Albus Lumen founder Marina Afonina on the brand’s new collection and why wool is suitable for summer
15th Aug 2019
“It’s an evolution for the brand, but it’s still Albus,” explains Marina Afonina, founder of Albus Lumen, of her International Woolmark Prize collection over the phone to Vogue.
A resort wear-minded label that has become synonymous with ease of wear and effortless chic (Afonina says it best: “it’s a simplicity that doesn’t go out of style”), Albus Lumen proved its transferability into different climates and fabrications when, earlier this year, it was chosen as a finalist in the 2019 International Woolmark Prize.
The single representative of Australian designers among the esteemed list of nominees, the annual affair, held in London earlier this year, is a prestigious competition that celebrates the mutability of Merino wool and the designers that showcase it best, and has been won by late greats Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent.
Now, off the back of the competition, Afonina chatted to Vogue to discuss the release of her all-white collection, ‘Pura Interna’ on MatchesFashion.com, her experience with The Woolmark Company and how her love of wanderlust informs each of the Albus Lumen collections.
Image credit: Albus Lumen
“When I approached [the Woolmark International Prize collection], I wanted to do something different, like a summer approach that people don’t realise wool has,” Afonina explains, noting the opportunity to toy with typically wintrier materials and introduce the brand to new audiences, too. “It has a lot of light, sheer fabrications, it’s very breathable [and] it’s super-comfortable.”
The resulting pieces are a testament to this very multiplicity. Cable-knit sweaters complement lightweight shirting, while quilted blazers lend themselves to layer over billowing dresses, all awash in soft cloud white that beckons summer’s arrival.
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“The collection we presented was called ‘Pura Interna’, which in English translation is pure discovery,” she says. “I wanted to create a white collection as Albus Lumen means ‘white light.'” She continues: “The collection has the same aesthetics [as core Albus Lumen] but it’s obviously evolved a lot… with new elements of tailoring, new elements of evening wear but also still elements of daytime wear that we always do as well.”
Inspired by her travels, from the Mediterranean to Morocco, Afonina honed in on the multiple textures afforded by wool to mimic environmental elements, incorporating Perspex corals and pearls for good measure. “Anything by the sea shore, to the desert… all those natural elements of shells, seaside… [and] sand.” She continues: “I had a couple of pictures I found just from the travellers of Morocco in all-white clothes when they walk through the desert, pictures of Mediterranean walls; old walls that are half chipped.”
And then, she set out to meld juxtapositions. “I wanted to have a balance of sheer with texture, light with heavy, to really show that balance of wool and then make it very trans-seasonal.”
Image credit: Albus Lumen
In the same vein, Afonina set out to explore the diverse potential of the Australian-made natural fibre, pointing out that it is crinkle-free and travels well, and veering away from its traditional use in “lots of suiting and coats.” She explains: “It’s luxury to me. It’s a beautiful texture; so flexible. You can go from light to heavy… You can mix wool with silk, mix wool with jersey.”
Alongside the material’s endless possibilities, the process of working with “Anlaby Station, one of the oldest sheep growers in Australia” provided Afonina with a source of pride, and an incentive too, to promote the local industry. “I want to educate people on new ways with wool.” She adds: “Going there, seeing how the wool has been made and what the process is… I feel very proud that all my products are made in Australia.”
This first-hand exposure encouraged Afonina to embed NFC chips into a five-piece capsule travel collection set to launch in October. Inspired by her travels to Peru, the chips enable wearers to explore how and where their garments were made.
And, though she contends it’s hard to choose favourites, Afonina admits she’s particularly inclined to wear “The big dress [in the collection] – it’s a signature dress for us – it’s made out of Merino wool jersey and then it has another layer of silk on top. It just moves so beautifully.”
Simultaneously, she’s holding out for others to do the same. “I want to see someone from their early 20s to late 60s wearing the brand… [The Albus woman is] a mother, she’s a daughter, she’s a grandmother,” she explains. “Hopefully there’s something for everyone.”
Pura Interna is available to shop on MatchesFashion.com from August 28.