Open up any wardrobe in Australia—from baby to baby-boomer, and you’re guaranteed to find something from Country Road. The 42-year-old Australian label is having a serious fashion moment, with its designs ticking all of our favourite boxes—on trend, affordable, luxe fabrications, and an eye for detail. It’s the little things like a zipper detail that’s been well-thought out, or the length of a skirt hem, that makes Country Road a go-to for every fashion girl. With Céline references, mixed with hints of Saint Laurent and Gucci, you can see why it’s on our weekly ‘must visit’ list.
Keep scrolling to read our exclusive interview with Jane Wilkinson, GM of apparel and accessories, to discover what the label has done to remain relevant after 42 years in the game.
Who What Wear Australia: What was your starting point for this season? A certain trend or inspiration?
Jane Wilkinson: Colour is always a very important place to start for us. Olive, khaki, and military greens lead the season and work back beautifully with neutrals in grey and winter-creams. It feels fresh and modern this season. Another starting point was texture and layering—we wanted to explore new yarn constructions and focus on statement knitwear.
WWW: How quickly can you turn around a trend from concept to in-store?
JW: I’ve been at Country Road for many years now, and while trends are important, we prefer to focus on being design led—making sure we take the time to explore silhouettes and ensure the shape and fit are perfect for our customer. We don’t like to rush this process, however if we feel like a trend really should sit within a season we can respond fairly quickly, within about three months.
WWW: How has the way Australians shop changed over the last 40 years?
JW: The biggest change of course has been digital—it’s such an exciting time. People are shopping on their phones and through social media while they’re on the move. It’s fast-moving and they have so much information at their fingertips. We have to have this in mind when we’re designing. We’re not limited to looking at the global runways—we’re also looking at Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and seeing what’s leading the way in street style to gauge the next big movement.
WWW: What are the items that Australians come to you for the most?
JW: It’s a mix of both classic and trend pieces, not just for apparel but also for accessories and the home. Our customer knows that we will have the core wardrobe and home essentials, but also wants to be surprised by something really special. A recent example is the off-the-shoulder look. During summer we had shirts and broderie anglais tops and our customer really embraced these, so we’ve continued this through winter with luxurious looking alpaca knitwear in off-the-shoulder styles.
WWW: How do you know when a trend from the runway will be successful for Country Road?
JW: It’s just a feeling that you get as a designer. If it looks wearable and feminine, and if I would want it in my own wardrobe then we will talk about it within the design team, and then we’ll tend to pursue it. It’s also about taking the subtleties of a trend and reimagining them in a modern context.
WWW: Tell us about the success of Live With Us over the last 12 months.
JW: We’re excited about the success of Live With Us. Readership is really strong and we can tell through data that our customer has loved the mix of fashion shoots, styling advice, recipes, and also the longer reads. We’ve loved showing readers the world of Country Road, and they’ve been able to meet our designers and see what goes on behind the scenes—there are so many stories to tell so we’re thrilled that we have such a beautiful platform in which to tell them.
WWW: What are your top five favourite picks from the collection?
2) An olive chunky knit cardigan
5) The beautiful stripe blanket wrap
WWW: How do you think your offering differentiates you from the market?
JW: There are very few brands that successfully encompass a full lifestyle with fashion for woman, man and child as well as homewares—we provide everything in the one exciting retail experience. It’s about living in all aspects of life with Country Road that differentiates us in the current market.
WWW: The brand has evolved so much in recent years to become a true fashion-forward destination. What has Country Road done to establish itself as an iconic Australian fashion brand in such a noisy market?
JW: We have remained focused on what we do best—modern Australian style. We haven’t been distracted by what’s happening around us. Our collections are designed and timed with Australian seasons, while many internationals carry over what has happened in Europe or America so their ranges have been seen and available for a long time. In comparison, we then look and feel fresh. Country Road is designed in Australia by Australians. We know the Australian lifestyle best and that’s our greatest advantage.
WWW: What have you got planned for the brand for the next 12 months?
JW: We’ve noticed that our customer is really embracing a more feminine approach to dressing as well as softer silhouettes, so we will be focusing on this for the next twelve months. We also know that fabrics, quality, and versatility are really important and we’re making sure that these core values are front of mind when designing. While the Country Road woman loves trends, she also needs classic styles that will have longevity in her wardrobe, so it’s about designing a collection that has the perfect balance of both.