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Last week we began our gender re-balancing with the names of some beautiful Australian models. Yet without the clever and creative designers, models would have nothing to wear. Here are ten female fashion designers whose names I found interesting in some way.

Arabella (Ramsay)

Arabella Ramsay grew up on a sheep farm in country Victoria; her family are all very creative, and she was encouraged to become a fashion designer. She did a course in textile design at RMIT, then spent a year in Paris studying fashion before opening her first store in Melbourne in 2006. This year, Arabella welcomed her first child, a daughter named Marlowe. The name Arabella originated in medieval Scotland, and it is thought that it is probably a variant of Annabel, meaning “lovable”. However, it is found in old documents in the forms Orable and Orabella, and from early on seems to have been influenced by the Latin word orabilis (also used as a name in the Middle Ages). This means “invokeable”, in the sense that a saint can be invoked by prayer. Arabella has never been a common name in Australia, despite our love of names from Scotland; I think it has seemed too old-fashioned or perhaps too upper-class. However, with -bella names all the rage, this looks like the perfect time for Arabella to shine.

Camilla (Franks)

Camilla Franks was a theatre actress who loved to design and make her own costumes, and formed her own fashion label in 2004. She is known as the “kaftan queen” because of her signature flowing lines in colourful prints, and hosts her own fashion shows in exotic locations around the world. Camilla sells internationally, and her designs are worn by celebrities such as Kate Hudson, Lily Allen, Beyonce and Oprah. In Roman mythology, Camilla was a virgin warrior queen of the Volscian tribe who was bound to be a votary of the goddess Diana since infancy. It is said that she was so fleet of foot that she could race across a field without bending a blade of grass, and could even run across water without getting her feet wet. We are told by the Romans that she was named Camilla because this is what the Etruscans called all their young priestesses (the male form is Camillus); if so, it seems to be more a title than a personal name. Queen Camilla’s mother’s name was Casmilla, and this seems significant. Once a favourite in literature, it’s best known today as the name of the Duchess of Cornwall. Milla and Millie are so popular at the moment that this may give Camilla more of a chance.

Collette (Dinnigan)

Collette Dinnigan was born in South Africa and moved to New Zealand as a child. After studying fashion design at Wellington Polytechnic, she moved to Sydney and worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s costume department. She opened her first store in 1992 and exported her fashions to New York, London and Hong Kong; she was the first Australian to launch a ready-to-wear collection in Paris. Her clothing lines sell in major department stores, and many Australian women will have at least one Collette Dinnigan piece in their wardrobes. The Australian government sent a Collette Dinnigan cardigan as their gift to French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s baby daughter, Giulia. Collette is a variant spelling of Colette, a French pet form of the name Nicole. The name Collette is well known as Australia as the stage name of lycra bike shorts-wearing pop singer Collette Roberts, who sang Ring My Bell, as well as the surname of actress Toni Collette. French names are very fashionable at the moment, but I wonder whether Collette is still sounding a bit dated. I think Nicollette might do better, maybe with Collette as the nickname.

Clea (Garrick)

Clea Garrick is originally from the Northern Territory, studied design in Brisbane, then moved to Melbourne where she set up the Limedrop label in 2005 with Nathan Price, who handles the marketing side of things. Limedrop has won a major award, sells around the world, and recently broke into the Tokyo market. Clea is a Greek name meaning “glorious”, and was the name of one of the Delphic oracles, who held the title of Pythia. These priestesses foretold the future at the town of Delphi in a temple dedicated to the god Apollo; it seems that some kind of shamanistic trance was used to foresee the future, and it has been speculated that hallucinogenic gases were involved. We are told by the ancients that these predictions tended to be ambiguously phrased, but usually gave good advice, and that the prophetic process was physically demanding on the Pythia – sometimes to the point where it killed her. We don’t know whether Clea was this priestess’ real name, or a name she adopted. I think Clea has a lot of potential – it’s underused, sounds similar to Claire and Leah, and is perhaps more feminine than its sister Cleo.

Elke (Kramer)

Elke Kramer is a Sydney-based jewellery designer known for her bold, chunky pendants and bracelets. She launched her label in 2004, and has a range of other creative pursuits, including art and illustration. Elke is the feminine form of the Hebrew name Elkanah, which is translated as “God has purchased”, and often interpreted as “belonging to God”, or “in God’s possession”. There are several men named Elkanah in the Old Testament, most notably the husband of Hannah, the father of the prophet Samuel. (Elkanah had another wife called Penninah, meaning “pearl”, but she was mean and jealous, so he didn’t like her as much as Hannah, even though Penninah gave him more children.) Elke is said EL-kuh, and it fits with popular names like Ella and the trend for EL sounds in girl’s names, but may possibly remind people of that large deer, the elk.

