A LOCAL’S GUIDE TO BYRON: Isabella Pennefather / Spell and the Gypsy Collective

ISABELLA PENNEFATHER - OR SPELLY AS SHE'S BETTER KNOWN - IS ONE PART OF THE CLEVER SISTER DUO BEHIND SPELL AND THE GYPSY COLLECTIVE, THE BYRON-BASED FASHION COMPANY WITH A FAN-BASE THAT CROSSES THE GLOBE. MARGOT ROBBIE, CHRISSY TEIGAN, ALLESANDRA AMBROSIA, MILEY CYRUS, CANDICE SWANEPOEL, VANESSA HUDGES, AND BYRON'S MOST FAMOUS LOCAL MUM, ELSA PATAKY ARE ALL RUSTED-ON FANS.

While Spell designs tap into that sense of nostalgia, beauty and freedom that so compliments the female spirit, Spell is also so much about the dynamic and invested community that Spelly and her sister Lizzy have built around them.

We love Spelly’s crazy work ethic, her passion for design, and the inspiration she draws on for every new collection, whether it’s from viewing the tenth re-run of a fave movie, or the rich colours in a stunning peach and purple sunset.  She’s a devoted partner to Dougall, the love of her life, and Mum to two energetic boys – Texas and Jagger.  And she’s a new home owner having just finished building her dream home, Four Palms, in Byron with the building team at Ziegler Build and with design help from Mel Gubbin, another Byron-local success story who is owner/creative behind design and project management company, Avenue Twenty Two.

This is Byron Spelly-style!

How long have you been a Byron-ite?

12 years now. I moved up from Melbourne after realising I was done with city life. I hopped in my 1980 Toyota Corolla and drove up with nothing but my favourite pillow and a few clothes.

What drew you to the area and what do you love about living here?

When I decided to leave Melbourne I knew I didn’t want to live in another huge city.  I thought I’d settle somewhere in between Sydney and Brisbane and then I thought of Byron Bay.

A few years earlier, my sister Lizzy and some girlfriends drove up to Byron to go to the Blues and Roots Festival which was then held at Red Devil Park. We hadn’t booked anywhere to stay and found a sign on the street saying Beds $100 Each, so we crashed on the floor in someone’s house on Bangalow Road.

And we didn’t have tickets to the festival either so made some fake wrist bands and snuck in. So bad I know but if was so fun! Then we had the best time exploring this cute little area in Byron’s hinterland.

And on another occasion we actually hitched up to Byron Bay and spent New Year’s there with a few other friends, staying in a friend’s Tee Pee in Ewingsdale. We stayed up all night on NYE and watched the sunrise huddled up in our sleeping bags on the beach. We had the best time and after leaving Byron, ended up travelling all the way up to Airlie Beach, Mission Beach and Cairns.

So I guess that’s how we were introduced to Byron Bay.  Byron represented a huge sense of freedom and free spirit and crazy fun. It was pre-instagram, pre-blogger world, pre cool bars and cool accommodation - just hostels, caravan parks and beers at the Beach Hotel.  So I guess that’s what drew me to Byron Bay -  the simple free life and spiritual energy the town held.  And it always felt far away from the worries and stresses of the busy city I used to live in.  

How has Byron influenced your style and lifestyle?

Well I have definitely changed into a beach gal! Living in Melbourne it was more shopping, pubs, work and driving everywhere.  We’re so spoilt with the beaches in Byron Bay and the water can be the most turquoise clear water I’ve seen anywhere in the world. Our beaches are in my heart as my all-time faves.  Life in Byron is more about the outdoors, and as well as the beaches, there are so many adventures to be had just out of town. My dress sense is a lot more breezy and laid back too.  And since moving here and meeting Dougall, the love of my life, I’ve become a lot healthier in what I eat. Being surrounded by organic and healthy food is just great!

IN BYRON, YOUR FAVE PLACE FOR …

Brunch? 

Top Shop. So good! Their ham and cheese croissants are to die for and the American Burger pure yummmm!

A healthy cheap takeaway?

I love going to Combi with the family and more often than not get a smoothie to take away. And we love fab Japanese restaurant Japonaise for on-the-go sushi lunch on the weekends. 

A not-so-healthy but super tasty meal?

Main Street Burger Bar. The classic cheeseburger is so good, and if it’s after midday, the jalapeño margarita is too. 

Fancy dinner to impress?

You can be laid back anywhere you go in Byron but if I have to choose a super special date night place, St Elmo or The Italian would be my go-to’s.

A cocktail?

The Italian, St Elmo or Loft which do a great lychee chilli coconut martini.

Date night?

Bang Bang or Treehouse are always fun.

WHERE DO YOU GO TO …

Find a last-minute outfit? 

Hope and May have great party dresses, and yeah prob just go into my store Spell and grab what ever I can find that’s right for the occasion. Or I’ll rummage through our storage room at Spell HQ and grab a sneaky sample. I’m always getting into trouble for wearing things that haven’t come out yet! 

