With mod dresses and tailored blazers, House of Campbell made a splash at New York Fashion Week last year. The label's founder, Abby Potter, has kept busy since developing a new collection and showroom experience in the CBD.
Power suits and progressive fashion with House of Campbell
When Sydney company Fashion Palette invited Abby Potter to New York Fashion Week last year, she initially thought it was a joke.
“It came in an email first and I thought it was spam… but was like, ‘Wait a minute,’ and I remembered the name because a few people, like Paul [Vasileff] from Paolo Sebastian and Stephanie Chehade, had done it before with this particular organisation,” Abby tells CityMag.
“I thought it rang a bell, and then I looked into it and was like, ‘This is so legit’. And then I cried.”
House of Campbell officially launched in May 2019, after a soft pre-launch in November the year prior, with the aim of designing clothes that make all body shapes feel powerful.
Statement pieces from the line include the structured velvet pantsuit, check petticoat and Heroine t-shirts, all bound by a sustainability policy of creating timeless, quality garments that are durable and trend-repellent.
“It’s all about empowering the wearer and making sure they feel really comfortable to take risks in fashion and to play with it and have fun with it while still looking professional,” Abby says.
“A lot of the pieces are suiting, which is quite conservative, but it’s in a bit more out-there print or textiles.”
Since debuting House of Campbell’s first collection at New York Fashion Week, Abby has been gaining momentum with international contacts and working on her next collection, which was meant to be released in March. COVID-19 disrupted those plans.
“The first collection was from China, where I went over and picked up the fabric and went through all the markets to search for it all. But the coronavirus meant this second collection couldn’t go ahead the same,” Abby says.
“In Australia, [suppliers] make predominantly workwear, so uniforms and very stock-standard [cuts]. They don’t change their silhouettes and things like that.
“A lot of them just felt that the [House of Campbell] pieces were too detailed for them to take on, or it wasn’t worth their time and money to do.”
This meant during lockdown Abby returned to the sewing machine herself. She then reached out to dressmakers and manufacturers in Adelaide who were also scrambling to find clients in a COVID-19-disrupted world.
The next collection, due for release early 2020, was inspired by Abby’s time during quarantine, and is meant to be a form of fantasy.
It features tulle and designer deadstock silks, and was inspired by feelings of “romance”, renaissance fashion and Russian royals, such as Elle Fanning’s character Catherine the Great in television series The Great.
“I just found myself watching happy movies and participating in escapism, so that’s really driven the range,” Abby says.
“And it’s definitely a range that when you put it on, it’s about the emotions. I feel like it’ll bring joy, and it’s actually happy to wear and to dress up in.”
Another large part of the House of Campbell story is Abby’s approach to sustainability.
Abby doesn’t label House of Campbell “sustainable”, as fashion, she says, is inherently not a sustainable industry.
Instead, she wants people who buy her pieces to consider how much they need a House of Campbell item, and to think about how it will fit with the rest of their wardrobe.
Inclusion is also high on Abby’s agenda. She’s currently working on creating more gender-fluid garments and a clothing-hire system so individuals can afford to wear House of Campbell irrespective of their pay packet.
This renting scheme will also allow Abby, a former garment technician at Australian Fashion Labels, to monitor the wear of the item and see how it ages. Eventually, she’ll sell hired items at a discounted price.
“For me, it’s all about self-expression and enjoying fashion, because I think it can be a very exclusive industry – and I really want it to be more fun than that,” Abby says.
House of Campbell doesn’t retouch photographs of models , and the company recently partnered with crisis accommodation service Catherine House with its range of Heroine t-shirts.
“I have friends who have been in situations where they’ve needed support and not just overnight accommodation, but actual services to help in terms of mental health,” Abby says.
“[Catherine House] is actually helping them build the tools to have a life with integrity.”
COVID-19 has slowed the momentum Abby garnered last year, but she’s eager to soon unveil her new collection and welcome people into her workspace as part of a private showroom experience.
“Customers will be able to jump online and book a private appointment time slot where they then can come in, and we can sit down and it’s a more personalised experience,” Abby explains.
“We can also do alterations.”
Watch House of Campbell’s New York Fashion Week catwalk below.