Nicole Banning, the designer behind swimwear label Ephemera, has an interesting story to tell. After spending time as a designer for luxury fashion house Saint Laurent, Banning launched her label in Paris in 2012 and later relocated to Sydney.
With a design background at Saint Laurent, it’s easy to see how her luxury training has paid off. We can’t ignore the incredible quality, fit, design and cut of the tight collection (we also can’t ignore our burning desire to slip into any one of her pieces and escape to the beach immediately).
Banning’s intimate knowledge of design has us excited to see where her label is headed. In our exclusive interview, she revealed we should “watch this space’’ for an apparel and accessories expansion. And if it’s anything like her current swim offering, we’ll be watching said space closely.
Keep scrolling to hear what it’s like to work at Saint Laurent, what makes Ephemera different, and more.
Who What Wear Australia: What was the inspiration behind starting your own label?
Nicole Banning: The desire to be creatively independent and the feeling that there was something new to be done in the swim market. I get a great joy when a customer gets genuinely excited about the product and appreciates the attention to detail, it’s really nice when people notice the little things.
WWW: What has been the biggest challenge and what do you love most?
NB: There are constant challenges associated with running a business, the biggest challenge has been to find the right formula for us. I am constantly learning and adjusting, which I love. It’s important to be malleable as you find your niche in the market.
WWW: What makes your swimwear label different?
NB: We pay a lot of attention to ensuring excellent fit and invest heavily in developing our swim patterns with highly skilled pattern cutters. Most of our customers love our product for that attention to detail and how the swimsuit moulds to the female form.
WWW: What is your best memory of designing at Saint Laurent?
NB: I would regularly take the fast train from Paris to the Vosges—a region in eastern France—to an incredible jersey factory tucked away in the mountains, it’s all pine forest and snow. This factory produced the jersey collections for the luxury houses: Chanel, Lanvin, Haider Ackermann, Celine, Balenciaga... the list goes on.
The factory had been bombed during one of the world wars and the owner at the time (the grandfather of the current owner) met renowned architect Le Corbusier at an architectural conference and convinced him to help rebuild the factory. I had never really appreciated Le Corbusier’s work prior to being in one of his spaces but I am to this day enamoured with the building—the light, the materials, the colours the rhythmical lines—it was outstanding. It was like being on a film set, in this incredible working factory, with all these beyond beautiful luxury garments in production.
I would go there for a few days at a time and meet with Monsieur Duval and his partner Beatrice. We would develop creative ideas and techniques together (punctuated by a fabulous long lunch)!
WWW: What are your favourite Saint Laurent moments?
NB: It’s pretty hard not to fall in love with the story of Yves Saint Laurent as a whole, it’s very romantic and also quite tragic. I would recommend watching ‘L’Amour Fou’ for a peek into the world YSL lived in and left behind. I have visited Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech a number of times and for me this is one of the most special gardens and, in my mind, a very important link to the Saint Laurent world. I learnt so much, I learnt a great methodology of working, researching and designing. I learnt about beautiful fabrications, finishes and clever patternmaking. And in terms of one of my favourite fashion moments, it would have to be the YSL Le Smoking suit.
Which is your favourite piece in the collection? Let us know in the comments below!