Designers Dish: The Creatives Behind Aussie Label Bassike

Bassike - H 2015
Courtesy of PR Consulting

Mary Lou Ryan, one half of the design team behind the Aussie label, opens up about bringing the the brand's Japanese-inspired, beachy minimalist aesthetic to their first stateside store in Venice Beach.

Bassike designers Deborah Sams and Mary Lou Ryan have made the long trek from Sydney, Australia all the way to Venice Beach, Calif., to open their first stateside store. 

Despite their distance from home, the designing duo's light and airy location — opened just last week — manages to perfectly encapsulate the brand's surf lifestyle aesthetic, born of their own beachside Australian residence and the cool minimalism of Venice's Lincoln boulevard. 

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Like the clothes themselves, which feature heavy, well-constructed jackets and pants as well as basics and swimwear, the store is similarly outfitted, with quality materials in a clean-cut, minimalist design. Industrial elements like concrete floors are warmed up by natural features including a hand-dyed rug imported from Australia, a floor-length mirror backed by a custom-cut marble slab, and white oak clothing rails and storage units — all well-lit by skylights and the glass posterior wall, which opens to a garden shared by neighbors The Golden State and Superba cafe. 

In addition to their own womenswear, menswear and children's collections ($90-$700), the Aussie shop also sells accessories by Plus Equals (leather bowler and crossbody bags, portfolios; $290- $750) and State of Escape (neoprene satchels; $250-$300), brands which also originated down under. An all-leather, monochromatic version of Birkenstock's narrow Madrid sandal — a Bassike exclusive — as well as Sun Buddies sunglasses ($229) and Pigna Jewellery ($50-$500), which features semi-precious stones and black pearls, round out the cool accessories offerings. 

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We caught up with Ryan, one half of the Bassike team, at the brand's new location in Venice to talk about the new collection, the new store and Bassike's bright California future. 

Pret-a-Reporter: How did Bassike get its start?

Ryan: We started off with our jersey — kind of organic jersey basics, and then over the past ten years we’ve done a full ready-to-wear collection. We do a denim line, menswear and childrenswear.

DESIGN DUO: Deborah Sams (left) and Mary Lou Ryan. 

Why Venice for your first U.S. store location?

There’s a huge similarity between Sydney [and Venice], the same climate and the culture and that kind of surf, beachy lifestyle. And seasonality-wise, in terms of our collection — we took a leap into the international market and it sort of felt like it was the best place to start to work it all out and understand how it all works. And then obviously as that all kind of works then we can work to grow the business.

But yeah, I think that culturally it’s just such a nice fit. The people here are very similar, and it just felt like for us — and the type of product that we do, it sort of felt like that was really the right move.

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There are a lot of natural elements in the store like wood and marble — were those inspired by the collection? Do all of your stores have that aesthetic?

They’ve all got a sort of similar feel. We’ve got seven stores back in Australia, and they all have a simple kind of aesthetic. But when we came to open the L.A. store we worked with industrial designers Brook & Lyn, which worked back with our architect [Akin Creative] in Australia so we kind of got to have a Venice, L.A. feeling but then it has a nice synergy back with our Australian stores. So all the wood, the concrete — it’s quite similar to what we do back home but it’s just a little bit different. It has it’s own spin on it.

Is the collection inspired by that surf, beachy lifestyle?  

It’s definitely got a relaxed feel. Everything’s quite grounded. In our ready-to-wear collection it’s all beautiful Italian fabrics and there might be a beautiful coat, but you wear it with trainers. So everything’s kind of a bit more relaxed which kind of suits our lifestyle. Design and detail and form and the way things kind of work — that’s how we get that relaxed feel.

What is your favorite part of the Venice store?

There’s so many different elements — I love the marble table and the glass by Brook & Lyn and I think having the beautiful garden out in the back just keeps it all very lush and light and fresh — people can kind of just come and hang out. We find that in Australia people just kind of come and hangout in our stores.

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And the garden will be open all the time?

Yes. Superba, which is the cafe next door, they own the garden. So they’re just about to sort of punch a hole in the wall so people can go into the cafe and then sit out here and then go shopping, so they’re kind of building a little retail retreat, and everything will open up onto the garden.

Are you going back and forth between here and Australia right now?

Yes. So Deb and I will be traveling quite a bit. We’ve brought a bit of a team out from Australia that have come to set up the store, and then they’ll go home and one of our senior managers will come and manage this store. And the rest of the staff are all locals from around the area, which is great because we’ve got the synergy between Australia but then we have the local community feel.

As you grow, do you see more stores in L.A. or do you see yourselves getting out of California?

I think we’ll do a couple stores [in L.A.] — it’s such a big space. Even just opening this store here, you realize that people that live in say, Los Feliz don’t really come over to this side of town. People are kind of in their own bubbles. So I think we’d like to do a couple stores over the next five years. We don’t have a plan of what we’d like to do yet but we’ll just see how this goes and get a good reaction from what people like about it. It’s going to take us a bit to get people to know about the brand because it’s still so young and not many people know about it over here. So that will take a bit of time to build a bit of customer base.

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Is there anything particularly special about your current collection?

We do have a bit of a Japanese influence. Because we’re so close to Japan, we get influenced a lot by what they do, so there’s a lot of sort of kimono-y jackets and wraps and drop crotch pants, which has always been a signature for us.

In our main line, we work back with an Italian supplier that pretty much develops a lot of our fabrics exclusively, so we start with a concept and then we’ll come back and there’s this beautiful relationship that we have, so we’re always trying to be unique and different — which is our brand.  

Bassike, 1918 Lincoln Blvd., Venice Beach;