Owner of womenswear boutique ACO
Orlanda Bolton describes herself as a surfy chick in designer clothes, but the owner of successful womenswear boutique ACO has a finely tuned aesthetic, meticulous eye for quality, and an easy laugh that instantly sets her customers at ease.
From a family of designers, dress makers and milliners, she grew up with a passion for buttons, threads and fabrics but originally planned to pursue a career as an political journalist. We caught up with Orlanda for a conversation at her store in Sydney's Double Bay.
You've worked in the fashion industry for a long time now. Was that always your dream?
No! I was determined to be a journalist. I enrolled in a communications degree with a major in political science but failed miserably. After dropping out of university I travelled, designed and printed fabric, and sold clothes at music festivals all over Europe.
Before coming home to Australia?
Yes. I came back to learn my craft and finish my education. After graduating I tried to get a job as a designer but ended up in mass manufacturing. It was soul destroying. I took a break and had my daughter, and when I returned I found my home at Belinda International, then Burberry, before being headhunted to lead up operations at My Catwalk.
Outfit 1: The Park Avenue Pleated Leather Skirt | Outfit 2: Washington Drape Trench in Aloe Green
And you ended up buying My Catwalk and transforming it into ACO?
The owners offered to sell me the business. I had 48 hours to make up my mind. While the timing wasn't great, I thought it was a really good opportunity to create a space where women could come and feel comfortable, and find something amazing for themselves. I sat down with my business partner Amy, over a lovely bottle of champagne, and we searched for a name that would reflect our love of collaboration. She said ACO – done!
You've been stocking West 14th since the beginning. What do you love about the pieces?
Coming from a background in luxury brands I'm meticulous about consistency and quality. Violeta really knows her stuff. Growing up in New York, leather is staple in your wardrobe so she really understands her product and executes it beautiful every time. When I invest in a brand for ACO it has to stand up commercially but I'm also searching for a little bit of magic. West 14th always delivers.
Orlanda wears The New Yorker Motor Jacket in charcoal
How do you feel when you're wearing West 14th?
Beautiful! A well-made leather jacket is like an old friend. It's been everywhere with you, travelled the world, gotten better with age – as we do. You throw it on and it's both comfortable and stylish.
What part of your work brings you the most pleasure?
I love being in my shop talking to customers. None of the women who come through my doors are wallflowers. They're a very interesting and eclectic bunch. We have politicians, lawyers, surgeons, celebrities, women who run their executive households like a company. I love working in a business where women can connect with each other, and when you're trying things on you get real very quickly.
How do you help your clients find pieces that work for them?
The incredible team I work with – like our store manager Eugenie who has an exquisite eye and my daughter who is a great creative force – see the pieces on woman of all different shapes and sizes. We know how things will fall and fit, and encourage our customers to ask for advice. Be open minded, try things on and if they aren't working – next! We'll find something that does. It's really important to us that you feel comfortable in your skin.
You travel a lot. Is that how you relax?
I take regular buying trips to Paris and New York to choose pieces for the store, and have the privilege of stepping into worlds of culture and creativity, elevated minds and great conversation. When I travel for myself I go to places like Nepal or India. To ride my bike into a village and see someone weaving their own fabric or making handicrafts, it's magic.
How do you balance your work/travel life with your family life?
I'm a bit of a homebody. My husband came with me recently to New York which was really special. He's never been before. Once a year my daughter comes with me on a buying trip and she loves the whole fashion thing. She's 17 – you can imagine! It will be interesting to see what she decides to do. I think to survive in fashion you have to be pretty tough. I admire the people who stick at it and keep pushing and evolving.