Designer Interviews

Mary Lou Ryan
Co-founder of bassike

September 08, 2015

Some Australian brands have an aesthetic so unique, so identifiable you can spot them at 20 paces. Mary Lou Ryan, along with her partner in crime Deb Sams, have created just that with their label Bassike. Based on Sydney’s idyllic northern beaches, and with a strong eye to sustainable practise, this is a home-grown brand which has made a global impact. Here Debra, who started in fashion as a buyer, opens up about her creative process and the daily routine that keeps her sane.

Describe your role.

Co-founding Director of Bassike.

What inspired you to start your label Bassike with co-founder Deb Sams?

We felt there was a gap in the market for everyday, luxurious basics. Soon after, bassike was born.

Did you receive any formal training in fashion prior to starting your brand?

I’ve always had a love of product and started out as a buyer.

Describe your creative process:

It starts with fabric development and then silhouettes. From here the garments are then put together.

Tell us about a typical day-in-your-life:

Wake up 6.30am and make breakfast for my baby, Barney, and then head to work around 8.30am. I sit in multiple meetings from design, marketing and production and general day-to-day business requirements.

Then I head home to be with my boys, I bath Barney, read books and settle him off to sleep. My partner and I always sit down at night and have dinner together. It’s important to reconnect and spend time in such a busy environment we live in. Then to have some quiet time, stretching and off to bed.

What has been your career highlight, thus far?

There have been so many milestones, but the opening of our first international store in LA was a major highlight.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in business?

To never go against your instincts.

What does it take to be a successful designer?

Listen to your instincts and understand your customer.

How important is it to have ‘good business sense’?

If you’re setting out to create a successful and lasting business, then it’s of paramount importance.

Describe the signature of your brand.

High quality and design and construction with a emphasis on luxury and wearability. Sustainable manufacturing is also something Deb and I are committed to maintaining.

Did you anticipate Australian customers to fall in love with your brand so easily?

We knew we had something great and unique, but we were super surprised at how quickly the market adopted our brand.

How important is social media to your brand?

Instagram in particular is a strong digital channel for us. We love that our message can remain undiluted which has always been important for us when looking at our communication channels.

With our industry constantly changing, how do you see the future of fashion at large? 

It has been interesting to watch the industry evolve over the past few years in particular. Online has changed things dramatically and it’s more important than ever to protect your brand, and keep your brand message and aesthetic undiluted.

Describe your own personal style?

Modern and subtly androgynous.

Do you have a favourite designer?

I love architecture and the work of Tadao Ando.

How would you describe the quintessential Australian fashion culture?

In one word, relaxed.

Do you have a brand or personal muse?

I’ve never designed with a muse in mind.

When you aren’t designing, how do you like to spend your time?

Hanging out with my boys.

Where do you see your label in 10 years time?

Nothing too dramatically different, but another handful of international retail locations would be a great challenge for Deb and I.

You can find Bassike on Instagram @bassike

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