The Fashion Folk S01 ep5 : Alannah Hill, Hill Fsshion, [Melbourne]
Interview with Maxim Voznesensky
Everyone is knocked out by the success. My mother says " You can't sew"...she is still in a paddock in Tasmania. I still send her a magazine with my clothes in it and say mum look at page 44, that is my dress. She'll call up and say "That girl didn't look like you. She is not you". I say "Mum it is not the girl, it is the clothing".
I was always looking for love, wanting to feel love, wanting to give love,
wanting to be loved, and real romance.
I had a very difficult childhood, there were five children, dad was drinking, we
had a little tiny milkbar in a tiny little town. I did anything to forget how I felt, so
I went into mums bedroom one day and put her curtains around me and said
ahhh.....I am beautiful and I put all this make up on, I spent 3 hours reinventing
myself when I was 12, and I came out and I said I am never taking this off, and
to this day at 8.00 in the morning I am dolled up.
I really like money, I wanted to be successful, I wanted my dad to take notice
of me, and I thought I've got to do something, what will I do, so I escaped from
Tasmania when I was 15 and moved to Melbourne, and was ridiculous - did
nude photos, did stupid, a couple of stupid movies, thought I was going to be
an actress and I thought I was going to be a writer and I was struggling and
then I worked for 15 years in a store on Chapel Street. I just walked in one day
and said I need a job.
It was a real fun, little hippy store and overnight I just started up because I was
a big new-romantic then. It was the 80's and I thought I was a Buffalo Girl. I
used to wear the black eye makeup and just looked ridiculous really, but I used
to bring my ideas in and say I think we should do this and they'd say Oh no it
is not going to sell, cause we would do our own manufacturing and was
predominantly jeans and I turned into this mecca of ..... all the mannequins
ended looking like me, I just put all my energies into it. I went on an overseas
trip and got inspirationed and just picked it up as I went along.
I decided to leave there and approached a club friend who is my silent
business partner and he had money and he said o.k. lets open a big store. I
said you are mad, I can't....I was terrified. I sat outside on the opening night
and just thought, What have you done. He pumped a million dollars into the
KM: When was this?
This was eight years ago.
KM Eight years ago..
KM So eight years ago, you took the dash?
I did, I just.... my business partner said, we are doing it. Had no dreams to do
it, he pushed me into it.
At the start of each collection I know I have to design 250 pieces, we have big
meetings, and it is all broken down and the big business heads come and say
o.k. you need 250 pieces, half of it has to be price pointed under $189.00.
Because I have got 8 stores that have to be filled with stock I start with a blank
page at the start of every season and think "can't do it" .
KM: So are you doing 4 season or 2 seasons?
Two seasons so it is 500 pieces a year.
I know that I don't .....there is part of me...I can't draw that well, and I battle
with some of the production issues, but basically it is just instincts.
I have a very good pattern maker, because I couldn't make a pattern to save
myself, but he is very good. I will do a pathetic little drawing and we have
worked together for 8 years. I will say you know that dress we did 4 years ago,
it was backless, sold really well, we will do that again but we will change it
around... we spend a lot of time interacting the pattern maker and I and my
sample machinist and just suddenly is thing on the rack.
I sell very well to Fenwicks in London, and I have just sold to Selfridges in
London and maybe....I have just taken an agent in London and it still only early
days but I think that in London you really need... cause I've got the store with
the accessories. I do handbags, shoes, it is like a whole lifestyle.
Once you have a brand name people expect you to be able to do a bag to go
with the outfit. You don't want to buy other peoples bag so you get this big ego
thing going and think I can do a bag! I can do a shoe! I will get the shoe to
match the bag! You get so caught up in it, that .... I just like the whole circus of
KM: How would you describe your clothing? It has a look between an op shop
and glamour and I am trying to reconcile those two things?
That is me, that is the little poor struggling girl and the posh bitch that I pretend
that I am. And I do love glamour. Any girl that dresses up and looks like a
Million bucks I just think that she has put in so much effort, I think it is sexy.
And these girls that wear the track suits .... it fills me with horror, I think that
they have just given up, you have fallen apart.
I couldn’t just wear two things, I would just feel underdressed and that I would
float away. I wore a pair of jeans once and I absolutely lost my mind. I just felt
like I was going to die, I felt so utterly ordinary.
Because I can't bear to feel ordinary, cause I was ordinary for years as a child,
and I escaped from it with all my mask, and if I go back to it I would be
reminded of that isolation, that desolate feeling so I just struggle. I went on
holiday recently it was boiling hot and I spent most of my time working out how
I would look good and I just thought this is ridiculous, I wanted to go swimming
and I couldn't because I thought I just can't wear the bather. I think other
people can look great in it but I, myself I panic.
I have always liked underwear as outerwear it is a bit sexy it is see through, it
is soft, it is feminine, they are not hard fabrics, they are floaty, they are a bit
flaky, you are a bit flaky, they are soft colours, they are muted, and it is very
KM: What is your dream of Alannah Hill?
That is the trouble at the moment, when you have fulfilled all your dreams,
which I have, you come to a stage where you think.... it was better and bigger
than I ever expected, and now I am at the stage... I am a single mum, I have a
two year old boy and I am at the stage where I think, now what is next... it is a
17 Million dollar business now, 18 million it is.
KM: You must be bigger than some of the other people?
Bigger, bigger than all of them
KM: That is what I am saying...
BIGGER!! than all of them
KM NO I am serious,
Everyone is knocked out by it. My mother says
KM: Whats that darl.....
... you can't sew. You can't sew...she is still in a paddock in Tasmania. I still
send her a magazine with my clothes in it and say mum look at page 44 that is
my dress. She'll call up and say "that girl didn't look like you". She is not you. I
say mum it is not the girl, it is the clothing. You can't sew. She just can't
understand how this has worked
KM: She hasn't come to grips with it yet.
She has been to Melbourne once and she sees the name on the stores and
just says what, what is this. I say mum, it is my store, you can't sew though.
You haven't done a course, you were a hairdresser.
KM: What is like the strangest thing that has happened to you in fashion?
Probably a customer in the store, when I was working there, trying some
clothes on her and she said I find you very attractive Alannah, I said right. She
said "Can I touch your breasts?"
KM: This was a male or a female?
A female. I said, oh yeah that should be ok. She said "ahhhh... that is great.
Oh I am getting some of your energy". I thought you are mental! I said is that
enough now and she said can I go further, I said, no no I think we have done
enough. she said alright then, and she spent $4,000.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Alannah Hill, Hill Fashion, Melbourne