There are few people who can envisage working with their life partner – let alone doing so successfully – but for Louise Olsen and Stephen Ormandy, who co-founded Australian label Dinosaur Designs more than 30 years ago, it’s proven a winning formula.
“Stephen and I have always worked very harmoniously together,” admits Olsen from her sun-drenched Strawberry Hills studio. “We don’t take any prisoners and we’re brutally honest with each other, but it’s a wonderful adventure and creative endeavour to share together.”
After a chance meeting on their very first day of art school, Olsen and Ormandy created Dinosaur Designs almost by accident. “We started making things on Friday evenings and selling them at Paddington markets, and it just snowballed from there,” Olsen tells style influencer Jasmin Howell as part of our FIAT 500 Fashion Files.
Although they now occupy prime shelf space at the likes of Bergdorf Goodman and Victoria & Albert Museum, the design process behind a Dinosaur Designs piece remains the same since those fateful Friday nights. Every piece, be it a statement bangle or a sculptural vase, is made by hand in Sydney, and no two pieces are the same. “Resin is a lot like paint when it’s poured, it’s like a clear liquid honey,” explains Olsen. “We mix all the colours by hand, so when it gets poured into a mould its’s very much about the way the paint and the resin moves together in that moment.”
For Olsen, who designs both objet d’art and accessories, the worlds of art and fashion are beautifully intertwined. “When you’re putting an outfit together, it’s like putting a composition together,” she muses. “I see it like creating an artwork or a sculpture – when you add a great pair of earrings or a fantastic necklace, the whole piece comes together.”
She views all the jewellery she designs as mini sculptures in their own right, from the way a piece dances off the collarbone to the light shining through a fragment of resin dangling from the earlobe.
“Everything I design I also want to wear,” she says. “Style is something you grow and develop. You see things that you can relate to, and then that becomes part of your style.”
It’s a philosophy that applies equally to interior design, which Olsen likens to “jewellery for the home.”
“A room is a composition as well and when you put a beautiful vase on the table, think about how much that enlivens the rooms, either through a shape or a colour,” she says. There’s so many wonderful elements to play with.”