going out on a limb
An old fashioned approach to the business of fashion is paying off for Australian label Limb.
Limb is womenswear done the old fashioned way: no influencer marketing, no Instagram advertising, no PR team. The heart of the business is a bricks and mortar store with a studio out the back where you'll find co-designers and longtime friends Andria Kiefer and Sinead Hargeaves almost every day, making a brilliant case for a more traditional approach to the business of fashion.
For Andria and Sinead, it's proved much easier to reach customers through a beautiful shop window than the crowded digital landscape, where most emerging designer first vie for attention. The pair took over the building, a glassy sun-drenched space in Fitzroy, in October 2016, when their label was a year or so old. "I think we opened the store at the right time," Sinead says. "We didn't rush."
It's a pipedream for most creative types; but Sinead, a stylist, and Andria, a fashion graduate, never pictured themselves this way. "It wasn't until a few years ago, when I was in New York working for other people, that I just realised I could run a label," Andria says. "There was one woman I worked for with a lot of money but no idea what she really wanted. I'd be running over town collecting samples, taking them to her, and she'd completely redesign them. I thought, I know what I want to make."
Similarly, back home in Melbourne, Sinead noticed brands she'd pull from missing those perfect, easy-to-style wardrobe cornerstones. When Andria came home, it was decided: they'd make those clothes themselves. And just like that, they did it. A two person team without investors with a flagship store to their name? That's impressive — not that Sinead and Andria see things that way. When they do talk about being proud, it's of the other.
Both grew up in Melbourne — they met one another at a club years ago — so the ordinarily daunting prospect of opening up shop seemed doable with a lifetime of connections around them. "We had a community here, friends who could do basically everything," Sinead says. They called on one friend to design their logo, and another to build the light wooden furniture in the shop. You'll usually find Andria's dog Homer playing with Julia Laskowski's puppy in the shop front downstairs. Julia is a graphic designer whose studio is just upstairs from theirs. Andia and Sinead source all their fabrics from Australian wholesales, and everything is manufactured in Melbourne.
It's not the most modern way of doing things, but it's working brilliantly. For all that's made of the effectiveness with which things can be done online, Andria and Sinead say they get far more out of face-to-face conversations with customers, learning in real time. "Having people come into the shop, you learn things faster," Sinead says. "Say, older women tend to like have their arms more covered, so we know we should work on some longer sleeve styles." Andria agrees; "I never wear bras, but my friends with bigger boobs have to, and you don't want you bra straps to show. So I'm like, okay, we have to make some styles with wider straps."
Limb is growing at a healthy pace. Their first collection, launched in 2015, was ten styles in four colourways. The current season, Elemental, is 15 styles across 10 colourways. It's a fairly androgynous offering, and includes some fully unisex garments. Flared silhouettes and the collection's signature print, a wide, earth toned stripe, nod to the 70s. "Nico was playing a lot in the shop around this time — perhaps this is where the 70s came from, ringing in our ears," Sinead says.
Do they every disagree over designs? Never, both insist. Pressed, they admit Andria wants to put pockets in everything, which Sinead is a little more reluctant to do, but that's it. In fact, even their personal styles are almost identical. Everything they do seems so perfectly in sync. A match made in heaven? "I really, really love working with you" Andira tells Sinead, and she agrees.
Text Isabelle Hellyer
Photography Agnieszka Chabros
Hair and makeup Kate Radford
Models Lou & Caleb