The Fashion Folk S01 ep10 : Bettina Liano, Liano Fashion, [Melbourne]
Interview with Bettina Liano
I was unemployed, I was unemployable, I could not hold down a job, people didn't like me, because I was very serious and also as a young person I was also very clever - older people don't like that necessarily, they try to slap you down a bit. I needed money, I had come into some misfortune family wise. I was a bit on the street kind of thing, starving if you will, very hand to mouth.
KM: What is Bettina Liano?
That is all I have ever done since the moment I left school. It is a retail oriented
concept, very directional.
KM: When you say 'directional' what do you mean?
Well I try to move ahead - I am interested in the next greatest, newest thing.
I am one of those artistic sort of souls that agonises over integrity. Although I
am quite good at business I rarely pivot a decision around money.
KM: Just the bottom line.
Yeah, no I avoid looking at the bottom line.
When the new season comes in why do you get so excited because it is new
clothes, it is new parties, new friends, new possibilities.
I started off by accident because I made a dress for a friends 21st Birthday
when I was 19, and the theme was storybook characters, and the year was
1983 and I decided to go as Cinderella dressed in rags. Went to the party,
looked at myself in the mirror and said, 'You are so trendy, so typical, you've
made deconstructive à la Buffalo girls sort of garment,' then the following week
my younger sister picked it up and decided to wear it as a dress (which I would
not have personally) I would have just thrown it away. It was an old sheet
painted, you know scrapped. I've got it somewhere here, tied at the shoulders
and turned up in Chapel Street, which is in Melbourne and that is our big strip.
The boss of the trendiest store saw the dress and said what is that! But almost
in a panic like why don't I know about this, where have you been shopping, and
I laughed and said, "Joe it is an old sheet I made it myself" He said I want you
to make one for the shop. It was like the angels sang, and yellow brick road
and all those big things
KM: Are you serious?
Yeah. It is like the nuns at school, I asked a nun once "why are you a nun,
sister, why are you a nun?' she said because I got a calling, and this was like I
got a calling.
I was unemployed, I was unemployable, I could not hold down a job, people
didn't like me, because I was very serious and also as a young person I was
also very clever - older people don't like that necessarily, they try to slap you
down a bit. I needed money, I had come into some misfortune family wise, like
I was not being supported financially at all - I was a bit on the street kind of
thing, starving if you will, very hand to mouth.
KM: Seriously; an Italian in Melbourne and starving?
KM: So what was the next step?
Well I realised that I better learn how to sew, learn how to make patterns.
KM: So you mean to tell me that when you made this dress you knew nothing
No, I knew how to knit and crochet from when I was little and do embroidery - I
knew that, I was crafty. It turned out I started sewing and I was quite good at
KM: Did you go to RMIT
No, no I did do, I dropped out, I did half of a men's tailoring course, that was it.
And then I thought I had felt I had learnt enough.
I was very girl scout mentality, it was really through my resourcefulness and
being able to get nothing and turn it into something. I worked very slowly in
The success really started financially, I suppose that is how you measure it, it
would have been about 10 years ago when I opened my very first store in
Chapel Street but I had been affiliated with other stores but I actually went out
on my own and I started making the jeans, that is when I started making the
denim, there was not very much in this country on offer, in terms of young
fashion, and I was young, I was slim, I could wear whatever I wanted, so could
my girlfriends, and we had nothing to buy.
I just bought a sewing machine, and I started working from home, and I started
selling whatever I could manage to get.
KM: Under your own label?
KM: So you basically really started off cold, cold.
Yeah, I have got my first invoice that I ever wrote.
Yeah, and I just took one day at a time, I used to cry a lot. I really used to work
really hard and say to myself see it like... I had a lot of vision. I was blessed
with vision, I always had a lot of foresight and I knew like a grain of sand,
every day, every day, was going to amount to my fashion empire. I was
You are only as good as 5 minutes ago in this game, so lucky yeah for a
second, but it what you do with it, you know. Everyone's got the same luck and
everyone gets the same opportunities, that might have happened to other
people, what happened in Chapel Street that day when I was so young, and
they wouldn't have acted upon it.
I watch people on the street and I look at what they are wearing - young
people, you know, like teenagers, they feel the most angst and that is where
the power is, and so they don't want to do what anyone else is doing, and I
reckon that there is a good chance that what they are up to is eventually going
to take hold, and music and all that sort of stuff, just popular culture
KM: So you are saying that it comes from that energy.
Yeah, it is an energy.
I have never cared about the media too much, I used to have a no photo policy
Yeah, I didn't want this to be about me, I really get excited by great design. I
actually really strive to do that more than anything that is my artistic integrity.
I get unnerved when people come up to me and they know my name and I
don't know who they are and you are in a night club and it is 2 o'clock in the
morning you have had a few drinks and you have to talk shop with someone
you don't know because they are completely star struck that they have
discovered that you are Bettina Liano and you feel like going O.K. can I have a
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Bettina Liano, Liano Fashion, Melbourne