Written by Emma-Charlotte Bangay
Alice McCall and Australian fashion is like MILO and milk; what’s one without the other? The Sydney-siders eponymous pieces are some of our favourites, and in the label’s 13th year, the playful and feminine brand is just getting stronger.
Checks and Spots chatted to Alice about how she has managed to entrance the biggest celebrities in the world with her playful and experimental designs, what she wants her daughters to learn from her life and how no plan can be the best plan.
Alice McCall: The Business Woman
From the beginning, have you worked to a big plan or big dreams?
I worked as a stylist in London about 15 years ago, so that was my focus at the time until I began making a few of my creations on the side. This led me to be approached to design for a label back in Sydney and following that the launch of my label a year later – and here I am now! I didn’t have a big picture plan. Instead, I embraced where opportunities took me.
What is the secret to longevity in the Australian fashion industry?
Listen to your target market. Make clothes and create designs that are irreplaceable.
What is your take on the recent closures of many big Australian brands?
The industry is quite small in Australia, and everyone knows each other, so it’s sad whenever this happens. It’s important to support each other, and while it’s tough when the market is smaller, it’s also very rewarding when you can make an impact.
What inspires you?
My inspiration is constantly changing, but it often comes back to great artists and vintage pieces. Traveling is a big source of inspiration for me. I find inspiration in everything that I do and see whether it’s a little doily on a vintage store table or detailing on an old Victorian jacket.
Who inspires you?
My mother. I value absolutely everything she has taught me on a design level. She has influenced my career as a designer and been a huge inspiration to me throughout my life and career.
What is the best advice you received?
Don’t be afraid to take a risk and go with your intuition. Act with confidence on what you think will work.
What has spurred you on over the past 13 years?
I love what I do every day. Yes, there are always hurdles along the way but with the right attitude, getting over these hurdles is what makes you and your business continuously grow.
Where are your favourite international hot spots right now?
I love Los Angeles. They have the best vintage shopping from the downtown flea markets to the Hollywood Appointment Only designer vintage stores. I always find inspiration in vintage pieces, which I echo throughout my designs.
Your celebrity following is fashion folklore. Can you tell us how – and with whom – this all first started?
It is so humbling to see strong and beautiful women wearing my designs. A definite “pinch-me” moment was when Beyoncé was seen dressed in a lot of my pieces towards the end of 2016. Beyoncé’s stylist reached out to us on Instagram, and I personally liaised with her. She chose a few pieces for Beyoncé, and I added in a few that I thought would look amazing on her. We’ve also had incredible girls like Chanel Iman and Kylie Minogue wearing and loving our designs. It’s an exciting time for the brand, and I can’t wait to see who next will be in an Alice McCall design!
How did your celebrity clientele change the brand Alice McCall?
It is amazing how strong the celebrity factor is. As soon as we posted an image of Beyoncé in our Senorita Dress, it sold out both online and in stores within a week. It shows that the celebrity pull in this day and age is so incredibly powerful in the sale of product and gaining recognition all around the world.
Who would you still love to dress?
There are a few girls of the moment that I think are amazing and would wear an Alice piece well – Suki Waterhouse, Jeanne Damas to name a couple.
Alice McCall: The Woman
How do you switch off and just be ‘Mum’?
Spending time with the children is my elixir. There is no better way to unwind, so it’s not difficult for me to juggle work with motherhood. I’m not entirely structured with routine, but more intuitive, according to my children’s needs. Night time is our time together with lots of cuddles and connection about their days.
On the flip side, how do you involve your children in what you do, and harness their creativity?
One of our favourite things to do together, and with my mother too, is anything creative – painting and drawing.
What is one virtue or value you would most like your children to inherit from you?
To work hard and always be kind to people along the way. It’s also important to make sure you love what you do and enjoy every second of it.
If you weren’t a designer, what would you be doing?
I think I’d still be styling in London. I spent ten years there, styling the likes of Kate Moss and Destiny’s Child. I love visiting London and have many fond memories at the Portobello Markets – a place that I spent a lot of my time and somewhere I always have to go when I’m back in London.
What would Alice of 2017 advise Alice of 2004 today?
That you had a lot of hard work ahead, but to always have fun while doing it!
Favourite Beauty Product?
Photographer, Simon Davidson
What is your secret indulgence?
I love a 3 pm sweet treat! Also, can never go past the Black Sesame Ice Cream Mochi at Cho Cho San.
Favourite family ritual?
Going for walks with my girls and adventuring around the rocks and little waterfalls behind Bronte beach.
Favourite alone time activity?
I love going to a yoga class. One of the things I love about yoga is the combination of meditation and exercise in one. Ideal for the time poor!
What are you listening to in the office at the moment?
70’s disco music.