Surfe Placid is the Australian jewelry brand embracing surf shop nostalgia
“Rough waves hitting rocks, beads found on the back of the couch, your favorite bed t-shirt.”
No matter where you are in the country, most Australian kids will remember that they “desperately wanted to be surfers”. time. Yes, maybe it was something you were naturally good at (congratulations), but for the rest of us it was a series of ill-fitting rashes, unsightly sunburns and deliberate wearing. a layer of zinc at school.
For the less coordinated kids (me), “surfing” was really about that undone, sunny, sandy aesthetic. It was puka shell necklaces and after school episodes of blue water top, sun-bleached blonde locks and endless trips to City Beach and Surf Dive ‘n’ Ski. The surf shops — with their floor-to-ceiling posters of bikini-clad girls, shelves of colorful Havaianas, and selfless workers wearing designer lanyards — were our beach-brand heaven.
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For Melbourne designer Ellen Fairbairn, it’s this nostalgia for unfinished Australian surfing that inspired her unique jewelry brand, placid surf. Beginning as a very “immediate and random” personal project, Surfe Placid consists of pieces made from recycled materials – like old leftover t-shirts – and freshwater pearls. Adorning the necks and wrists of local fashion, the Surfe Placid pieces each have “a different sensibility and personality”.
Tell us about you. What is your fashion/jewellery background?
I come from a fine art background and have no formal training in jewelry making. I have always experimented with my appearance and have made jewelry for myself over the years.
It was always done in a very messy, immediate way; often to complete [the outfit] I would put together. That’s how I started using shredded t-shirts. I had a little rhinestone ball charm that I wanted to put around my neck and I didn’t have a chain, so I used an old t-shirt. I fell in love.
How did the label start? Tell us about the process and the challenges.
Surfe Placid moved on from making parts for myself. They are always very experimental, unique pieces, which I have built, taken apart and remade in different forms. This process naturally developed into a more cohesive product, the product that became the staple Surfe Placid Pearl Necklace.
Working with recycled materials requires a bit of trial and error. I would say that from a hardware/construction perspective, there were some initial challenges when I was working out how best to use the t-shirts, beads, and hardware in combination. Another challenge was learning how to run a business on my own, where the demand was growing fast!
I must thank my close friends and peers who work in the industry as sole proprietors or small businesses for sharing their knowledge with me. The dialogue between designers is something I enjoy so much, now I try to pass on the things I’ve learned when and where I can.
What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time? How has that evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the brand now?
Initially, I just wanted to share my creative output with my community by posting a very limited collection of articles to a small audience online. I wanted people interacting with the products to have the opportunity to encounter each piece and select the one they felt an affinity for.
Creating unique pieces that each have a different sensibility and personality has always been at the heart of the brand. Now that the brand is more established, I’m focusing on new product development while aiming to retain a playful and experimental essence – just with more refinement.
I have always believed that my creations should come from my specific point of view. I focus on creating pieces that I would like to adorn myself with. In doing so, I can fully trust my product. I guess I keep channeling myself through work.
How would you describe Surfe Placid to someone who has never seen it before?
Rough waves hitting rocks, pearls found on the back of the couch, your favorite bed t-shirt.
What are you most proud of in your work on your label?
I pride myself on my ability to innovate new uses for old materials and the unique aesthetics I have created.
What did you wish you had known when you started?
Do not advertise releases until you have done something!
Who do you think is the most exciting in Australian fashion/jewellery right now?
I like to follow what Maroske Peech does and how the brand has evolved over the years. Their collections always have a very strong sense of fantasy and storytelling which I love. It’s inspiring to see an independent label grow in reach and popularity while maintaining a strong community focus and identity.
What about the Australian fashion and jewelery industry that needs to change?
There will always be room for more platforms accessible and promoting emerging independent artists, more sharing of skills and knowledge between designers and companies, and more cross-disciplinary collaborations that showcase the myriad of different skills and perspectives. that exist within the industry. I think it’s exciting to see people outside of fashion working in this context, so I’d love to see more.
Dream Australian collaborators?
Perfume Perdrisat by Callum Rory Mitchell.
Who’s in your wardrobe right now?
Omg, nobody I hope! But seriously – my gray Z-Coil runners, a hat for every occasion, my friend Sophie’s jeans that I sternly strapped to an ATM, two huge vintage shearling coats (Google ‘Ikea monkey’ for the atmosphere), and good long-sleeved merino tops (it’s cold!).
How can we buy one of your parts?
For more Surfe Placid, head here.