Kim is the prodigious design talent behind Spencer & Rutherford. Her wonderful, eclectic personal style and artistic flair is stamped on every stunning piece.
At Spencer and Rutherford's stylish headquarters, just off Melbourne's iconic fashion mecca, Chapel Street, Kim's workstation resembles a Parisian Atelier. Soft natural light washes over tables laden with exquisite brocades, silks and braids. Inspiring mood boards are covered in swatches of richly detailed fabrics, dreamy photographs and eclectic found objects. Sketches lie scattered across her desk by the window. Alongside a vase of perfumed roses picked from her garden, are treasured photos of her children Isabella and Masonand their beloved family dogs.
As Creative Director at the helm of Spencer & Rutherford, Kim still feels a rush of excitement and anticipation every time she launches into designing a new collection. "After 10 years it's still a fascinating process. I always have ideas and inspirations whirling around my mind before I begin, but I never really know where they will take me."
From initial themes for a collection, through to the superbly finished handbags with their captivating details, Kim loves immersing herself in the intricacies of her world. She is a designer who lives and breathes her craft. "I love everything about the process."
"Many women ask what inspires me. Sometimes it can be the tiniest little thing like an exquisite antique button on a vintage blouse. Other times it's a rich cultural experience like a trip to Marrakech, Africa or Prague. My husband Chris and I travel a lot, mostly with the children. I love looking at the world through their delighted eyes. It helps me see familiar things in a completely fresh way."
Looking back on her own idyllic childhood, immersed in the creative worlds of her dress designer mother and architect father, Kim laughingly says: "Little did I know it was the perfect junior apprenticeship for my career as a handbag designer."
Standing on tiptoes helping her father stick tiny trees around his latest architectural models, she learnt about design, dimensions and structural details; how to make something very beautiful also very functional. Happy hours spent in her mother's dressmaking studio, creating doll's dresses with exquisite fabric off-cuts, ribbons and trims, helped develop Kim's natural talent for combining colours and textures in her inimitable way.
Kim still hasn't lost her passion for beautiful fabrics and trims. "You should see me when my fabric samples arrive from France or Milan. I rip open those packages like an over excited child on Christmas morning!"
"I am fascinated by beautiful fabrics and detail. I really do delight in the detail on every level. I guess that is a huge part of what makes Spencer and Rutherford's signature style so distinctive and recognisable around the world."
"From the beginning I have felt incredibly lucky to be doing what I love with the person I love." Since Spencer & Rutherford began, Chris, who is Kim's business partner and husband (but not necessarily in that order!), has left her free to devote all her energy to the Creative Director role.
When I'm in the middle of putting a collection together, I really am in my own world. Chris is so funny, he is constantly checking in to ask if I need more coffee or water or anything to eat. It's so sweet because he recognises there's a lot of pressure on me to perform and he is trying to keep me happy and focused. Sometimes I feel like the design princess! I think I could probably get away with asking him to bring in a personal masseuse and manicurist if I told him it would make me more creative and productive!
It seems women fall head over heels for their favourite Spencer & Rutherford handbags. In a world where so many artisan skills have been lost, these handmade bags are like treasured pieces of three-dimensional art. In fact Kim has received letters from 'devotees' with photos of their large Spencer & Rutherford handbag collections displayed on their bedroom or dressing room walls.
"I adore that blurring of the line between fashion and art. It's so satisfying to me as a designer, having women respond in such a passionate way to our bags.
They talk about them like friends, and with each handbag having her own girly name, I guess they are!"
Kim's bags go arm in arm with their devoted owners through the most special and memorable times of their lives. Some younger devotees associate a handbag with their school formal, being bridesmaid at a friend's wedding or dressing up to the nines for their first day at the races. For other women it's a daughter's wedding, an overseas trip or special party. "I like to think that whenever they look at their Spencer & Rutherford bag they will remember all those happy times of their lives."
"I often spend time at our boutiques just observing women who are
browsing, to see what attracts them. Or chatting to them about what enriches their lives. It's not so much about big extravagant items or expensive pleasures, it's the smaller things that can be enjoyed over and over; a delicately perfumed candle, gorgeous earrings, a favourite photo."
"All these beautiful things stimulate our senses whether it's sight, smell or touch.
I think, in essence, that's what I am aware of when I'm creating a handbag. I want it to captivate a woman. To attract her like a stunning flower, or piece of art...or even a deliciously decorated French petit four! I like visual surprises and rich details, layering textures and trims, and adding unexpected touches like a striped lining or a small bejewelled zipper pull."
"Every time a woman takes her Spencer & Rutherford bag out, I want her to fall in love with it all over again. So many women tell me they receive lots of compliments on their handbags. If I have played a small part in that lovely moment in their day, then I'm really happy."