Get your hair done? 

I never go out and get my hair done. I either get my twin sister Lucy to do it for me, or I curl it myself with a hair twirler.

Get your nails and beauty maintenance done?

Byron Bay Beauty Bar. OMG it’s my new fav pamper place. I always get nail polish Number 26. It’s the best pinky nude colour. I’ve been wearing fluoro pink nail polish for the last 10 years and have finally started to mix it up! And they also do hair.

Buy something for your home?

I’ve been living and breathing home stuff for the past year trying to figure out what furniture, rugs decoration styles we want.  So I could give you a list of a thousand places, but here are a few of my faves.  Nikau in Byron are amazing for nic-nac’s, ceramics, flowers and pots; Uniqwa have some great furniture; Habitat in the industrial estate is amazing for just about everything home décor-wise; Tigmi Trading and Citizen Nomad for rugs, cutlery and ceramics; Markett have great rugs and pillows and we’re also getting some custom made pieces from Salt x Steel.

Listen to good music?

Home. Dougall and I love the oldies - country, blues, 80’s, rock, Dolly Parton. We have the best play list that will get you on a road trip all the way across America.  I want to share it with everyone it’s so good. I also love Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, Kendrick Lamar, and pretty much Beyonce is playing every time I get in the car. Ever since I saw her at Coachella I’ve been obsessed! 

Pick up your favourite market finds? 

I save most of my market shopping for LA – Rose Bowl and Melrose Trading Post are faves. And I also love vintage shopping around Byron Bay and Mrs Brown in particular. 

Get out of Byron for a day trip?

We love Brunswick Heads and it’s not too far away.  It has great places to eat like Footbridge for breakfast and we love the vintage and home shopping around the town.  Swimming in the river at high tide is a must followed by pizza and a margarita or beer at the Brunswick pub.  It’s a perfect end to a perfect day.

THE BEST … 

Coffee spot and what to order?

Sparrow for its coconut or macadamia milk cappuccino.

Bar for a Sunday session?

We love The Loft.  It’s a great people watching spot and you can see the ocean too.  It’s also a fab place to be to see the sky at sunset.

Places to eat with the girls?

We did a huge lunch at the Balcony Bar recently and had the banquet. The food was just amazing, the cocktails just kept flowing and the view is amazing.  I just love being somewhere high where you can see out, rather than being tucked away where you have no sense at all of where you are.   And we love meeting up for a pre-school pick up cocktail hour at The Treehouse! It’s so good there and you can always sneak in a quick dip in the ocean too.

Gym/fitness studio?

I’m old school and still go to pump at Body Workz. It’s such a great gym. I would go to Creature Yoga if I could ever make the time these days, but instead end up getting private classes at home.  It’s just easier with my busy life.

Outdoor places to workout?

The Lighthouse walk. Boom! 

Exercise of choice? 

Yoga for stretches and strengthening different parts of my body, The Lighthouse walks for some cardio and legs, and then pump for a lot of arm strengthening. These three activities keep me balanced 

Local beach?

Captain Cook’s is a fave of mine and there are always lovely waves there for the kids and lagoon vibes when it’s calm. I love any beach that is tucked in a cove.  Wategos is always a treat too. It makes me feel like I’m on some famous beach in Italy. It’s just one of the most magical beaches in the world and it’s on our doorstep. We are very lucky, although during summer I just catch a taxi there so I don’t have to bother about looking for a park.

Your travel destinations of choice?

I could do an American road trip every year across Arizona.  It’s the best.  And Bali is so close, easy and affordable and there’s so much to do there for adults and kids.

Next Australian travel destination?

We’re going to Stanthorpe which is 3 hours inland from Byron Bay for New Years. We want to visit the national parks and swim in the amazing waterholes there. But our next big Aussie adventure will be Kununurra in far north Western Australia, just near the Kimberleys.   I went there for the Spell “Wild Thing” photoshoot, but was only there for 2 days. I want to go back there with the family, and spend a bit more time exploring one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to in Australia.

Next overseas travel destination? 

We have nothing booked right now so I’m excited to see where we’ll end up next year.  I’m thinking maybe a Fiji trip. I’ve never been there and it sounds perfect for a really relaxing family get away.

Finish this sentence. You know you’re a Byron local when… 

All the coffee shops know your coffee order.

Something only a Byron local would know…

The back streets through town to avoid the traffic!

Your best tip for someone holidaying in Byron…

Make sure you visit all the beaches and lock into sitting on one of them to watch the sun go down. Book in to a few good restaurants so you don’t miss out and include The Treehouse in Belongil. It’s such a great place and it really makes you feel like you’re on a tropical island somewhere, living it up with yummy wood-fire pizzas and cocktails.

A quintessential Byron outfit that you should pack for your holiday…

Beach bag, hat, sunnies easy to carry sunscreen, swimmers, kimono, fave Spell play dress, sandals and some wedges. Things that can take you straight off the beach and into the bar. That’s the Byron way!