the biggest hurdle we have had, like most businesses this year, is COVID-19. It’s changed the way people shop and what they are shopping for. We are now all much more cautious about where our hard-earned money goes, and voting for change with each purchase we make.
What’s one thing you’ll be carrying with you out of 2020?
A newfound respect for travel, and a much deeper relationship with mid-week drinking.
And the thing you’ll be leaving behind? Sweatpants as everyday wear.
Fashion and clothing are so much more than just their monetary value. It’s the Ellery dress I was wearing when I had my first kiss with Richard, or the Dior boots he bought me for Christmas. The Bassike t-shirt dresses I LIVED in when I was pregnant… Fashion is intrinsically linked to my life and events, so I can’t say one piece means more to me than anything else. It would be like choosing a favourite child.
What’s a shower thought you had recently?
“When was the last time I cleaned the shower?”
What’s a cause or injustice you last felt really strongly about?
Fast fashion’s impact on our planet – I’m working really hard at implementing new circularity aspects to Showroom-X. We already champion a lot of conscious brands and place sustainability at the forefront of every decision we make. [Sustainable packaging supplier] One Sustainable Planet worked on our packaging, and continues to support us in this area. We are also talking with the amazing Grace Forrest [Walk Free founder and UN Goodwill Ambassador] about transparency in supply chain and ending modern slavery – especially in a country like ours.
Who was the last artist or designer to get you really, genuinely excited?
ESSE Studios! Charlotte (Hicks) is not only one of the best humans I know, but she is also breaking tradition and producing beautiful, small-run, considered garments that are both amazing on the body and the earth.
What’s your most unconventional cure for a creative block?
Driving in the car with my daughter Oleander and singing ‘Jolene’ at the top of our lungs. We are both tone-deaf.
What’s the MVP piece of your wardrobe?
That’s so tricky. Fashion and clothing are so much more than just their monetary value. It’s the Ellery dress I was wearing when I had my first kiss with Richard, or the Dior boots he bought me for Christmas. The Bassike t-shirt dresses I LIVED in when I was pregnant… Fashion is intrinsically linked to my life and events, so I can’t say one piece means more to me than anything else. It would be like choosing a favourite child.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My mum saying: “People might not remember what you said or what you looked like… but they will always remember how you made them feel.” Warmth and kindness was always her true beauty.
And the worst?
“Don’t ask questions.” I worked for someone like that once. But I don’t just mindlessly follow – I always endeavour to learn.
Finish this sentence: People often think I’m confident when really I’m quite self conscious. (But I am trying to change this everyday.)