Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Belinda Seper on Bowral's "jeans of no fashionable persuasion"

And here is the Southern Highlands mag Q&A with Belinda Seper. As with Maggie T, Seper pulls no punches vis-a-vis the local scene.

For anyone not familiar with the name, Seper is Australia's pre-eminent multibrand fashion retailer.

A former model, Seper launched her first boutique in Sydney's Double Bay 16 years ago.

Belinda is now a mini retail empire which embraces 13 boutiques in three states - and a new boutique in Johannesburg.

The boutiques sell over 200 brands; a rollcall of the world's best, and best emerging, fashion names, from Lanvin to Marni, Friedrich Gray to 18th Amendment (many of them Belinda exclusives in Australia). Seper also operates Marni's and Vanessa Bruno's only standalone Oz boutiques to open to date, both in Sydney.

Although in this i/v she says a Southern Highlands Belinda boutique is not on the cards, last year Seper did open the Twig & Blossom florist/homewares store in Bowral's Corbett Plaza - opposite (Chadwicks Models founder) Peter Chadwick's now defunct Fruit Shop.

This was recorded in September 2006 in Milan. Seper spends 12-16 weeks on the road each year buying and I was there attending the SS07 shows.

What is the first thing that you do when you get to the Southern Highlands?
Belinda Seper: Run out and check what’s happening in my garden because I’ve lavished rather a lot of care and attention on it and so I’m always curious to see what progress has happened overnight. I get a lot of joy out of it but I probably shouldn’t be so obsessive. A watched pot never boils - a watched plant doesn’t grow any faster. I just keep watching all my rosebuds and wondering how long it’s going to take [for them to flower]. They’re quite promising at the moment.

What can't you live without in the Southern Highlands?
Space, I think. I love having that sense of space around me and not knowing that everyone is piled in on top of everything. Physical space that also gives one an emotional and mental space as well. It’s great for thinking time.

What do you think the region need more of?
I think it could use a few more restaurants – a few more restaurants with less cocktail sauce. Just a little bit more of what one might loosely define as ‘modern Australian cuisine’. A little bit more of that and less of the I suppose stereotypical country fare. Less of what you’d call the ‘faux heritage look’: the brass light fittings with big round balls on them and the dreary wallpaper. You can go to Milton Park and that’s all very lovely and there’s a few places, but I can count them on one hand. Maybe people don’t eat out down here. I tend to go the same places over and over. My absolute favourite is The Magpie Café in Berrima, which I never tire of. Because I think they have got it right.

What do you think of the Southern Highlands fashion scene and is there any chance of seeing a Belinda store open there?
I think it [the scene] is appropriate to its situation. When in Rome darling, wear a toga. When in the country, there’s a certain look isn’t there? There is. One needs one of those sleeveless vest things – a Barbour – and a pair of flat riding boots, jeans of no fashionable persuasion and a cheery little checked shirt, with the collar turned up. Preferably accessorised with a Louis Vuitton handbag and one of those silver fob chains. And a pair of designer sunglasses. There’s a definite look: rural chic. Or "Agrichic". Actually the riding boots can be interchanged with a pair of serviceable flatties, along with the cheerful checked shirts. I’m not sure where they [the checked shirts] come from but I think that RM Williams could be responsible.

Boutique? Definitely no. Because I think there seems to be an inconsistency between my view of fashion and that embraced by the majority of the local inhabitants. In other words I think I would appeal to a very select minority, which in business terms is unsustainable. There are a few that would get it but the majority of people are probably a little too price-conscious. I think we see the world a little differently.

And finally - how is Moss Vale different to Milan?
The most striking difference I think that I can keenly observe, is that Moss Vale is two words and Milan is only one. Let’s leave it at that.


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