Jolet (Ucchino)

Jolet Ucchino is an independent fashion designer from Melbourne who launched her own label in 2008. She is committed to supporting local industry and using high-quality natural fabrics. It has been suggested that Jolet was originally a male name, derived from the French word joli, meaning “attractive”. It’s more common as a surname, but is still used as a personal name by both genders. Jolet Ucchino pronounces her name yo-LET. This is an unusual French name that’s a little like Yolande and a little like Juliet, and a fresh alternative to the name Jolie.

Kirrily (Johnston)

Kirrily Johnston studied at the Melbourne Institute of Textiles, and began her career in 1999 before moving to Sydney. She founded her own label in 2004, and was immediately met by rave reviews. Kirrily Johnston clothes sell in boutiques and department stores in Australia, the USA, UK, Asia and New Zealand, and are worn by stars such as Miranda Kerr, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Diane Kruger. This year Kirrily became a judge on Project Runway Australia. Kirrily is a much liked name here, and seems to be uniquely Australian. The origin is very uncertain. It could be a variant of the Maori name Kiri, which means “fruit skin, bark”, and is well known as the name of opera star Dame Kiri Te Tanawa. Kirri is the Maori word for “wild dog” and the South African word for “stick”, and also looks similar to kirra, an Aboriginal word meaning “leaf”, and Kirribilli, a Sydney suburb meaning “good fishing spot” in the local language. Most likely it came into use because it sounded similar to popular names of the 1960s and 1970s, such as Kylie, Kerry and Kelly. It has helped influence a new generation of soundalike names, such as Kirra-Lee, Keira-Leigh, Kirri-Li and Kyralee, of which you can find many examples given to recent babies and toddlers.

Lorna (Clarkson)

Lorna Jane Clarkson began her career as a dental therapist, but moved into fitness instruction. Finding the existing range of women’s activewear limited, she started making her own line of fashionable gym clothing. In 1990 she opened her own store, and today there are 122 Lorna Jane stores. The name Lorna was created by novelist R.D. Blackmore for his historical romance, Lorna Doone (1869). He may have based it on the Scottish place name Lorne, which is in a region once named Lorna, and is possibly based on the male name Loarn – Loarn mac Eirc was a legendary king who was one of the sons of the first Gael to arrive in Scotland from Ireland. Loarn may be from the Gaelic word latharn, meaning “fox”; perhaps a tribal totem. Lorna Doone is an exciting tale of a long-lost heiress, forbidden marriages, unexpected changes in fortune, and all manner of adventures. It was the favourite novel of Australian bushranger Ned Kelly, and he may even have got the idea of wearing armour from the book, as the outlaw Doone family are said to wear “iron plates on breast and head”. Lorna was an “old grandma” name when I was a little girl, which means another generation has gone by and maybe now it seems more usable. It really doesn’t sound much different to currently popular names such as Laura and Lauren, and has a surprisingly Australian significance.

Thulie (Ellis)

Thulie Ellis is an emerging fashion designer who was born in the Transkei Zulu region of South Africa, raised in New Zealand, and educated in Australia, studying at Sydney’s premier fashion school FBI. She debuted her first collection in 2009 and opened her online store the same year. Thulie is pleased that many of her clients are from the United States, as she has been in love with America since a trip there as a teenager. She hopes to expand further into the US market. Thulie’s name may be a pet form of Nokuthula, a common Zulu name meaning “peace and tranquillity”, although the word Thula (“peace”) is also used as a name, with Thuli or Thulie as the short form. Thulie is pronounced TYOO-lee; the first syllable is said like the word tulle, or the beginning of tulip. Exotic, yet simple, I can imagine many people being drawn to this pretty name.

Yeojin (Bae)

Yeojin Bae was born in Korea, and wanted to be a fashion designer when she was two years old; her grandfather was a designer, and both her parents worked in the industry. With their full support, she attended art school from the age of 4, and became the youngest student at the Whitehouse Institute of Fashion in Melbourne at the age of 14; she graduated when she was 17. She has done internships in New York with Marc Jacobs and Anna Sui, won the 2007 Tiffany and Co Young Designer of the Year Award, and in 2009 was nominated for the Prix de Marie Claire Designer of the Year Award. Her collections sell in major department stores in Australia, the UK, the USA and the UAE. Yeojin’s name means “beautiful treasure” in Korean. Her name is pronounced yo-jhin – at least in an Australian accent. I’ve included a short interview with Yeojin so you can hear her name said aloud.

(Photo of Thulie Ellis with one of her garments at Rosemount Fashion Week from Southern Courier, May 10 2010)

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