When news got out that cult Australian swimwear brand Fella Swim would be opening its flagship boutique in the hustle and bustle of one of Paddington's most iconic streets; the excitement amongst loyalists and lovers of the brand was overwhelming. After many years of us fawning over the brand's creations virtually – setting sail with a suitcase of expertly designed swimwear for every, and any, of our beach holidays – lucky Sydney-siders finally have the chance to shop Fella in real life. It only makes sense then that the brand's boutique speaks as much to the Fella ethos as the pieces that are showcased within the traditional, panelled French doors.
Located on the historic William St, AP Design House founder Alexandra Ponting worked with the brand's designers, Rosie Iffla and Christine Tang-Corte to create a space that pays homage to the intricacy and detailing of Milanese flooring and the charm of Parisian cafes. The end result? A Paddington-townhouse exterior coupled with a uniquely modern yet classically chic interior.
Here, we get a first look at the incredible space, as Ponting takes us through the process of creating the boutique, marrying heritage and modernity and her favourite moments inside.
When you begin working on a new project, how does the ideation process start and where do you go for inspiration?
I listen to my client and their hopes for the space, but I can’t help but pay close attention to the dwelling and its surroundings. There is a bit more fun to be had in retail, especially with a brand like Fella – an opportunity to push the envelope per se.
Your design ethos is rooted in creating timeless spaces that are both beautiful and thought-provoking. How has that translated into what you have created for Fella’s new Paddington boutique?
Thank you! The girls at Fella are so clever – they have a cult-following classic collection of swimwear, coupled with fun seasonal prints and bolder palettes. For this reason, it was important to us all to keep the interior neutral, whilst still realising a special moment unique to Fella. The bold floor is captivating, yet subtle in colouring. The hand-forged iron hanging structures are attributed to the floor pattern – playful and intriguing with the variance in heights very pleasing to the eye and the swimwear they have been made for. The individual hanging slots create this rhythmic movement, as the linen coat hangers bend up and down in harmony.
The taupe rendered walls offer texture and a calm backdrop for the Fella collection.
How did you retain some of those signature heritage details while ensuring the space felt fresh and contemporary?
The introduction of the new façade for Fella’s flagship store is a homage to the streetscape. Traditional, panelled French doors with side lites, stained in a walnut now complete the full expanse of the shopfront. William Street has so much charm and history and it was key that the Victorian terrace which Fella now occupy respected both the street and the dwelling. Yes, we branched out and added a touch of Italian old-world glamour through the exquisitely decorative brass door hardware, offering a hint of what’s to come before you enter.
What was the process like working with Rosie and Christine and were you all aligned on the vision for the boutique?
It was so fun! Rosie and Christine are so relaxed, trusting and collaborative. They have incredible vision for the Fella brand, and it was very inspiring to work with fellow creatives. I am quite taken by old-world Italian interiors and architecture, so yes, there was a strong alignment in aesthetic.
The incredible floor design is certainly a statement in the space. What was the inspiration behind this decision and how was it executed?
The Fella girls had spent a significant time in both Milan and Capri and felt an infinity with the pared back opulence and elegance. This is how we arrived at the swirling custom two-tone marble floor, a softer and oversized scale to that of Osvaldo Borsani’s Villa in Varedo.
When people or customers walk into the flagship Fella boutique, what feelings do you hope the space evokes?
What is your favourite design feature or moment in the store?
The correlation between the floors and the hanging structures are definitely the hero, but I find great joy once you move up into the store to find the fitting room space; the soft brown inset wool carpet, the custom iron hat displays, the brown linen curtains and their custom-made rods and rings, the hand-stitched leather wall hooks, and the Venini glass wall sconces are all very considered. I really love this room.