The Extravagant Fashion Worlds of Romance Was Born

Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales are the dynamic design duo behind Australian fashion label Romance Was Born. Since 2005, they've built a reputation for turning unique and quirky themes and stories into narrative moments of fashion wonder: clothes replete with covetable prints, handworked details of appliqué, and intensely detailed sequinned elements. All of their collections come with their own meticulous worlds, the stories of which unveil themselves in the intricately thought-out Fashion Week shows that Anna and Luke conceive.

As their new Papier collaboration launches we spoke with Luke to delve deeper into the world of Romance Was Born.

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You create very in-depth worlds and stories for each of your collections, exemplified by the shows you present them in. What comes first, the ideas for the clothes or for these crazy worlds? And how much time and effort do you put into creating those worlds around the collections and the shows?
The themes and the story behind the collections are definitely the starting point; we often have these ideas banked up for a while before we use them. We’re usually working on a few collections at a time as far as the ideas and themes or “worlds” are concerned.

If you could live in any one of the worlds of your collections, which would it be?
We just showed a collection in Paris called "Step into Paradise”; the models within the show were a representation of Australian exoticism – our “Aussie birds” which represented a kind of technicolour Australian rainforest – that world would be pretty ace!

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Which Romance Was Born worlds are in the Papier collection?
The worlds in the collection include Seven Wonders, Electro Orchid, Whispering Angel and Rainbows Edge, which are the ones we have recently created with Australian artist and our great friend Del Kathryn Barton.

Considering the amount of detail that goes into the stories of every collection, and how otherworldly they are, have you ever thought of funnelling your creativity into film or other industries – or do you feel that fashion is the best place for you to tell your stories?
In a dream world with a much larger team for sure but for now we are pretty busy with fashion. It’s also important to keep focus and to continue honouring our craft and build on our collections. Having said that we do love doing collaborations like this with Papier – it’s interesting to see how our ideas transfer in other industries.

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You recently presented at Paris couture week. How was the experience for you?
It was pretty special, we have an amazing team and couldn’t have done it without them. Plus we worked with the Aussie icon Jenny Kee; she was in Paris with us and it was an amazing time.

Do you feel like you are representing the whole of the Australia fashion and creative industries when you do a show like that? Is that why you like to collaborate with Australian artists such as Del Kathryn Barton? Or is that not something you're thinking of?
Not at all to be honest. Globalisation has made the world a pretty even playing field and I don’t think your country of origin really matters much anymore… besides logistically, like freight charges for example!

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If you could send one of your Papier notecards to anyone dead, alive, fictional or real, who would it be and what would you write?
Gosh, I’m sure Anna would answer this differently but I’d say my mum. I like letting her know how much she means to me and she’s always sending cute vintage cards and stuff she collects. She would appreciate it more than anyone.

Do you use sketchbooks when you're coming up with ideas?
Yes, we have individual sketchbooks then we tear them apart and combine them… the more the merrier!

There are a few animal illustrations in your Papier collection. If you could be any Australian animal which would it be?
That’s a hard question but I think the kangaroo… free spirited… distinct… good friends and on the go!

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