This November saw our first Annual General Meeting as the Australian Fashion Council since the earlier merging of the two former entities… and what a long way our organisation has come! A big thank you to all who have been part of this journey, and to those who made it along to the AGM held in Sydney, where we heard from our AFC Board Co-Chairs Edwina McCann and John Condilis, Board Director Simon Stewart, and our CEO Dave Giles-Kaye. Now that we are at the end of the year, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the highlights from 2018, and take a look at what projects are on the AFC horizon…
With 8 retail stores across Victoria and NSW, including their newly opened Chapel Street concept store in Melbourne, we caught up with Nique’s Creative Director, Nadia Jones!
Get to know the finalists for this year’s Student Award at Melbourne Fashion Week; Hannah Berry, Lucy Broomhall, Navarone Johnson, Nigel Vogler! The award acknowledges the top five student collections which demonstrate excellence in research and development of fashion design, innovation, construction and potential to contribute to the future growth of the industry. We're thrilled to support the award alongside the City of Melbourne and búl.
The largest-ever international presentation of Victorian fashion is set to showcase in Hong Kong this December as part of Hong Kong Business of Design Week (HK BoDW), Asia’s premier design event! Running from the 1st-9th, the ‘Melbourne Fashion Showcase’ will see over 50 Victorian designers across three exhibitions and two showcases.
The largest-ever international presentation of Victorian design will be showcased at Asia’s premier design event, Hong Kong Business of Design Week (BODW) this December 2018 and we, the Australian Fashion Council, are thrilled to be a part of it!
AFC MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
MEET | HILLS & WEST
Founder & Creative Director
This week we caught up with Aisha Hillary-Morgan, Founder and Creative Director of luxury accessories brand Hills & West…
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR OWN INDUSTRY BACKGROUND AND WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO ‘FASHION’?
In a few words; branding, marketing, tech, startups, fashion and now a fabulous combination of them all. I have been lucky to have a pretty colourful background in a diverse range of industries and countries, working for some pioneering people and companies. In October of 2014, I decided to change track from my 20 or so years working for other people and set up on my own. This was the beginning of Hills & West, my all Australian-made, lifestyle bag and accessory label.
My love for fashion started at a very young age, always doing dress ups and styling my friends. It was always a passion on the side while I build my career in marketing and tech. However every year, to temper my creative hunger and to help me to continue to grow, I would always try and learn a new skill. I have been doing this for as long as I can remember, and activities have included; meditation, DJing, fashion drawing, Dragon Boat racing and French. In 2014 I decided I would gift myself a luxury handbag-making course in Milan, between my Singapore and London work trips. I was instantly hooked. I loved the artisan techniques, their passion, the history and craftsmanship and all I wanted to do was come back home and make Australian luxury pieces, at attainable prices. My new path had been carved.
After I resigned from my global role in tech, people kept asking if I was scared and nervous to go into the unknown. I had not really thought about nerves as I was more of a jump first and think later kind of person. I had created and grown so many businesses for other people, so why not do it for myself. I knew that I had the passion, confidence and support network to help me through any challenge. This has been the dream and is what drives me everyday.
HOW DID HILLS & WEST COME TO BE? WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE BRAND?
I drew inspiration from my experience as a frequent flyer for work. I always had to go from the plane to the boardroom, to dinner, to the plane again… and many variations of the same dance. My ‘seedling’ vision for Hills & West was to create a product for professional women that were sophisticated, stylish, versatile and practical.
Today, Hills & West is a minimal accessory brand that aspires to declutter and simplify, always of the highest quality and with a versatile twist. The collections are catered to the busy lifestyles of the modern man and woman and are available online, and in collaboration with other designers and boutiques, at an accessible price point for quality handmade pieces in Australia.
As I build on my collections, I am inspired by my customers who always say, wouldn’t it be great if Hills & West did a…. this is where the shopper, weekender and my cowhide pillows came from. Always looking at how can I simplify and beautify our everyday.
WHAT DREW YOU TO LEATHER & ACCESSORIES? TELL US ABOUT YOUR DESIGN AND MANUFACTURING PROCESS…
I have to start with the fact that I have been a vegetarian since I was 16 years old. People are always a little shocked when I say that however I have always been supportive of sustainable fashion and against fast fashion and wastage. I am however a huge lover of clothing, bags and accessories. So I always think about how can I be as sustainable as possible and make pieces that are durable, timeless and transeasonal, with an as ethical production process as possible. I think of my pieces more as functional, beautiful pieces that people are proud to wear, share the story behind the piece and keep them for a longtime.
When I was researching where to learn the art of handbag craftsmanship, Arsutoria kept popping up. Arsutoria is an established and renowned school specialising in design courses for leather makers of shoes and bags. I was toying between NY and Milan, and I am so glad that my work at the time took me to Europe at the perfect time.
