How to succeed in fashion, according to Alice McCall

An in-depth look at the woman behind the label.

In six short years, alice McCALL has gone from an e-boutique to an Australian design powerhouse.

alice McCALL has five boutiques around Australia, is stocked around the world and has collaborated with major retailers including Topshop and Target. The Aussie label is also a favourite of fashion’s elite, including Alexa Chung and Kenall Jenner. It seems only natural that the next step for this Australian favourite is the opening of a boutique at Chadstone the Fashion Capital.

Basically, as well as being a design queen, Alice is one powerful businesswoman. Every lady could learn a thing or two from this wonder woman, so when we got to chat to her, it’s only natural we discussed how to succeed in the fashion world and her latest endeavours.

alice McCALL debuted at Australian Fashion Week in 2004, did you ever predict that your label would have grown so large, in such a short amount of time?
I’m not sure if predict would be the right word. I definitely strived for the brand to grow large and I believe I had the drive and vision to see it through. In the early days, having a vision and spending time planning are more prevalent than ever – then my focus shifted to living in the moment and fully appreciating each opportunity that was thrown at me.

alice McCALL is absolutely killing it at the moment, is there anything specifically that has enabled the brand to become such a force to be reckoned with?
Predominantly product – having a strong brand DNA and seeing that shine through every garment and accessory we create. Closely followed by having a strong and reliable team. The brand would be nothing without the talented team I work with.

How do you feel about your designes being rocked by some of fashion’s most famous (the Jenner sisters, Katy Perry and Alexa Chung), not only in Australia, but overseas too?
It is really exciting! I love seeing how such inherently cool girls like Kendall and Kylie can take a garment I have designed and wear it their own way. Alexa Chung and Katy Perry are so fun and stylish, they really epitomize the ‘alice girl’ so to see them wear my designs is really humbling.

Now to the business questions! How did you break into the industry?
I worked as a stylist in London, learning the fundamentals of clothing cuts and putting outfits together. While working there I began designing and selling one of a kind silk pieces. Shortly after, I was approached to design for an Australian fashion label so I moved back to Sydney. A year later I started the alice McCALL brand, when I launched at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in 2004. The rest is history.

Were you always interested in fashion or did you have other career directions in mind?
I really wanted to be an Architect or a Psychologist. As a child I loved drawing buildings and I have always been interested in anthropology and people.

What did you study?
I did a one-year Art Foundation course at Wimbledon College, which was amazing because it got me to London – where I ultimately started my career as a stylist. While the educational aspect is necessary, hands on experience in the industry is invaluable.

How did you know that the time was right to open your first store in Darlinghurst?
It felt like a natural progression for the brand. We launched our e-boutique in 2009 and after the success with that, I knew I wanted a place where customers could see and try on the designs. In 2010 we decided to open a boutique, rather than being stocked in a retailer. It gave us the freedom and control to present the brand in our own personal way, in terms of store layout and merchandising.

What have been your biggest challenges in business? How did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges is finance. An understanding of financial margins in creating products is imperative to the success of a brand. Another challenge that I spent a lot of time developing is the concept of ‘brand DNA’. It is something that I look to in every collection I design and something that I think has definitely contributed to the success of alice McCALL.

What advice do you have for emerging designers who want to succeed in the fashion industry?
Have a clear direction. Know exactly what you want to do and where you want to go. Draw up a business plan with clear and distinct future goals. And lastly, get industry experience with a business that you aspire to.

Where do you see the brand in the next ten years?
We definitely want to continue growing our retail sector. We have just opened our fifth boutique in Chadstone Shopping Centre and are looking to continue this expansion – watch this space.

Alice’s newest botique at Chadstone is open now.


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