Review: After 80 Years, Oroton Releases Its First Ready-to-Wear Collection Under New Creative Director

Written for Broadsheet

Oroton, the iconic Australian label known for its leather accessories, entered voluntary administration in November 2017. The demise of the company, founded in Sydney by Boyd Levy in 1938, wasn’t a surprise for many after years of slumping sales and an outdated approach to design.

In August last year, new owner Will Vicars appointed Sophie Holt as Oroton’s new creative director, after having poached her from Country Road. Vicars and his team had high hopes for Holt to lead a resurgence of the label after she helped transform a tired Country Road into a more progressive, directional Australian label. In her 13 years at Country Road, sales surged.

Her first collection for Oroton was well received; it presented contemporary takes on classic shapes, cleaner lines and on-trend profiles. She continues to shake things up with the label’s first ready-to-wear apparel collection. It’s an important early move from Holt, who wants to take Oroton from dowdy bag-maker to fully-fledged fashion label.

“Oroton has always been a pillar of sophistication and quality and there was a great opportunity to showcase this in apparel,” she says. “The brand has a strong point of view in quality construction with unique detailing, which we really wanted to replicate in our clothes.”

With a focus on rich colour, luxurious fabrics and vintage detailing, the spring/summer 2019 range is seasonless and sophisticated. Shirt dresses and trench coats are ideal building blocks for the ultimate transeasonal wardrobe, with sharp tailoring in linen, silk and leather. The palette (camel, cream, red, burgundy, duck-egg blue, rust, clay and peach) will be widely appealing – it’s inspired by the orchards and plains of the Australian landscape.

Clothing prices range from $169 to $899, with the majority of garments between $250 and $500.

“My personal favourite is the camel trench,” Holt says of the double-breasted coat. It’s made with Italian fabric, features a fabric buckle, snap buttons and oversized pockets. “My daughter loves the caramel buttery-leather shirt dress,” she adds. Made of soft leather, the dress is finished with button-snap closures, a stitched collar and a front pocket. The optional belt can be used to cinch in at the waist, or you can go without for an oversized, relaxed look.

Another piece we’re expecting to see a lot of this summer is the red silk shirt dress. Its on-trend billowy sleeves add an interesting texture to the otherwise minimalist silhouette.

But it’s the Mediterranean-inspired coral print shirt that perhaps best encapsulates Holt’s efforts to make the label fashionable once again. Cut in the season’s relevant short-sleeve silhouette from a supple, pure dupion silk, it’s finished off with a revere collar and natural shell buttons. Its light and fresh and resembles Holt’s own personal style and taste.

While Holt wouldn’t share whether sales have improved since her appointment, it’s clear she’s been busy contemporising: Oroton is unrecognisable today compared to 10 or even five years ago. It’s back in form.

Holt promised to repair Oroton’s reputation with Italian silk scarves, natural fabrics and a focus on a more modern, discerning customer, while having great respect for the label’s heritage. And she’s delivered.

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