Some day your prints will come. Large and splashy, delicate or demure, prints are on the radar for spring and summer. So says style guru, retail consultant and trend forecaster Yasmin Sewell.
“Australian designers are embracing prints. Australians have always been good with prints and colour. Now it’s a global trend and it is for everyone,” says Sewell.
If the name Yasmin Sewell doesn’t ring a bell at the moment, it soon will.
Her impressive CV includes 18 years in British fashion, including as a buyer for Browns, once a small London boutique but now a fashion destination in its own right.
She is the creative consultant credited with bringing a stable of on trend designers to the venerated British department store Liberty of London, a fashion blogger for Vogue UK and the director of her own retail consultancy based in London’s trendy Shoreditch with clients in Europe and Asia.
She has twice been a judge of the British Fashion Awards. In January Sewell was named Britain’s Young Australian of the Year, sharing the stage with Barry Humphries.
When she finished the Liberty makeover, it cemented her reputation. Now Sewell is overseeing the overhaul of one of South Korea’s oldest department stores in Seoul.
“I work with a whole bunch of clients and brands from young designers to massive brands. We work in a bespoke way with every client,” she says.
“My history comes from buying and retail, and I use that to give a store an overhaul and to predict what women will want to wear. It is a little bit innate but also comes from experience.
“Liberty is the one people talk about the most, but because I am a consultant I’m more in the background.
“It took a year to do the complete overhaul of Liberty. We redesigned the four floors, brought in 90 new collections and then relaunched it and continued the development.”
For Sewell that included shining a light on Liberty’s famous tana lawn fabric and giving it a new twist by getting French fashion house Hermes to create a signature scarf using the print.
Sewell is in Melbourne for the day in her role as a partner with the Westfield Group. Bringing fashion into the digital age, her interviews with designers such as Nicky Zimmermann and the Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton from Sass & Bide will give shoppers a preview of the spring/summer 2012-13 collections.
She will also take to the streets to see how Australian shoppers wear and interpret global fashion trends and make them their own.
“In this day and age you need to service your clients. You have to do more than have shops with clothes on rails. You have to look after people. Even in London, now that I’ve got a baby I love going to Westfield for the convenience.
“Customers are so savvy now; they want to know what is happening right away. Women of all ages can embrace print – it all depends what kind of print. It can be a beautiful dress, a shirt, even a scarf.”
Tailoring and ladylike dressing is still “very nice”; “a lovely blazer that suits your body shape” is another top investment piece; and Sewell is tipping a “big comeback for flats”.
“Nobody, no country, is leading the world in fashion. People take elements from every country,” Sewell says.
“We take elements from every country.
“I love the British for their eccentric fashion. New York is pure polish.”
“I can see certain influences from the UK here. People have got into layering here, and that’s quite British.
“I love the British for their eccentric fashion. New York is pure polish. Australia for me represents freedom, great commercial products and great brands than can sell all over the world. There’s Zimmermann … and Lisa Gorman is sustaining an amazing business with great products that sell worldwide.
“I like and appreciate Paris for giving us serious fashion, but being an Aussie – and I feel 100 per cent Australian – I love what Australian designers do.
“I’ve lived in London for 17 years, but I feel I’m just an Aussie living in London.”
Sewell is in a chair having make-up and hair done for a photography shoot and filming before lunch with Melbourne’s fashion elite at Cutler & Co in Fitzroy.
She’s engaging, chatty and utterly down to earth.
Her jewellery is minimal, elegant – a silver Chanel watch and a whopper of an engagement ring made from rose-cut diamonds.
Sewell was never a model, but can walk the walk and knows how to strike a pose with the handful of clothes she has brought to the studio – a grey blazer, T-shirt, striped top, blue pants, black trousers and a little black dress that looks as though it could have come straight from Grace Kelly’s wardrobe.
The daughter of hairdresser parents of Lebanese background, Sewell grew up Yasmin Abdallah in the Sydney suburb of Maroubra. She left school at 15, much to the angst of her parents, who wanted their daughter to complete her education, and admits to “being a little bit lost”.
She credits Sydney real-estate guru John McGrath with giving her the break that started her career.
“He called up my school looking for someone he could train,” Sewell says. “What John did was make me see what motivation was. I was right there with him as his PA when the company was only 20 people and it was kind of life changing, but after a couple of years I realised I didn’t want to be in the corporate environment. I wanted to do fashion, but no one would employ me because I came from real estate.”
Aged 20, Sewell moved to London. Work in fashion soon followed, although she is far from an overnight success. A boutique called Yasmin Cho, named after a Chinese family she loved, was her first taste of retail. Eventually she landed the plum job at Browns before starting her own consultancy.
Sewell, who was previously married to British actor Rufus Sewell, says she now wants to lead a “balanced life”.
“I am very against working 18 hours a day. I’ve done that in a couple of jobs and had to leave. I am very much the opposite.
“I’ve done lots of jobs, but now I’m 36 I don’t believe in killing myself for work. I want to lead a life where I’m creating things and having a balanced life.”
According to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, retail turnover fell 0.2 per cent in April. However, clothing footwear and personal accessory retailing and department stores sales rose by 0.3 per cent.
Sewell, in her role with Westfield, is clearly hoping some of that money will find its way to the 437 retailers, including luxury stores such as Zimmermann, Sass & Bide and Arthur Galan at Westfield Doncaster.
The shopping centre – formerly Doncaster Shoppingtown – was the first expansion out of Sydney for the Lowy family back in 1969. According to shareholder activist and Manningham councillor Stephen Mayne, Westfield Doncaster is a brilliant design, targeting upmarket segments in a relatively wealthy area.
“Having both Myer and David Jones is vital. Being the first expansion outside New South Wales, it has always been special for Westfield founder Frank Lowy and the $600-million redevelopment in 2008 got special treatment where Doncaster was transformed at the time into one of four signature Westfields in the world, along with Bondi Junction, San Francisco and London,” Mayne says.
“Westfield Doncaster also benefits from having the Apple store, which has overtaken David Jones to become the second-biggest sales generator after Myer, despite being only 390 square metres.
“The Melbourne CBD suffers from not having an Apple store equivalent to the iconic Sydney CBD store, which does close to $300 million a year. Apple’s Doncaster store is doing a roaring $50 million a year in sales, out of a total of $812 million last year,” says Mayne.
“The location on the key Doncaster Road - Williamsons Road intersection in Doncaster is also important, along with the magnificent views. It is also streets ahead of Eastland, Greensborough and Northland for the quality of what it offers, yet you don’t get lost like in Chadstone.”
Westfield Doncaster has 14.4 million customer vists a year, with many customers coming from beyond a 15-kilometre radius.
As for fashion forecasts, brides can take note that Sewell wore a grey lace gown she helped design for her wedding in January in Sorrento to Rosebud boy Kyle Robinson. Their baby Knox Rocket Robinson, looked smart in white T-shirt and oversized bow tie in the arms of Sewell’s mother, who took her daughter’s advice and wore a vibrant print off-the-shoulder dress.