There was never any doubt. From the age of four, Abby Potter knew she would be working in fashion. Inspired by her grandmother, Abby is the creative force behind fashion label House of Campbell. At the same time, she’s giving back to the industry through teaching fashion at TAFE SA.
Abby Potter’s very first memories are of sewing as a four-year old at her grandmother’s knee. Her “Nan”, Annie Campbell, is a vivacious and inspiring woman who passed on her love of garment-making to her granddaughter. It’s Annie Campbell after whom Abby’s fashion label House of Campbell is named, with her Nan having been alongside Abby “every step of the way”.
By the age of twelve Abby was already making patterns, cutting them and mashing them together on her own sewing machine. All through high school Abby was making her own ballroom dancing costumes, assisting a local designer in making bridal dresses, even designing and making the Year 12 formal dresses for herself and her girlfriends. Summer holidays were spent interstate working with French vintage label Kitten D’Amour. “I don’t think there was a day when I wasn’t sewing,” says Abby.
Her school strongly recommended a university course in engineering for the straight-A student. But Abby knew better. At the beginning of her final year of school, Abby enrolled part-time in TAFE SA’s Advanced Diploma of Fashion classes. “It was the coolest thing I could be doing.”
Determined, passionate, and wanting to know more than the techniques that she’d already acquired, Abby kept enrolling in new classes as she completed previous ones. Relishing everything she was learning, the budding designer switched to full time study at the end of Year 12. Eventually she completed her Advanced Diploma. That TAFE SA course, the Advanced Diploma of Applied Fashion Design and Merchandising, also serves as the foundation for those wanting to study for a Bachelor of Creative Arts in either Fashion or Costume Design, at Flinders University.
Working in Fashion
Her Advanced Diploma opened doors in the industry. Abby spent the next 3 years working with Australian Fashion Labels. AFL brands include Finders Keepers, Keepsake, C/MEO Collective and The Fifth Label. Ultimately, Abby worked in quality control, as a senior garment technician. “Then they sent me to work in China for 6 months.” That’s an experience Abby describes as an absolute “whirlwind” and the highlight of her experience with the company.
Returning to Teach – TAFE SA Fashion
Having learnt so much, Abby returned to TAFE SA to teach everything she knows, from pattern making to sewing to design. It’s a role she embraces with gusto. “I love being able to talk about fashion and the industry and passing on what I’ve learnt. I love being with the lecturers who taught me and having those conversations with people in the industry.”
House of Campbell
Then, in 2018 while still teaching fashion, Abby launched House of Campbell. She was invited to showcase at New York Fashion Week, something Abby felt she had “been daydreaming about since I was a kid”. Abby showcased her first 22-piece collection there, followed by a launch party later in the year in Adelaide.
Defined by quality tailoring that works for different body types, each garment in her trans-seasonal collection can be paired or layered with another. “Everything has options. If a dress doesn’t work there’s a skirt option. Suppose the skirt doesn’t work there’s a pant option. If the top doesn’t work there’s a shirt. The prints and fabrics also provide options for diverse skin types.”
“When I’m designing, I’m very conscious about customers being able to buy from the new range to be able to mix with items from the existing range”.
House of Campbell is as much about expert craftsmanship as it is about reflecting style and personality. Aware of the fashion forecasters but relying more on her own instincts and mood boards, a number of Abby’s designs have sold out.
According to Abby, having her grandmother’s name on the label “helps keep me grounded”. After all, she still goes back to Annie for advice all the time.
Two Stage Mission for the Planet
This is not fast fashion, but considered design with a two-stage sustainability mission plan. That includes reducing waste, eco-friendly packaging and working with local manufacturers such as Geelong Dying. A strict “no bunnies, no angora, only faux fur” policy also forms part of the strategy.
Behind House of Campbell is everything Abby was taught by her Nan, her TAFE SA teachers, and her mentor at Australian Fashion Labels, Martina. Abby sums it up in two words: “quality craftsmanship”.
With a versatile range of quality garments that mix, match and can be worn repeatedly in many different ways, the label is founded by a designer who is already giving back to the industry, teaching students of applied fashion design at TAFE SA. Undoubtedly, it’s what Abby Potter is destined to do.
Instagram : @house_of_campbell