IN CONVERSATION WITH SOPHIE HOLT & GABRIELLE PENFOLD
An indie film, a remote island and a very specific shade of pink was the spark that inspired Creative Director Sophie Holt to sign on Sydney-based artist Gabrielle Penfold as collaborator. The resulting collection, a limited-edition line-up of silk scarves, is so divine you might even choose to frame it. Here, the creative duo discuss the inspiration behind this latest project.
Oroton SS20 lookbook
It’s always such a rare treat to find in someone the ability to truly inspire and motivate, and we know there was an instant connection between you both. Sophie, can you tell us about your friendship with Gabrielle, what linked you both:
SOPHIE HOLT: When Gab and I first started talking, we immediately clicked – over Pantelleria, the most beautiful, tiny island in Italy. I was always drawn to her art, there is such a sense of lightness in her work. I love Gab’s palette, the way she captures scenes from her travels, but it was when we first met that we realised just how many similarities we had. I remember Gab was talking about traveling to the island of Pantelleria [south of Sicily in Italy], she had been inspired by the movie A Bigger Splash – that was incredible to me, it’s one of my favourite films. Gab was talking about exploring the island in such great depth, which made me laugh because that kind of travel has always pushed me along, too.
Gabrielle’s photographs of Pantelleria
The conversation sparked a project: a limited-edition line-up of silk scarves, which makes its debut this month, featuring Gabrielle’s painted scenescapes, printed at Oroton’s mill in Como, Italy, and finished with delicate hand-rolled hems. Gabrielle, can you tell us about your design process and how you created the artworks for the collection?
GABRIELLE PENFOLD: I immediately felt that Sophie and I were on the same page, it has been a dream working with her. I travelled to the Island and we chatted each day, and I also documented the scenery on film on a beautiful old camera. The light is the first thing that strikes you. There is such a softness to the Mediterranean sky, like the sun has been chalked over. I wanted to capture that gorgeous summer haze, the landscape and the sea. Colour was obviously so important to both of us, and then it was incredible to see my work tie in with the new collection.”
Gabrielle in her studio
You are both brilliant colourists: Gabrielle, you are known for your striking brushstrokes in unexpected earthy combinations; and Sophie, your own dedication to a palette is well documented. Why is colour so significant to your work and how do you strike a balance between modernity and legacy?
SOPHIE HOLT: I can talk to you about the nuances of a certain shade to an almost embarrassing extent – I just see colour so vividly, I’ve been looking at dye swatches for 30 years. Gab has a similar eye. For me, part of the joy in this role comes from being able to design with the brand’s history and handwriting in mind – and certainly the scarf is such an important emblem of Oroton’s heritage so it’s always interesting to explore how that translates into something that is modern and right for now. I like to include an element of fun in the collections, in previous seasons we have always included motifs that were a little irreverent such as the fly-fishing series and the botanist’s insects. And that is what I loved about Gab’s work, the way she incorporates food and colour, and the life of travel. For this new collection, Gab worked in the island’s dishes, its caper berries and shrimp and sardine plates. Beautiful summertime moments.
The two silk scarves from the collaboration
Gabrielle, how did your work tie in with OROTON’s aesthetic and vision? What were you hoping to create with this collaboration?
GABRIELLE PENFOLD: The Oroton brand has always symbolised something to me, so it was important for this project to be full of meaning. I really focused on creating works that were about lived experiences, being in the moment. My grandmother was from the UK and she'd visit us every year, and I have fun memories of her going to Oroton and buying a piece from the store, whether it was a bag or a scarf or a brooch, and then my mum also had her own pieces. So in that sense, I think the brand feels very familiar, and yet also now elevated and modern. And Sophie has such a wonderful eye, her collections are so fresh and exciting. Everything has that special touch, it’s incredible to be part of that.