Tracie Ellis is another incredibly inspiring Melbourne businesswomen I have been meaning to feature on the site for quite some time. After studying Textile Design at RMIT, Tracie time spent working at some of Australia’s most respected textiles brands and retailers (including Davenport, Country Road homewares and Myer), before an unexpected career twist prompted her to launch her very own soft furnishings brand, AURA, in 2000. 10 years on, AURA is now one of Australia’s most respected premium bed linen companies, and is stocked by some of Australia’s best known retailers – as well as internationally in well-known UK stores House of Fraser and Heals, to name a few.
Just looking at the product shots here, you can see what sets AURA apart…! Tracie’s design philosophy is all about being brave in the bedroom. ‘Sleep is too long, and life too short, for demure pastels and crisp, white nothings.’ she says! AURA is a luxurious range of linens that combines statement prints, vibrant colours and luxury detail – for a truly unique and very well-dressed bed!
I was so surprised to learn that after all her incredible achievements with AURA, Tracie’s company is still just a 3-person enterprise! WOW. Well, all I can say is they must be three very hard-working women! Despite being one of the busiest textile designers in Melbourne, it seems that Tracie is truly 100% in love with her job – reading her responses below you do get a sense that she feels genuinely lucky to get up every morning and go to work to do something she loves!
Check out Tracie’s excellent blog for some amazing behind-the-scenes photos, travel snaps and news… she’s just been to London and Stockholm and India – brilliant pics of retail and textiles in Europe and her textile workshops in India – immediate bookmark material!
Psst. – ALSO if you haven’t got it already, grab the current issue of Inside Out magazine to see Tracie’s gorgeous Melbourne home featured!
Huge thanks to Tracie for the gorgeous shots and very candid answers which I love! Do pop over and give her some blog-love!
Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to setting up your business and doing what you’re doing now?
I grew up thinking I wanted to be a Vet or a Marine Biologist, at one stage I had a great desire to study penguins in Antarctica! But then during high school I became quite creative rather than academic and having a mother that was a wonderful painter and sewer l ended up down a different path – I studied Textile Design at RMIT and majored in “knit” which lead me to varied roles in textiles and management; Davenport boxer shorts, Country Road Homewares, Myer Buying Office, Patons knitting yarn, Jockey underwear and then The Austin Group in Geelong, where I was given the opportunity to create my first homewares brand Domis.
After travelling to Geelong from Melbourne every day for over 2 years the Domis brand was sold, then the old saying – that some things are meant to happen – well this helped me head in a different direction and start a new brand and thus AURA was born and this year is a milestone being our 10th birthday! Some people say I am addicted to work and I need a hobby but designing and textiles is my passion and my hobby so I am lucky!
What have been some of your favourite designs or creative projects in recent times?
My favorite design has to be our bedding range Maxx, named after my beautiful Mini Schnauzer! Maxx was so popular we launched a range of jacquard towels in the UK this year at House of Fraser, and they are now going to be available in Australia from Sept 2011 – which will be fabulous, as I believe that we have a pretty limited range of “interesting” towels in Australia.
As this is our anniversary year I am very excited about the future as we have been venturing beyond the bedroom, and designing a new collection of kaftans, scarves, towels and table linen, using beautiful hand crafted details and hand screen printed fabrics. Of course this has meant that I have been lucky to travel to India more – which I love. Here are some shots of the screens and trying to match colours for our new tablelinen – just like we did at uni – its all very hands on! ….and also means that our new range will be very unique and individual.
How would you describe the Aura Home aesthetic? Is it a good reflection of the sense of style you implement in your own home?
We pride ourselves on contemporary design, luxury fibres and glorious colours, and strive to create innovative and directional collections that are unique and inspiring, which in turn will enable our customers to embrace the expression of their own individual style.
Our home is quite mid-century modern with luxury and definitely a blend of my own and my husbands style – my husband is very minimal while I like to have colour and decoration in the house so I tend to be a touch less sparkly at home – saying that we do have the odd sequin pillow and plenty of layers of faux fur.
*don’t forget to check out Tracie’s gorgeous Melbourne home in the current issue of Inside Out magazine! – Lucy
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
I have just come back from an overseas trip, so I haven’t been able to check my emails as often so I am trying to stop reading my emails in bed before I get up, which is my usual habit!
When I get to the office my day consists of working on various areas of selling, designing, marketing and buying, and I am just starting to think about the new direction we should take for our Autumn Winter 2011 range – sometimes its hard to remember which season we are in – as we are always selling and marketing 2 different seasons – one overseas and one in Australia and then working on the concept for the next one.
How is your business structured..? Do you employ other designers or work regularly with collaborators? Who takes care of the paperwork, marketing etc – the ‘business side’ of things?
There are 3 of us, we are all very hands on across the areas of the business, I look after the initial concepts of the collections and then we all talk through the ideas as the samples start to roll in. Jaine Fulcher and I look after the strategy and marketing for the brand and Jessica Davidson looks after the everyday aspects of AURA and does so much I cant list it! We all now work on our Australian sales and work with our Export partners as we sell into the UK, Canada and New Zealand. In regards to design I am lucky to work with other designers, textile and graphic to help with the computer work to make my visions come to life….I didn’t do much on computer at Uni!
You also have an excellent blog! When and why did you start the blog, and how do you feel it works to support and promote your business?
Thanks! I started the Blog last October hoping that it would help me to interact with our customers and others that are interested in homewares – I wanted to show more about the behind the scenes of AURA and what inspires me, and when sharing I hope to continue to inspire myself! I also try to put images of our brand new products and photography on the blog so friends of AURA can keep up to date with new products arriving. I have found I get a lot of emails from students and others wanting to learn more about the business – so it has become a good source of networking and inspiration for me – I hope for others too.
Where do you turn for creative inspiration – travel, local and international design trends, magazines, books or the web etc?
All of the above but mainly keeping up with new marketing and design directions on the web, and travel – I love travelling and my husband and I are always planning our next adventure! We went to Bolivia and Peru 2 years ago for our honeymoon, New York and London last September and looking forward to visiting Spain this September.
Sheer leaves quilt cover
Which other designers or creative people do you admire?
What would be your dream creative project?
I have two; Having AURA stocked in Europe and opening our own beautiful and inspiring concept store.
What are you looking forward to?
The Long Weekend…
Melbourne Questions –
Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
Gertrude St Fitzroy, I love the small bars and restaurants and the feeling of not being somewhere too big – but we live in Kew so really I think I’m a suburban girl, as I like to head into the city for drinks and dinner, but I like waking up with trees around me – I have a dream location of living in Studley Park surrounded by nature but being only 5 kms from the city..
Your top 3 favourite Melbourne homewares / home décor stores?
Manon Bis, Izzi and Popo and today I went to The Works in Hawthorn which was looking really good – we definitely need more!
What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?
At home – we baked a fabulous Wild Barramundi last night! And ate some terrific tapas at the bar at Cutler & Co.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Gertrude St Fitzroy – there are some great small fashion stores and our favourite restaurants, this is where we head to on most Friday nights and Saturday mornings – as we have to go back to get the car!
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
It used to be Movida – but now they are so famous I think is Anada in Gertrude St – my husband and I have been addicted to Spanish food and wine for a while now – thus our trip coming up in September to Spain and AURA releasing a range of Tapas napkins in our Summer range!
Lovely colours! AURA’s 410 threadcount sheet range…