The course set the foundations and taught me a lot about the traditional techniques in Italy. It gave me such an appreciation for the craft of making bags and this passion for handmade traditional techniques is a big factor when finding artisans to work with in Australia. With Australian made products, there is an element of quality care and craftsmanship that cannot be beaten. I love to be hands on in the making process and often spend hours looking at different hides and materials for my pieces. Curiosity fosters creativity; I love brainstorming ideas and am often getting input of others. Whether they’re my husband, friends, other Australian designers, artisans or my teacher from Milan, who I keep in touch with regularly for guidance.
THERE IS THE COMMON THOUGHT THAT THE INDUSTRY IS ‘DEAD’ IN AUSTRALIA… WHY WAS AUSTRALIAN MADE AN IMPORTANT FACTOR FOR YOU? HOW HAVE YOU FOUND THE PROCESS OF MAKING LOCALLY AND WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND TO BE SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES/ OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOU IN THIS SPACE?
When starting Hills & West, it was really important to me to do things locally. With only 9% of fashion being Australian made, I wanted to help reinvigorate this craft locally and proudly introduce Hills & West as handmade in Australia, to the rest of the world. We have the ability to create the highest quality pieces here, ethically and sustainably, so why not try. I am an avid supporter of buying local and homegrown products, and I wanted to innovatively craft pieces with local artisans intertwining my learnings from bag making in Italy and my brand building experience from my previous life.
There are of course challenges with crafting in Australia. Labour is more costly and materials not produced in Australia that need to be imported have a heft price tag (especially when you are sourcing sustainable).
Also, I wanted to connect directly to customers online, minimising markups through wholesale, however the price point can be challenging as people can’t touch, smell and see the pieces. Especially when you are funding a brand on your own and competing with luxury brands with huge budgets and awareness.
I am fortunate that I can do a lot of my creative, marketing and digital work on my own. I am also so lucky I have a wonderful group of Hills & West lovers and ambassadors who continuously spruik my pieces and give me lots of wonderful referrals.
Collaborations have also been a wonderful part of Hills & West’s growth. By working with other Australian emerging designers, we have been able to get in front of a lot more people with an appreciation for independent and Australian made.
WHAT DOES ‘AUSTRALIAN’ FASHION/STYLE/DESIGN MEAN TO YOU?
Being Australian made celebrates so many things that are truly wonderful and unique about Australia. We are unique, love self expression, battlers and are incredibly resourceful. We may be small in population but are vocal in our ideals and creativity.
Australian fashion/design has already made a big impact globally and I am super proud to be Australian made and supporting local artisans in a profession that has been slowing down in Australia.
RECOMMEND 5! WHO/WHAT/WHERE ARE YOUR LOCAL TEXTILE & FASHION GO TO’S?
1. Lustr – fabulous fashion initiative, started by founders Angela, Lilliana and Jeremy, supporting independent designers. The give emerging designers a voice and a way to connect with locally inspired and motivated customers. You can read my interview with them here.
2. 6 on 771/2 George – I had to share this, my latest collaboration with five wonderful Australian labels in The Rocks including Cedar & Onyx (classic luxury for women of all sizes), Everyday Cashmere (cashmere, silk, and cashmere essentials), Boehm Intimates (lingerie of delicate lace and luxe), Extraordinary Ordinary Day (the holy grail of handmade shoes) and Susan Driver (handmade jewellery). If you are interested check it out until September 16.
3. Semipermanent – founded by fellow Sydney sider Murray Bell and Andrew Johnstone in 2003 is a global creative and design-thinking platform. Over the last 15 years, they have established a community of over 400,000 people and a network of over 800 speakers and artists, across our operation around the globe. I go here to be inspired, challenged and boost my creative juices.
4. Some of my fave home grown labels include that I love to wear and watch in the order they come to mind; Manning Cartel, Dion Lee, Michael Lo Sordo, Alice McCall, Sir the Label, Christopher Esber, Nice Martin, macgraw, Anna Quan, Camilla and Marc, and the list goes on….
5. Lastly but not less importantly Australian Fashion Council of course for fashion news, tips, resources, events and brining emerging designers to the forefront.
Bonus, it’s not local but it is a fantastic resource for what is going on in fashion globally. Great interviews, resources and insights - Business of Fashion.
WANT MORE ?
Drop by their 6 on 771/2 George pop-up before it closes on Sunday 16th September!
Say hello to Aisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A big thank you to designer Bianca Spender, Kate Bielenberg (Cue), Melinda Tually (Ndless) and Angela Bell (ECA) for taking part in an engaging conversation on ethical practice and local manufacturing at our Sydney Afternoon Session earlier this week! For those who couldn't make it along to the session, here is a quick recap...
In collaboration with McKinsey & Company, we were delighted to last week host an industry leaders’ reception to launch The State of Fashion 2018 report in Australia. Joined by MC Clare Press, Sustainability Editor-at-Large at Vogue Australia, and guest speaker Jack Calhoun, Senior Adviser at McKinsey & Company, the evening saw Jack share key insights on the trends shaping the global fashion industry in 2018, as well as how the Australian industry stacks up.
There’s a lot of buzz around the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) Review and if you run a business in Australia, you need to know about it! Whether you work with customers, businesses, provide services or sell goods, it's important to know your rights and obligations and how the consumer laws affect your business.