The white shirt is wearable starched propriety. It’s relaxed minimalism. It’s refined summer style. It’s also a canvas for experimentation, which is why the garment was the foundation for the label founded by Melbourne’s Fiona Myer in 2016.
White Story quickly won fans in Australia and overseas. Influential online stockists Farfetch and Matches added the luxury label to their platforms in January this year. And when Vogue America’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour was in town, she dropped by for morning tea.
White Story’s first collection featured only shirts, and only in white. It was a brave move in a city where black clothing is the de facto uniform, and a risk to focus only on a single garment. But Myer was confident in the versatility of the pieces, and also understood the amount of work required to make one item expertly.
“The colour white captures what other colours can’t manage,” says Myer. “White represents the spaces in between, creating room to dream. And there’s nothing sexier than a woman in jeans and a white shirt, ready to take on the day.”
Myer recently opened her first Australian store in Armadale, in Melbourne's south-east. It marks the brand’s transition from shirt-maker to fully-fledged fashion label, with elegant separates and accessories in muted colours. Previously, the only physical interaction you could have with the label was by appointment at its Projects of Imagination-designed warehouse.
Myer’s clothing is made in Melbourne using luxurious Italian cotton pique fabric and a special Japanese cotton. The shirts’ cuts ensure an easy transition from breakfast to work to dinner or a cocktail party. Myer’s former life as a ceramicist is evident in the sculptural necklines, flared sleeves, classic ruffles, knife-sharp collars and interesting cut-outs.
The range currently features slouchy linen boiler suits, voluminous crop tops, capri pants and ruffled skirts and dresses. At the Melbourne store, you'll find handmade woven bucket bags with linen inserts – this season’s cult item, which debuted at Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival.
But crisp shirting still anchors the collection.
“I also wanted to explore capsules of colour,” says Myer, who originally targeted an older demographic interested in luxury clothing. She is now chasing younger customers with a wider range of prices, which start at $225 and stretch to $1200 for an oversized double-breasted blazer. “I found that the White Story woman was looking for complete outfits, and to play with options: matching tops with bottoms,” she says.
What defines a good shirt? “It’s in the attitude. The joy of a good shirt is that it allows for each individual to use its simplicity in their own expressive way,” says Myer. “A good shirt can be worn tied, tucked, untucked, untied, wrapped and played with. And pairs just as well with jeans as it does a silk skirt.”
Myer is involved in every aspect of the business, from picking up a pair of scissors with the crafters in the atelier, to sharing ideas on cut and fit. She now manages a team of 12.
Myer’s design smarts were first honed as a trend forecaster for Myer (then Fiona Malley, she later married Sid Myer whose family founded the Myer department store.) She later started her own fashion consultancy business, Fashion Futures, where she pre-empted global trends across colour, fabric, design and prints, creating reports for retail groups and manufacturers. She also designed womenswear capsules for Australian label Wallis and Edwards, and worked with local artisans to design homewares during a stint in Malaysia. Back in Australia, she set up a ceramics studio in her own garage, where she made all-white sculptures to sell to friends and family.
“Art is always essential. It’s been such an inspirational part of my life and forces me to think outside the box, and explore the spaces between the lines,” she says.
Every season Myer travels to Première Vision in Paris to find rare yarns and fabrics, but she says she works off “a gut feeling” when she designs.
“I ask myself what I want to wear and what is new. As a ceramicist, I am interested in textural changes and the nature of smooth versus rough. I approach each collection almost like a sculpture.”