Five Minutes with Artist Mika Utzon Popov

How did the collaboration with R.M.Williams come about?

They contacted me with the proposition that they wanted to add something more artistic into their environment, and being a flagship store in New York they could push that boundary a little bit further. It’s a new approach for them, so I was quite interested in that. We had a conversation about how I translate landscape into the space, and from the first conversation we figured out that was what we wanted to do. So we started a dialogue about how we could create something that’s both inherently Australian and international.

Why did the project appeal to you?

It’s a brand that everyone has a story about or a connection to; I really wanted to be part of the new direction they’re taking – an Australian icon taking on the international stage. People are so emotionally attached to R.M.Williams. It’s a very honest brand. I can see immediately the heritage and the story. It’s still alive in that boot they created years and years ago. It has a simple concept and an elegant solution. It hasn’t tried to be more than that. And they came to me with free parameters. They’ve been very open and supportive and they’ve let me have free reign with the project.

How did you translate your ideas into the space?

R.M.Williams have a strong heritage with the land and farms in rural Australia, so we really wanted to pull that into the space. We worked around the idea of the base being the landscape; we’ve got some large tiled floor panels that have this earthy, red colour, and then I wanted to have an experience of walking into a space and being immediately immersed in the primary product of what R.M.Williams is: the leather. So when you walk into the space you’re immediately met by this wall that has leather panels. It changes your smell, your sound, it’s a very tactile transition. There’s a steel structure that relates back to the gates of the farm and the shearing sheds. We took all these little ideas from farms and put them all together. We also visited the R.M.Williams factory and that was a major source of inspiration. There was so much interesting stuff in the factory that we wanted to use, so we had to pare it back. 

Can you tell us about the landscape that inspired the main sculptural piece that’s the focal point of the store?

I live in the Sydney area but I really wanted to work with something that was ambiguous and not local to one area. It’s an amalgamation of ideas, memories and experiences. It’s more of an experience of overall landscape.

What was the biggest challenge working on the project?

I really had freedom to create what I wanted, and then that artwork would go into the store and sit independently. The other component was to come up with ideas of how we would translate the landscape into the physical space of the store. The only restriction really how the store has to function every day, so that was an interesting challenge for me: suddenly being in an environment where I had to direct my thoughts on where things had to go. It was challenging but a great learning process for me and the team.


Big Apple bound? Visit the R.M.Williams store at 152 Spring Street, SoHo.

All Eyes on Ellery

Australian-born Kym Ellery – whose parents are Kiwis – says the Ellery optical eyewear collection has been a long time in the making. “It’s something I’ve often thought about over the years and I’m quite ambitious with wanting to launch new categories all the time.” Quite ambitious might be an understatement: this year alone Ellery and her team made the decision to include denim, footwear and jewellery in her autumn/winter ’16/17 Paris Fashion Week show. “It’s been a big year for us,” exclaims an energised designer.

Given her enthusiasm for expanding her brand and the fact she’s done sunglasses before, it might surprise some fans that she’s waited so long to dabble in the world of optical eyewear. “It’s something I’m glad we didn’t do earlier and that we waited until we found the right partner,” Ellery explains. Collaborating with powerhouse eyewear retailer Specsavers, Ellery has launched a collection of 14 optical glasses and six prescription sunglasses. “They’re such experts with what they do,” the designer says. “It’s been a pleasure to work with the product development team and learn about what makes a good pair of glasses and also create a collection that embodies the Ellery aesthetic.”

While designing comes naturally to the gifted creative, who was only the third Australian to be accepted onto the Paris Fashion Week schedule, she admits the process was very different to creating fashion collections. “It’s a lot more technical; they’re difficult 3D objects to create, everything has to be perfect right down to the tiniest measurements,” Ellery explains.

Ellery, who has been wearing reading glasses since Year 12 at high school, wanted to create a collection of modern classics that would fit a broad variety of face shapes, ages and genders, so to help her do that, she turned to the silver screen for inspiration. “We looked at some iconic cinema personas: Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise, Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, and thought about what they might wear.” Much like Ellery womenswear, the end result features a quite neutral colour palette with metal accents.

As for what’s next for Ellery, much of her focus is revolving around the fashion capital of the world, Paris. “It’s awesome, it’s really great. We’ve just moved there; we’re setting up an office to complement our Australian office,” she says. It’s not all work though; Ellery’s currently hunting for a new apartment. “My apartment the moment is in the 2nd [arrondissement], which I love, it’s my favourite area. It’s so central and buzzy. But I want something with lots of light, big windows, high ceilings, a big wardrobe and a spare bedroom for guests. I want somewhere I can call home,” she enthuses.

With so much on her plate, one might assume the designer is ready to put her feet up for a month or so, but instead the designer is gearing up for her upcoming Paris Fashion Week show. When MiNDFOOD Style spoke with her, Ellery was just nine weeks away from its October 4 show (“After Chanel and before Valentino”). “What I can tell you is that I haven’t done it yet, and it’s going to be awesome,” a surprisingly calm Ellery says with a laugh.

But by the sounds of it her spring/summer ’16/17 collection is coming along nicely. “We’re working with Chanel’s factory to make some new jewellery, which is exciting. The footwear is being done at the moment: it’s all tough silhouettes for the runway and some cool open-toe sandal shapes.” As for the main affair, the clothing, Ellery says it’s about half complete. “It’s actually a bit more colourful for us, I’ve used more fabrics,” she reveals. Collection complete or not, Ellery seems ready to take on the world. “It’s our third time on the [Paris] schedule and I’ve got the best team. It’s so exciting to just be like ‘here we are’. I’m pumped, I’m ready.”

The new Ellery eyewear range is exclusive to Specsavers. Find out more here.