BEHIND THE COLLECTION: O'Neill's Spring Collection With Amy Lillian Hunt
O’Neill has a track record of consistently delivering us quality threads and signature California coastal style, and also happens to be one of the oldest surf brands still in existence. Born in 1952 by the creator of the original wetsuit, O’Neill is the namesake creation of Jack O’Neill who set up the first ever surf shop, in San Francisco. Over the years though, O’Neill has become so much more than just a ‘surf’ brand with their focus on women’s luxe beachwear and swim styles for the ocean dreamers and beach lovers among us!
This season, the O’Neill Womens Spring ’17 range is no different, and delivers a selection of drool-worthy wrap dresses, feminine patchwork colours and boho coastal prints. It was love at first sight, and so much so that we went on the hunt to track down their talented Womens Designer, Amy Lillian Hunt to find out what inspired the collection. It turns out they take design inspo pretty seriously and even spent a week travelling through Cali to soak up the vibes we’re seeing in this collection!
Read on for exclusive insight into everyday life in the O’Neill Womens office on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, what was involved in bringing this collection to life, and how Amy worked her way up to the dream position as Womens Designer after starting as an intern.
Join the conversation!
Amy thanks for catching up! Can you tell us who you are and what you’re all about?
My name is Amy Lillian Hunt, and I’m the women’s designer for O’Neill Women’s Australia!
For those who don’t know, can you tell us what this involves?
I’m pretty lucky in that my role is surprisingly varied depending on what time of the year it is! I work very closely with my legend of a boss/mentor Jess to create design briefs that inspire us to design beautiful products and prints across apparel, swimwear, wetsuits and accessories. I also work very closely with the majestic gurfer and Women’s Marketing Manager Hayley, to bring the product to life through stunning photoshoots and imagery.
How long have you been designing with O’Neill, and what has your journey been like in/out of the industry to get here?
I started as an intern almost 5 years ago while I was studying fashion and textile design at university and they couldn’t get rid of me! I went from design intern, to design assistant, to retail merchandiser, to men’s design assistant, to production assistant and then finally made it to women’s designer! I dabbled in design work for big fashion companies but couldn’t find my place in the fast paced environment. I found my spot at the O’Neill Australia head office; it suits my lifestyle much better with lunchtime surfs with the team and the occasional ‘bring your dog to work day’!
What are we seeing this year with the O’Neill Women’s Australia Spring 2017 Collection?
The collection is titled ‘Sun Seekers and Ocean Dreamers’ and is a particularly exciting one for us because we really got into the nitty-gritty of what our O’Neill girl wants to wear. We experimented with bolder colours including red, peach, rust and all different shades of blue! We also really worked a lot on sourcing a range of new and different fabrics and textures across apparel and swim.
What did you draw inspiration from to develop this collection?
I was lucky enough to travel to Los Angeles for a week last year for inspiration research. I was living the classic California lifestyle – surfing at sunrise, eating fresh organic produce, driving up and down the coast, meeting interesting people and my personal favourite: vintage shopping! O’Neill is a core surf brand which originated in California, so it was important for us to incorporate the relaxed style and natural beauty of our roots in California into our inspiration.
How does the design process play out and do you have a favourite part?
It all starts with a design concept. For Spring 2017 it started with a working title of ‘California Cool’. We research our little brains out, finding cool imagery which we personally like, and that fits in with our brand aesthetic, and put it all together to create an overall ‘look’ for the season. Then we choose a colour palette and start working on prints that fit into our free spirit, coastal and feminine aesthetic. From there we do all the technical stuff that needs to be done such as fabric and trim sourcing, measurements and fits, and a lot of other little fiddly detailed bits. Then we brief our awesome production team to begin work with the factories to produce everything! My favourite part of the whole journey would have to be seeing the finished product line merchandised and displayed beautifully by our new-to-the-O’Neill-family awesome Women’s Sales Representative Erin, in our show room at O’Neill Australia HQ! I get so excited every season to present the range to our whole South Pacific team at our Range Release meetings!
What will we find you repping this season from the Spring Collection?
This is a hard one! I often “product test” a lot of the pieces along the design journey so I have a lot of pieces from Spring 2017 that have already become old friends! My most favourite Spring 2017 pieces are the Ziggy Dress and the Sheridan One Piece. The Ziggy Dress is the most perfect shade of red and I always feel like a goddess when I wear it. And the Sheridan One Piece – well, the imagery we created around this one piece speaks volumes in my opinion (I think we had over 100 shots of just this one piece that we struggled to choose from)! I’m also completely obsessed with our brand new Spring/Summer 2017 wetsuit capsule, The Surf Series, which features a tonal tie dye floral pattern and bright bold colours. It’s the first time the Australian womens design team has been able to get completely creative with our wetsuit line, and it provides a whole new range of shapes and colours to women who live in the South Pacific ocean! This is one to watch, we have A LOT of big ideas for The Surf Series going forward!
Can you tell us where you’re based and what a typical day is like in the O’Neill office?
O’Neill is based on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Our office is right around the corner from some of the best beaches in Australia and is only 7 minutes from my house! There is no ‘typical day’ at the O’Neill office – there’s always something new we’re working on! A lot of the time you will find myself, Jess, Hayley and Erin sitting on the couches in our design room sipping our morning coffees out of our new O’Neill branded Keep Cups and just staring at our magnetic wall full of prints, fabric swatches and design sketches brainstorming ideas!
What makes the O’Neill Spring Range different to all your previous collections?
Jess and I worked incredibly hard to make sure we found the perfect balance between the bohemian surf lifestyle and the relaxed beach cruiser lifestyle to create prints and shapes that would suit our varied O’Neill girl. It’s still one of my favourite collections in terms of colour palette and print diversity, and Ming Nom Chong nailed our photoshoot brief bringing it to life!
Who are the individuals that work to bring every collection to life?
I think I may have already mentioned most of them! But I cannot forget to mention our production team. It’s surprisingly small for such a large brand, but its just part-time Mum/part-time girl boss Rachel, and Danish fabric and fit champion, Stine, and they manage the production of more then 1000 garments and wetsuits across men’s and women’s every year! They are incredibly passionate and are the most patient people!
How do you and the team celebrate the successful release of another collection?
We have a big Range Release meeting where we show our whole South Pacific office the latest collection and run them through the inspiration, features and key pieces!
…and then there’s normally a few sneaky drinks after the big meeting…
Images courtesy of @joshmoods and O’Neill Womens Australia