L: Knitwear label Jude by Ali Wanchap R: Irresistibly soft Smith jumper. Photos - James Bennett.
This week I had the pleasure of meeting Ali Wanchap, the bright spark behind Jude, a knitwear label with a distinctly sophisticated down under aesthetic designed in Newcastle (Adamstown specifically!) and produced in Australia.
Ali attributes school holidays at her family’s wool farms in Northern NSW and South-West Queensland as the driver behind the idea to start Jude, “I have been privileged enough to be surrounded by creative, hard working people in my family, feet firmly planted in the dirt of the Australian bush. Out of this heritage my great love for wool has blossomed and has set me on this journey”. Ali’s grandmother has always utilised wool from the family farm to hand-spin and dye yarn to produce one-of-a-kind knitted jumpers and dolls that were always in high demand.
Ali has taken that proud family heritage to a new level with Jude using Australian-grown wool milled and dyed in Italy which is then brought back to Australia for machine-knitting in Melbourne to become the latest designs conceived by Ali in her Adamstown home office. Her family heritage saluted as each design is named after family properties or much-loved horses.
The range of super-fine merino wool pieces includes knitwear for women and baby, plus blankets and cushions that feature modern geometric designs in classic colour-ways. But it’s the handsome sulphur-crested cockatoo and a sweet wattle and gumnut motif of several pieces that add a distinctly Australian edge. Forget any thoughts of itchy wool jumpers you may have endured as a child. After road-testing the soon-to-be-released Kaloola kimono I can attest that wool has come a very long way. It’s like wearing a warm hug!
Not only is Ali a fellow Sydney transplant to Newcastle but she has whole-heartedly embraced her new-found Novocastrian status. Even the latest Jude A/W campaign is 100% local talent and location. Model Bonnie Richardson (those eyebrows!), photographer James Bennett, make-up artist Jes O’Brien and creative director Kelly Sharples, together with Ali, utilised the stunning backdrop of the Watagans for Jude‘s current season location shoot. Stunning work all round.
Jude Avery sulphur-crested cockatoo jumper. Photo - James Bennett.
Grew up in Brisbane, finished uni and moved to Sydney shortly after. I started my real working career in Public Relations after a short-lived attempt at acting in Sydney, and stayed in PR for 8 years. Worked a few years out in the big bad world of fashion PR, then 4 years ago started my own consulting business AlphaWhiskeyPR, which is still going today. I moved to Newcastle in 2009 looking for a fresh start, and to take on a new challenge – to get my commercial helicopter pilot license, which I completed in 2011. Amongst this, I had always dreamed of starting my own knitwear label inspired by my family history of wool farming and production. I started putting Jude into action throughout 2012, and officially launched the label in April this year.
What has been your most memorable project?
I have been lucky enough to work with some amazing businesses over my PR career, however I must say starting Jude has definitely left a bright, bold exclamation point on my list of projects to date. Flying solo for the first time in the chopper was pretty memorable too – probably because I was so scared.
What would be your dream project?
I am pleased to say that I am doing it now, with Jude.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Having the courage to follow my dreams. And not only just follow them – follow through with them.
What is your most treasured possession?
My puppy dog Bosley.
Soon to be released Jude Kaloola kimono (my pick! So luxurious!). Photo - James Bennett.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
My days are so varied, but it mainly involves loads of emailing, packing and sending orders, managing my online store, seeking out new opportunities and new products, dealing with manufacturers, printers, suppliers, contractors, going to meetings, cuddling Bosley and watering my pot plants for a bit of zen time. (Is that odd?!)
What is your most valuable pearl of wisdom gained since starting your business?
Don’t cut corners or compromise your standards for the sake of a quick gain or a quick fix, make the smart decisions today so you don’t pay for them tomorrow.
Where do you derive creative inspiration?
My creative inspiration comes from many places – my dreams, my family, the Australian landscape, and often the tiniest of random details can get a whole idea or concept flowing.
Jude Clarence jumper featuring fine cable knit body. Photo - James Bennett.
Which other designers, artists or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
I am inspired by people who put themselves out there and are giving it a go. I have two dear friends that have started their own businesses in the Newcastle/Hunter region recently too – Kelly Sharples of Arnley and Tegan Brideson of Tegan Asha Bridal and they inspire me every day with their passion, hard work and dedication.
What are some of your favourite websites or blogs?
I love the Cool Hunter to marvel at the amazing imagery and design finds. Although a lot of the time it makes me feel very un-cool….And when I need a bit of a high fashion fix I go to The Sartorialist, which is an amazing blog that sparked the craze of ‘street style’ fashion photography.
Apart from your work, what other interests, passions, hobbies do you have?
As mentioned previously I have a bit of a passion for flying, although recently I haven’t had a great deal of time to commit to it. Horse riding is another great passion of mine that I wish I had more time to enjoy. I do however always seem to have time for traveling and exploring new places…. I tend to get itchy feet if I’ve walked the same ground for too long.
How long have you been a Novocastrian?
I have lived in the Newcastle/Hunter region since 2009. I’m not sure if I pass as a true Novocastrian quite yet. I’m told I have another 20 years to go till I’m there.
Clockwise from top left: ‘I love the crimpy goodness of raw merino wool’ says Ali at uncle Brent Finlay’s sheep station in SW Queensland. Autumn/Winter 2013 season planning. Where dreams turn to reality, the manufacturer’s machines in Melbourne. Ali with Gem the mustering dog at the family farm, Cooinda, in SW Queensland. Photos – Ali Wanchap.
Newcastle in a word?
What do you love and hate about living in Newcastle?
I love the relaxed lifestyle, the fact that you can get almost anywhere in 10 minutes, and the beautiful coastline scenery. I don’t really hate anything about Newcastle, I guess I’m frustrated by the stunted progress of the CBD area, but having said that there are some pretty amazing little shops and businesses starting to appear, which is encouraging.
How is Newcastle different to anywhere else?
Newcastle has such a unique mentality and lifestyle. It is in an elite category of cities that can boast they are built seaside, around such a stunning coastline. The passionate patriotism of Novocastrians is quite intoxicating and very unique too.
Where are your favourite places in Newcastle / Hunter to:
The Bistro (102 Darby St, Cooks Hill) for its beautifully comforting yet innovative cuisine.
The Burwood Inn (77 Berner St, Merewether) for its gorgeous pub atmosphere
And my house because there is nothing quite like a home-cooked meal.
Bar Petite (5/5 King St, Newcastle ) in the east end
Tyrrells Cellar Door (1838 Broke Rd, Pokolbin) the best wines in the Hunter Valley, in my opinion.
Cambridge Hotel (789 Hunter St, Newcastle West) for a beer and a dose of rock and roll.
Colosseum Antiques (116 Maitland Rd, Mayfield)
Betty Mim (176 Darby St, Cooks Hill)
And of course the Jude online store…
Burwood Beach on a sunny day
The banana lounge parked in the sun in my backyard.
What is Newcastle / Hunter’s best-kept secret?
Its lifestyle. So many people outside of Newcastle have an out-dated perception of what it is and what it has to offer – and I think most Novocastrians are happy with that. Their secret is safe for a little bit longer.
Clockwise from top left: Ali Wanchap at home in Adamstown. A sneak-peek of the new season range. Hard at work in the home office. Equine inspiration from a childhood spent on family wool farms. Photos – Siobhan Curran.