A chat with Obus founder + designer + lovely lady Kylie Zerbst
When did Obus start?
I’ve been running Obus for so long now that I almost need to look that up. I started it 19 years ago. We will be 20 next year and all grown up I guess!
What inspired you to start it?
Graphic design was the path I chose at University, and a few years after that whilst studying for my masters I took my first trip overseas to India and that changed my life. For someone who’d barely travelled out of Victoria, spending those months in India totally blew my mind. It changed the way I thought everything and how I wanted to spend my days. That’s why Obüs was born. Travel has remained the central inspiration behind what we create.
What’s the general gist of Obus?
Obus creates beautiful and practical wearables for the modern woman. We release four clothing collections a year, featuring original prints, quality fabrics, and accessible shapes for every body type and size. We also have an accessories range comprising socks, leather goods, footwear and most recently, jewelry. Each collection is inspired by a destination – real or imagined – we take our ladies on a different journey each season.
What is your philosophy?
It took me many years to realise what my dream was beyond the pure creativity of designing clothing. My dream now is to run a healthy and sustainable business that will always be small enough to be personal. To create retail environments where women of many different sensibilities can feel comfortable and respected. The same idea applies to the Obus family. We have an amazing team of creative women working within Obus. Obus is an inclusive and collaborative place to work and we strive to incorporate ideas and goals from all members of the team at all levels of the business.
What are you hoping Obus is known for?
Well-made clothing and accessories that are timeless but have a sense of style, originality and confidence. We love colour and bold, conversation-starting prints.
What are your favourite pieces?
That’s a super hard one. There’s a little bit of me in every piece we design – so I love them all! I often feel very attached to our printed styles because I create the prints myself and I can sometimes spend days and days on a single design.
Tell us about your work/life balance/juggle.
I work three days a week. Those are the days that Orlo (4) has childcare all day. During busy periods or if I’m shooting our collection I’ll work extra and Orlo will hang with my partner Simon or his Granny. Simo works about the same amount of hours as me so we are a very 50/50 family in terms of sharing the load. It works well for us and we get a lot of family time together. We head out of the city most weekends so it’s never long between adventures. We foster a flexible approach to life in the studio and at our stores, as some of our ladies teach, study, have young families, or run businesses alongside their roles at Obus.
Can you share some favourite moments from your business journey so far?
You know what, maybe this is so daggy but I have favourite moments every day. Everytime I see a post on instagram of someone in their favourite Obus dress, or cycling by wearing a top from years ago, or a customer emailing to say how they appreciate the service they received in store or online. That feels nice!