The scent, texture and aura of Byron Bay is famous, and well-loved. If that Byron Bay feeling was a fashion brand, it would surely be Spell & The Gypsy Collective.
This Byron fashion label designs and creates modern-bohemian fashion, accessories and homewares, and like many of Byron Bay’s iconic brands, Spell’s roots are modest and local.
“We were creating jewellery by hand for the Byron Bay artisan markets, and it grew from there,” says Isabella Pennefather, who co-founded Spell with her sister Elizabeth Abegg, when they traded nine-to-five city jobs for the allure of Byron.
Since 2008, Spell has certainly grown. The business is now a multi-million dollar global fashion empire, with distributors in the US including Urban Outfitters and Free People, high-profile devoted celebrity customers including US pop stars Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus, and more than 875,000 Instagram followers. In 2016, Spell won the prestigious Telstra Australian Business of the Year award, enjoying the intense media attention that followed.
“Very fast paced growth was challenging and we faced a lot of learning curves,” Elizabeth says.
“We were growing faster than we could hire, so we had to learn to adapt quickly to new things and sometimes become expert or use things we didn’t have training or degrees for. Nowadays, we’re able to hire a mix of really skilled and passionate people for our team, but there was definitely some growing pains.”
Another issue was the slower shipping times from a regional area compared to the fast shipping services of city-based brands and online stores. “We ended up moving our warehouse to Sydney because of this,” Elizabeth says
The secret of Spell’s success has much to do with the sisters being early adopters of social media, which found them a global market for their brand from their coastal home in Byron. Despite being distributed across America and Europe, and having a destinational flagship store in Byron Bay, the majority of their sales are still via their online store.
“Initially we tried to get wholesalers, but we realised we were getting more traction from our customers online,” says Elizabeth.
Elizabeth uses storytelling and carefully styled images to communicate Spell’s bohemian brand and the Byron feeling through Instagram. Even though Spell’s online audience is coming close to one million followers, social media allows Elizabeth to speak with her customers directly. “The dialogue we have with our customers is close,” she says.
Wherever they are in the world, the wearers and advocates of Spell enjoy the slice of Byron the fashion represents.
“We think our whole business has been moulded from the fact we are in Byron Bay,” says Elizabeth.