AAlice Dwyer is someone who wasn’t afraid to follow her dreams. Moving from the corporate world into the creative world was a huge step for her. It was something that she just had to. She admits that it was a scary move, but in the end, a fulfilling one.

I caught up with this adventurous, creative lady to chat about her self-named fashion line. Her quaint but stylish studio sits above a gorgeous little florist in Armadale, Melbourne. We take a wander up High Street Armadale to one of many lovely cafes for a chat. We chose The Lovebird Cafe for it’s cute little picket fence and mod plastic chairs. After having too many coffees already that day, a lovely herbal tea was very refreshing.

I hope this interview inspires you to take that plunge and follow your passion.

What made you want to get into fashion design and how did you get started?

I worked in advertising for about 10 yrs, which inspired me to try and market a product which I was passionate about. After thinking hard about it, I asked myself ‘If I could be anything in the world, what would it be?”. I came up with two things – a travel writer or fashion designer.

Alice Dwyer - Melbourne

I googled some information and a short course in France popped up. Within 6 months I moved to Paris and was booked into this month long course in fashion marketing and merchandising. Through that course I met a lot of people including a guy named Thomas Engelhart (Menswear designer) who was starting his own label, so I went and interned for him.

After about 6mths I had to leave the country. I went home to renew my visa and returned to work for Thomas for another year and a half. We worked out of his apartment. I ran the office, putting his shows together and just loved it! Work was really busy and the pay was low, but I was in Paris and that was just amazing!
Ever since then I haven’t felt like I’ve really worked again. I’m doing something I love.

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Where do you look for inspiration for your collections? What are your designs influenced by?

I look at colour and texture. The fabric inspires the dress rather than the other way around. I’m not trained in design. My designs are things I want to wear but can’t find. For example this yellow jacket I’m wearing is inspired by a vintage Jenny Packham jacket probably from 1960’s which was given to me by a friend about five years ago. It came with a dress, both in yellow. My whole first collection was inspired by that dress and jacket! The yellow is even the same. I had the fabric in the collection dyed to match that yellow.

I try to create classic, timeless pieces that people can wear forever.

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Who are your favourite designers and why?

I have so many! I really love Peter Pilotto, a designer for Pucci, who has his own line now. Roland Mouret is where I get a lot of my inspiration from. Sarah Burton, the designer for Alexander McQueen. Victoria Beckham! Martin Grant’s simple structure is another inspiration for me.

Who is someone famous that you would like to be seen in your designs?

Asher Keddie! I adore her! It would also be incredible to see Salma Hayek in my clothes. I like to see real women’s bodies in structured clothes. I’d like to see the new editor of French Vogue, Emmanuelle Alt, in my designs. She never wears dresses so it would be an honour to see her in one of my dresses!

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interview - coffee time with alice dwyer - fashion designer in melbourne

What does your typical work day involve?

Right now I’m working full time. When working for my label, I’m running errands all morning, go see my pattern makers, looking at fabric, go to appointments. I’m also a stylist, so I help people with clothes shopping. I wish that sounded more exciting than what it is!

Name the three favourite pieces of clothing that you own?

1. My Sonya Rikiel navy blue, long winter coat. It’s tailored and just beautiful! I had no money but went to this outlet shop in Paris and bought it for 80% off. Still way more than I could afford but I loved it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever bought!
2. The boots that I’m wearing also bought in Paris. I love them so much!
3. My locket that I’m wearing. It was a 21st birthday present from my mum and dad. My dad passed away mid last year. My boyfriend stole it from me to have dad’s initials, his date of birth and the day he died engraved on it. He also put photos of us in it. It had always been a favourte piece of jewellery of mine but now it’s that much more special with the photos in there. The baby in there is me!

What do you love most about your job?

The fact that it doesn’t ever feel like I’m working! I both love and hate that I make all the decision. I never feel like I’m missing out on something like when I was in the corporate world. Back then, it felt like I was always waiting for what I was going to do with my life.

What has been the highlight so far?

Just seeing every piece come to life from the idea to the completed garment. Seeing my collection finished. Having people buy my designs!

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What motivates you to keep doing what you are doing?

I feel like I’m creating a lifestyle for myself rather than just a business. I want to see where and how far I can go.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Bigger studio, a couple of employees, everything made on site. Selling a small part of the collection overseas. I’d like to have a shop in the Bon Marché (Paris) next to Martin Grant. It would be nice to have a few of my designs sold in a few select stores around the world.

What’s the most fabulous place that you’ve been to?

India! Paris is amazing but India blew my mind! The colours are incredible and the people are so caring and helpful. I was nervous when I went there by myself, but it was easy.

What do you love about Melbourne?

Aside from this being where I grew up, and that my family is here, I love the juxtaposition of living in an urban jungle and being able to go to the beach on the same day. The international cuisine! The architecture and food is amazing here. You also get to dress up in winter!

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What are some words which best describes you?

Open and honest. Although I have been described as intense!

What is your favourite quote?

“Before you leave the house, take a look in the mirror and take one thing off” – Coco Chanel
Even today I looked in the mirror and took off a ring! I liked that ring, but it was just a little too much.

How would you describe your fashion style?

Minimalistic. I wear the same thing for years! I’m very low maintenance! (My beautician told me that!) I like the basics and dress for comfort. Casual but not boring.

What is your favourite mood lifter?

Quiet nights watching television in my pyjamas. Trashy mags give me an escape from reality. It calms me down. Going out into the city with friends. Just a phone call with a girlfriend will give me a lift.

Finish this sentence: To be happy, fabulous and successful, a woman should……………….

Never take ‘no’ for an answer! Take one step at a time and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
Link to Alice’s website – http://www.alicedwyer.com.au