Do international designers still do the school run? If you’re Australian fashion icon, Collette Dinnigan, you do. Ahead of her latest children’s wear launch, Young Hearts for Aldi, we spoke to the creative powerhouse and mother of two about her family routine, her creative schedule, and her plans for the future.
When I spoke to Collette, she was multi-tasking by chatting to me on the phone, herding the dogs, and at one point talking to her daughter. For some women, bringing their family life into their art or vice versa is a no-brainer. But Collette is firm when I ask her if she combines creativity and her children. “Oh no, I don’t involve them at all. I think Estella is very much into her horses.” Estella (11), her eldest child, is done hearing about beautiful garments. “I think she’s had so many people telling her about her mother making pretty dresses. It’s just not something that interests her at all.”
For the Young Hearts line, Collette seriously considered that what a parent wants and what a child wants can be two quite different things.
“Up until the age of about two, it’s about what mothers want their children to wear, you know? After that, they start really wanting to have an opinion. Girls tend to gravitate more towards pinks, purples and blues. They’re not keen on browns and grays. No matter how sophisticated, from a European point of view, we think they are – it’s not what they want. Girls love to twirl, so they need a skirt they can twirl in. All of those things, from my experience with Estella, are things I’m very conscious of, and incorporate. Girls really, when they get to seven, eight, nine, have an opinion about what they want to wear.”
“I think it’s something that unless you’ve had children, you can maybe touch on with children’s wear but you need to have experienced it…I think about what girls like to wear and what’s practical, then I make it aesthetically look good.”
A normal day usually starts between 6.30 and 7 am, when she gets up with three-year-old Hunter, gets the children ready for daycare (Hunter goes three days a week), school, and does the school run before starting her other work for the day. “I’ll spend my day in the office doing everything I have to, very intensely, then I pick up the children and do whatever I have to on the way home. Cook dinner, do everything. Sometimes I have a work dinner, so if that’s the case I try to go home first and get them to bed, and then after dinner I probably spend most of my time doing emails, because I don’t get time during work time. When I’m not with the children, I do meetings and work on my creative. The email side of it I just try and put aside till the end of the day.”
Allocating time for her creative work in a structured way is how she gets things done. “I think you’re either a creative or you’re not. However, what you have to do is have a process. My work time is in the middle of the day. But with the bigger picture process, if you want to make a collection, or write a book or whatever, you can’t just think, ‘I’ll do it later’ – you have to have a time where you put it into place and have a formula that works for you. It might be a meeting where someone takes notes, or you might dictate for yourself and start typing up your notes, and start a folder.” Her process has changed significantly over the years. In 2013, she pulled back from her main fashion line and the Paris shows, and now has more control of her diary, allowing her to do things like spend school holidays with her family. “So the change has been big,” she explains, “but it doesn’t mean I’m not working, it just means I have more control over the time spent working.”
When I asked her if she has advice for women starting out in fashion, she’s clear. “I don’t think you can start out in fashion with a very young family. I think that’s a really bad recipe because I think your family needs the focus and the time. Unless your child’s very, very young. And if they’re very, very young you’re breastfeeding and that’s ridiculous because you need the energy. You either start when you don’t have children, or you start out when they don’t need you as much, because starting out in fashion – there’s a lot of hours that get put into it.
You have to be passionate about it. It’s consuming, especially in the early years.
I’m in a position now where I can make a lot of decisions, which I think sometimes, you’re lucky to be in that space, but at the other times it’s also very difficult because there’s a lot of pressure – you set your own benchmarks and when you do something, you always want to better and improve everything you do. It’s a different set of pressures. I started out when I was very young.
Where I’m at now, it’s great, but it’s hard. There’s never, ever a time where you feel as though everything’s perfect.
When it does feel perfect, it’s usually when you can sit back, but it never lasts for long with children because they change. One day the moment’s amazing, but the next day they’ve grown up and there’s something else, and you have a different set of issues. Just when you think you’ve nailed it, something changes. There’s always going to be a sacrifice, but I think the most important thing is to not sacrifice your family.” With her fashion legacy firmly in place and lifestyle collaborations launched, Collette is moving towards a summer break and perhaps something unexpected. “At the moment, the children’s wear is a very big thing I’m launching that I’ve spent a lot of time on, and we’re just looking forward to having a great Christmas with some downtime. That time where you can wake up and not know what’s going to happen that day.”
Young Hearts by Collette Dinnigan includes daywear, swimwear, sleepwear and hats for babies and girls sizes 000 to 14. The 74-piece collection ranges from $11.99 to 29.99 on sale from from Wednesday 14 October 2015 at Aldi, while stocks last (be quick!).