Growing up, Elizabeth Abegg would shout across the house to her sister, Isabella. As she tells, it often came out as more of a muffled ‘Sbella’, and led to the nicknames Spelly or Spell. When Isabella started making and selling jewellery this also became her label name. After Elizabeth too felt the call of Byron Bay and the pair began to expand the brand together, they toyed with a name change, yet recognised the traction they’d already gained. While it stuck, it did, however, morph into ‘Spell & the Gypsy Collective‘ – a hat-tip to loyal customers that are ‘so much a part of our brand’.
It soon becomes clear that ‘collectivism’ is a pillar that extends to this award-winning brand’s physical space too. Located in the Arts and Industry Estate of Byron Bay, the considered haven is designed to encourage collaboration, and any divisions between the department’s 50-employee-strong team have been dissolved.
Fostering a down-to-earth atmosphere, yet featuring transportative, exotic embellishments, Elizabeth took us through the idyllic open-plan office as we learned more…
From Byron Bay market stalls to this incredible head office, how has Spell & The Gypsy Collective transformed since launching in 2009?
I think in the early days we just loved our shabby little garage office space. First, it was just Isabella and I, making jewellery and creating content, then it was a few local girls we hired… and flash forward around five years and we had a team of almost 30 and we were busting at the seams.
These days we release six fashion-and-accessory collections a year, designing everything in-house so our Design Team alone is over 15 people. Isabella and I have always had wonderful luck putting a wish list together and things just coming true.
I remember about eight years ago we walked around the industrial estate deciding what office we’d love to one day occupy. The office we’re in now was the one we chose. It took eight years but finally, it found us.
What are some of your favourite features of the space?
I love how clean and modern it is, while still having this rustic, earthy feel.
I love the boardroom, with its blush leather chairs and the locally-made, reclaimed wood table, which we brought with us from our old studio. I love all the little nooks that allow us to break off into smaller groups and have meetings.
If I’m honest, there’s really no aspect of the office that I don’t love, it’s all so considered.
Today, Spell is a huge international success. why have you decided to remain in Byron Bay?
Moving our operations has never been a consideration. Isabella and I are both so settled here with our families and this area is our home – it’s in our hearts.
Byron Bay has always been the third part of the puzzle for us, without this town I’m not sure who we’d be as a brand.
These days we have a very strong and hardworking team of very experienced people working for us, and this town is also their home.
What kind of atmosphere have you’ve tried to create here?
I wanted the atmosphere to feel inclusive. I didn’t want our Finance Team to feel left out of the creative aspect, or customer care to feel alienated from the Design Team. So all the departments kind of flow into each other, and there is no hierarchy really. Though Isabella and I do have our own offices, but they’re all glass.
When we design, we used to have to lock ourselves away in some villa somewhere to create that feeling of escapism, which usually runs through our collections. So we wanted to create a space here, where we didn’t need to look outside of ourselves too much when we needed inspiration. It offers a kind of carte blanche for our Design Team, with a whisper of exotic memories from our travels.
Were there any key designers involved in helping you fashion this haven?
My personal assistant Mel Gubbin worked closely with us to bring our dreams to life, she had a strong vision and drove a lot of it. She’s since gone on to run her own interior design business, Avenue Twenty Two.
There were so many creatives who worked with us to build or source one-off pieces for space, including Blush & Ochre, Zeigler Build and Salt x Steel.
What Is the most challenging thing about running a picture-perfect workplace?
We have tried to make sure that there is substance behind the ‘picture perfect’ world we have created around us. For instance, from an operational perspective, if you look on our roof it’s covered in solar panels, and our energy plan utilises only locally-produced green energy. We have a stringent recycling policy (with beautiful custom built recycling bins) and compost all our green waste at our local organic cafe.
From a fashion perspective, we’re trying to plug sustainable fabrics into our collections wherever we can, and making sure all our suppliers are ethically accredited.
It’s all just about making sure if you scratch below the surface in our business, it’s still beautiful. Walking lighter on the earth is one of our core values.
What has been the response to the space you’ve created?
I think it’s the awe on peoples faces when they walk in that stays with me. It truly is a beautiful entrance. We were so lucky that the original building had the most incredible reclaimed beams in the foyer, so we left them untouched and they’re one of the best parts of the building.
So many visitors to our office are creatives that I really look up to, photographers, stylists, founders of other beautiful brands – and everyone is always so gracious because they know where we’ve come from, and how much the space, while elevated and a real evolution of the brand, still really reflects us.
What Is on the horizon for Spell?
We recently opened a pop-up store in Venice Beach, California, and it was such a huge success that we’re looking forward to experimenting in this space – we hope to trial a few more pop-ups over the next year or two.
But still, the biggest focus for us (and what excites me most as a founder) is our sustainability journey. Our next collection in January is the first where we’ve found a sustainable alternative to conventionally produced rayon. We’re very excited about that because when it comes to sustainability rayon and viscose have always been the ‘elephant in the room’, so to speak. It’s exciting to have found an ecologically responsible solution.
Type of space –
International fashion and lifestyle brand headquarters.
Size of space –
800-square-metre office, including a mezzanine.
Number of employees –
Isabella and Elizabeth alongside Mel Gubbin of Avenue Twenty Two.
An office should be…
Spell & The Gypsy Collective has a new collection dropping globally in late January 2019. Find out more at Shop.spelldesigns.com.au or by following on Instagram @spell.
Inside Spell & The Gypsy Collective’s head office in Byron Bay’s Arts and Industrial Estate. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.
Co-founders, sisters Elizabeth Abegg and Isabella Pennefather. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.
Mel Gubbin worked closely with the duo on the design of the space and has since started her own interior design business Avenue Twenty Two. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.
The open-plan office includes comprises a ground floor and mezzanine, totalling 800-square-metres in total. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.
‘It offers a kind of carte blanche for our design team, with a whisper of exotic memories from our travels,’ says Elizabeth of the space. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.
In 2016 Spell & the Gypsy Collective won the Australian Business of the Year Award at the National Telstra Business Awards. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.
From humble beginnings selling jewellery at the Byron Bay markets, Spell has become an internationally adored lifestyle brand, and employs 50 women in Byron Bay. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.
‘Walking lighter on the earth is one of our core values,’ tells Elizabeth, who is passionate about new, sustainable fabric innovations the brand is making. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.
The label is stocked on popular online retailers including Free People, Revolve and Planet Blue, and is a favourite among celebrities. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.
The aesthetic balances clean and modern with the label’s rustic, earthy undertones. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.
Spell has a bricks-and-mortar store in Byron Bay and recently held a pop-up store in Los Angeles. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.
The space is big on inclusion, low on divisions. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.
The brand has grown from strength to strength with over 1 million followers across its social media platforms. Photo – Kara Rosenlund for The Design Files.