Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The real McCall: Alice McCall hangs out her first shingle

Exciting news for Alice McCall fans. Six years after the MTV stylist turned Buddhist Punk womenswear designer and sass & bide staffer launched her now cult eponymous label, which is stocked by over 160 stores in 10 countries, McCall is two weeks away from opening her first bricks-and-mortar store. Frockwriter can reveal that the first Alice McCall flagship will open on November 1st on South Dowling Street in Sydney's Darlinghurst, with a launch party slated for December 8th. 'The Accordion Girls' Spring/Summer 2010/2011 collection will be on the racks. But here is a preview of McCall's '70s-inspired  'Birds of a Feather' Autumn/Winter 2011 collection, that will be showcased in-store via this new branding campaign starring Tallulah Morton, that was produced by Little Hero, shot by Jordan Graham and styled by Jolyon Mason, with innovative graphics courtesy artist Sydney artist Techa Noble (of The Birthday Suit). Earlier today we caught up with McCall by phone from her Bali home, that she shares with partner, designer Nicholas Morley, and their three year old daughter Wilde Rose Morley McCall.

You launched in 2004. Why wait so long before opening a boutique?  
Alice McCall: Really I think the brand grew so quickly and then without proper sort of business planning and structure, I’ve been focussing on just setting up the right team and the infrastructure. Now the business runs so smoothly and efficiently. We’ve got a great gm and we’ve got a great team and it’s just the right time now. I think six years has really gone quite quickly and we’re in the position now where everything’s really planned and strategised. And that’s when we had the shop pencilled in for in the business plan. We’ve found the perfect location, so now it’s happening really quickly.

After Sydney, what’s next on the retail rollout agenda?
My plan would be do another one in Sydney after this. In either of the [two] Westfields. Then I would say Melboune. Definitely just focussing on the Australian market. But look, everything’s just going so well with the label at the moment, particularly with the last collection that we did, 'The Accordion Girls'. What I’ve been doing is really focussing on doing great product – the aesthetic of the product as well as the quality. And our products are amazing - it’s selling out. We’ve had reorders on mycatwalk.com.au before we’ve even dropped the product from The Accordion Girls into store. Twice. They’re substantial, massive reorders.

You have your own online boutique as well don’t you?
Yes we do and it does really, really well, so that was a great indication that a store is going to do fantastically, because our online boutique is going over target every week.

What percentage of your sales would be from online?
It could be about 10-15percent. David Jones is still a really big account. Our biggest international market is Japan. We’ve really maintained that cult following in Japan. We sell to Barneys and have 30 key accounts in Japan.

What percentage of your overall business is Australian?
Most of it is in Australia. And will remain so, because our retail expansion is only focussed on Australia. I think it’s about 70percent.

You literally just signed the release and will open in a fortnight. That’s a mighty fast bump in.
It’s going to be a very quick bump in! What I really like about that area is... There’s D├ęsordre next door which sells Ellery and Fernando [Frisoni]. Nick Tobias, the architect, has sort of bought up the street and is really planning to make it the next Glenmore [Road, Paddington]. They’re really tidying up the street. So it’s great to be a part of that movement which is happening down there. The new stores that are popping up, there’s a new restaurant popping up and then just on Oxford Street you’ve got Shag and Sportsgirl and South West Trader. So it’s great, I’m very happy to be there.

What will the store look like?
It’s really just going to be completely white. I’ve got some amazing art from photographer Emma Summerton, a friend of mine. I’m going to be putting up her prints - the Polaroid series that she did of herself. Then it’s going to be all white piping rails, that look like old industrial piping. And then just really focussing on the product again and the art that I’ll be showing.

Is any particular architect involved in the fitout?
No, not at all. I’ve been working with a graphic designer, Techa Noble. So the exciting thing is, we have this wall on one side of the building that’s two storeys high that we’re going to be able to use as an art wall, to advertise or do whatever we want. So I’m going to be doing different art projects. You can see it from Oxford Street. So definitely, there will be that feeling of art-meets-fashion, with Emma Summerton’s work and using Techa for the great art wall outside.  

You are known for your killer dresses. They’re really a key component of each collection aren’t they?
The percentage is about 65-70percent dresses. It is the bread and butter of the business, absolutely. And whenever we range plan from the beginning, dresses are the thing that we’ll focus on. It’s interesting, Kylie Minogue has just been wearing our stuff and as a result we’ve had requests from Dannii Minogue and I’ve just had an email from [UK stylist] Edward Ennniful from i-D requesting clothes for an Emma Summerton shoot. So the whole PR thing is really gaining momentum at the moment.

What is the DNA of the Alice McCall brand?
I think it’s the colour, the print and the attention to detail, which has I guess a youthfulness and a sense of fun.

You have already shown on international runways, would you do it again?
I showed in London three times and I’ve also shown in New York once. I would show in London again, definitely. Short-term is Australia, again, which goes in line with opening our retail. And then after that, London.
Where is home for you at the moment exactly?
Half and half. I’ve just been in Australia for two months. And now I’ll be here for six weeks. Here is where I start my design and then I go back to Australia and perfect my patterns there with patternmakers. We do about 50percent of our production out of China, 40percent out of Bali and then 10percent in Australia. But I design here and I get a lot of creative freedom here.

Do you hang out with the Australians in Bali or are you too busy working?
Sure I do. Jessie White from Shakuhachi, who is doing so well, is one of my best friends. She’s just down the road. Lou [Iselin], who used to be [South Dowling Street boutique] Capital L and is now Please Louise... I’ve got a handful of Aussies that I see.

photographer: jordan graham

graphic design: techa noble
styling: jolyon mason 
makeup: natasha severino for MAC
hair: pete lennon

both images: supplied exclusively to frockwriter by alice mccall


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