It’s just over a week until Alice McCall celebrates 10 years in the business at MBFWA, and there’s an overwhelming sense of calm in her studio. It’s mid-morning and the light is pouring into McCall’s Surry Hills workspace. While the office goes about preparing for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia next week, which will showcase the brand’s Cruise collection, McCall breezes in, in perfect double denim, to hang a delicate lace frock from the windowsill.
“What do you think? Does it look good?”
2014 is looking great for McCall so far. It’s a year of milestones, as McCall celebrates 10 years since she exploded onto the Australian fashion scene in a haze of bohemian, feminine dresses. It’s also a year of maturity and growth, with her recently revealed spring/summer collection ‘Flowerdrum’, and the upcoming ‘In My Dreams We Were Flying’, her most celebrated ranges yet. Both collections feature an update of McCall’s signature focus on embellishment and the contrast between femininity and a harder edge.
“I’ve always thought an amazing outfit comes down to the combination of the detail and the craft – with well-cut tailoring. It’s about that balance,” McCall says.
For ‘Flowerdrum’, the detailing oscillates between delicate – floral print appliques and laser-cut lace – and decidedly cheeky. A super-sheer black skirt and crop-top pairing features some well-placed stripes to protect the wearer’s modesty.
“This collection began with the concept of sitting at a vanity table and the things you might see there: old perfume bottles, crystal vases with roses in them, art nouveau mirrors and brushes, the packaging on old beauty products,” McCall says. “It’s this kind of detail that really inspires me, this idea of handiwork and a labour of love.”
For ‘Flowerdrum’ McCall trawled the shelves of Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya for titles on antique perfumery, vintage scarves and retro packaging. The upcoming collection has its basis in surrealism and the dreamy, slightly subversive works of collage artists Beth Hoeckel and Eugenia Loli. McCall is remaining tight-lipped on just what we can expect to see next week, but she stresses that it will be both a new direction and a celebration of her history.
“We are taking it up a notch,” McCall says. “It is going to feel more modern, but still with an emphasis on prints and the craft that we are known for.”
Despite a career that has taken McCall from Melbourne and Sydney across the world to the runway in London, and a host of celebrity fans that include Kate Moss, Chloe Sevigny and Natalia Vodianova, McCall believes that the best is yet to come. When asked what the highlight of her career as a fashion designer is, she instantly responds “this fashion week.” And McCall sees herself in the business for life. “Fashion is in the family,” she says. “My mum helps me and in another 10 or 20 years I hope that I’ll be helping my daughter [in fashion].”
For now, the focus is on the big anniversary show. Working with a creative team that includes stylist Mark Vassallo, Sydney Theatre Company set designer Alice Babidge and make-up artist Victoria Baron, the show promises to be a spectacle that will close Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia on a high note. After fashion week McCall is going to devote time to her family. “We’re thinking of going on a retreat in Byron,” McCall says. “Just relax!” She deserves it.