THE GRACE TALES FEATURE
The Vibrant World of Saint Cloche Founder Kitty Clark
BY GEORGIE ABAY
PUBLISHED NOV 17 2020
In her former life, the striking Kitty Clark landed a dream role as a luxury fashion merchandiser at Gucci…
It was a role which took her to Europe frequently, and one which primed her well for the next chapter in her life.
She’s now a mother of two and the founder of Paddington art gallery Saint Cloche, where every fortnight, you’ll discover a new exhibition from the likes of Bec Smith, Emily Imeson, Olympia Antoniadis, Katie Daniels, Bettina Willner Browne and many more. Kitty’s main focus is championing emerging artists. “I wanted to create a space that wasn’t your traditional ‘white cube gallery’, that didn’t have that eerie, uptight silence when you walked in and was instead, friendly in feeling and accessible to all,” she says.
Artists who exhibit at Saint Cloche don’t have to have a traditional fine art background. “We have exhibited and represent a few artists that are award-winning and highly respected designers in their field or previous profession. The key is to be able to see the potential, that with time, exhibiting experience and working together, their artistic ‘eye’ and practice can evolve and grow,” she says.
Kitty fell pregnant with her first child when the gallery was two. And while running her business is undeniably non-stop, it also comes with that one thing all working mothers need – flexibility. “Having the freedom to decide how much time I can spend nurturing my young family.” It’s just one of the many things she loves about running Saint Cloche. “Also, breaking new ground as an avant-garde gallery – Saint Cloche is quite unique in that we change our exhibitions fortnightly, and can manage up to 40-50 artists per year (this includes artists in group shows too),” she says.
Here, we dive deeper into her wonderfully creative world.
Tell me about your main focus, which is championing emerging artists – tell me where this passion comes from?
I love discovering new talent and presenting them to audiences in innovative and unusual ways. As a creative, I have always strived to find unique ways to express my individualism, whether it’s in fashion, art or simply dishing up my favourite home cooked meal. I wanted to create a space that wasn’t your traditional ‘white cube gallery’, that didn’t have that eerie, uptight silence when you walked in and was instead, friendly in feeling and accessible to all. Saint Cloche’s opening events have become a mainstay in our community’s social calendar and even though we’ve had to halt our opening night parties at the gallery, our virtual tours have become just as sought after.
Australia is such an amazing country with a rich and diverse art community, yet it is also very competitive and can be challenging for emerging artists to find a democratic space to exhibit their art. Whether you are an artist or a keen art collector, the art world can be intimidating and tense. We take the angst out of the whole process and don’t mind going against the grain and being a bit tongue-in-cheek.
You don’t have to have a traditional fine art background to exhibit in Saint Cloche – tell me about this approach?
There are a lot of artists who are ‘self-taught’, some artists developed their art from being a creative from a different background. We have exhibited and represent a few artists that are award-winning and highly respected designers in their field or previous profession. The key is to be able to see the potential, that with time, exhibiting experience and working together, their artistic ‘eye’ and practice can evolve and grow.
Your background is in fashion merchandising – tell me about your career path?
I have always been a passionate creative, I was an artist in the early years, eventually my creative energy found its place in the world of fashion which I absolutely loved, it was fast paced and exciting. I learnt a lot working my way up from the retail floor, it was invaluable practical experience – one of the most important lessons I took away from working in retail was that everyone and anyone that walks in the door is a potential client, regardless of age or how they are presented. I learned how to be sales driven.
Eventually dabbling in design for a little while then landing a dream role as a luxury fashion merchandiser at Gucci, travelling to Europe frequently. Within the role I had a to work with various teams within the company locally and globally, there was constant communication with category directors, regional merchandising teams, Marketing, E-commerce and most importantly the stores. Working together with multiples teams on a global scale was hard work and long hours but also very rewarding in so many ways. Working in luxury broadened my viewpoint in my approach to new ideas, they had to be innovative to be ahead of the game. There was always a 360 degree view across all channels of operation, it enabled us to deliver rich and personalized experiences to our customers.
As a seasoned merchandiser, I knew who our clients were very well, their likes, their dislikes and what they aspired to like. There was always a strong sense of achievement when the collections that were bought performed well and exceeded expectations. I thrived on buying the ‘right’ merchandise for our market.
My creative passion grew with the role, I was tiring of the familiar and needed to be challenged creatively. I needed to be constantly evolving to feel nourished, to grow. Working in such an innovative industry inspired me to seek out undiscovered terrain. I believe in order to grow, change is important.
Was it a hard decision to step away from Gucci?
To be honest, I was at a crossroads. I was doing very well at Gucci and had secured my position in the company as a valued and very knowledgeable employee. How could I let all the years of hard work and knowledge go? In the end I decided, if you have the drive and patience, then knowledge and life lessons learnt can be just as valuable applied into anything you’re passionate about.