In a quiet seaside town in Portugal, where ticket stubs are still used for the train, sweetness can be found in manual actions. Fishers drop their anchors from small boats in the Atlantic to cast a line as the sun rises. The town’s port bustles with the arrival of glamorous vacationers ready for their Slim Aarons postcard holiday, and families live in little homes plastered with vintage tiles that metropolitan designers pay exuberant amounts of money to replicate in their city homes.
It’s this visual landscape that Sophie Holt, Oroton’s Creative Director, wanted to bring to their Resort 2023 collection this year. T Australia met with Holt on a sunny morning at Oroton’s head office in North Sydney to get an early preview of the new collection. It’s a story that progresses as each look makes its way down the runway and becomes a tome for the long-awaited European holiday.
Inside Oroton’s workroom, the story of the collection becomes clear. There are new season accessories and bags covering all surfaces, fabrics and mood boards in one corner, and the collection wraps its way around the room. The colours flow, and the story of Resort ’23 becomes crystal clear.
You would be wrong to assume that starting a collection for a legacy brand, like Oroton, would begin with sketches. Holt and her team have a tactile approach by focusing on colour and textures. Something that Oroton has believed in since its debut in 1938. “We have a pile of colours and fabrics on the ground, and we pick up the little swatches of the colour, and we outfit the collection from the swatches on the ground before a single sketch has even happened. It all works together because you’ve started right at the beginning,” says Holt.
Oroton’s Resort ‘23 collection begins at the seaside as a memento of Portugal. It explores shades of blue as a new neutral. It then opens into an exploration of travels inspired by Holt’s grandmother Dame Zara, founder of the Melbourne boutique Magg and wife of former Prime Minister Harold Holt. “Her style was quite brave, strong, and simple. She never had a handbag. She always had a cane basket,” says Holt.
The details and strength in her grandmother’s work, the heavy thread and proportions, stayed with Holt. One of the standout fabrics from the collection comes from a bodice of Dame Zara’s, which had the Magg label patchworked around it in an array of colours. “It talks to the charm and sweetness that we have as part of our collection. We combine this vintage, sweet charm and this utility, slightly androgynous vibe, and we combine the two to create this sort of charming utility. And that’s been our handwriting of the apparel,” says Holt.
The vintage inspiration continues as the collection finishes in a burst of colour with garden and botanical prints, scalloped edges, rickrack trims and flat bows. It is here, in the grand finale, that we meet a dress Holt has reinterpreted from one of her grandmother’s old sketches. Although the final dress has been modernised, it is the idea that everything in this collection has an underlying theme of vintage inspiration, travel and exploration. “We’re an Australian brand. So to me, it’s about freshness and joy and simplicity and not being fussy. And there’s a sweetness to it that I feel,” says Holt.
Now, at the Oroton show at Australian Fashion Week, on a white runway with a monochrome nod to walking under trees in the garden, the colours tell the story. One might picture themselves walking off a private chartered boat, through a seaside village port, into the town for lunch before finishing with a garden stroll; the sweetness of escapism.
Sophie Holt is renowned for interpreting the times, yet it isn’t only Oroton’s resort collection that holds the memories and candour of Dame Zara. It is Holt herself, who notes, “I like breaking a few rules, I like being brave. You got to have an opinion. Otherwise, you’re just going to look the same as everyone else. And I’m not about doing that. And I don’t think our customers want that either.”
Runway photography by Lucas Dawson.