Have you met Annette?

Shopping at David Jones in Elizabeth Street Sydney with my great grandmother was always an outing with I remember vividly. Seeing my reflection in the window outside wearing my new pink pinafore at age four is embedded in my memory as a happy moment that may have catalysed my love for pretty things. I never wanted to take it off! It was only superseded a few years later by my gifted yellow corduroy suit hot off the European shores at the ripe old age of six. I’m so glad I had a photo taken wearing both.

My pop would scoop me up on a Sunday morning to go mushrooming, cook up a mean breakfast and then we would head out to Trash and Treasure for a forage. Perhaps that was where I found my love for eras forgone, vintage and old-world nostalgic charm. In my teens I was always the ‘go to girl’ who could shop with my girlfriends and get shoes, bag and dress whatever the budget needed to be.

Fast forward a decade and my studies at university took me from teaching, majoring in Art and Dance to a scholarship in folklore overseas at 19. Something I wanted to do and made happen! It was actually on my return that my career direction would change. My sliding doors moment (marriage) lead me deep into the heart of a photography business and the world of Haute Couture.

Taking over a make-to-measure boutique in the Southern Cross Hotel in 1987 I was lucky to inherit a couple of renowned couturiers Ross Weymouth and John Clarringbold, both multi ‘Gown of the Year’ recipients and it was then the fashion fun began. I was immersed in designing and styling fabulous clients; one day it would be a wedding dress the next an avant-garde costume for an entertainer. I was in my happy place. It was a great time to be in fashion. Everything was big, bold, colourful and a ball gown was exactly that, something you would see on the red carpet worn by everyone not just celebrities.

During this time, I learnt so much about construction, workmanship, fashion politics and most of all customer service. When you start with a piece of fabric and guarantee to bring someone’s dream design to life you learn quickly that to gain their trust, you need to be authentic. Having the photography studio below my boutique meant I could play with fabrics, makeup and create imagery that made people feel and look amazing. I had found my passion-path; this was what I loved to do!

I was very blessed to create four beautiful children over the next ten years and swapped the boutique for school morning teas and volunteering for fundraisers, as you do. Photoshoots and glamour sittings became a bit more part time but my styling behind the scenes to facilitate them became my forte. I did however snap my kids a lot and I felt like an Anne Geddes protégé.

I was thrust into an arena of luxury high-end apparel and marketing.

By the time my last baby was headed for school I found myself compelled to create and jump back into doing something more in fashion. After organising a school fashion event I received an amazing opportunity to work as a creative director and personal assistant for a couple of entrepreneurial sisters who bought the rights to an International ready- to-wear label. I was thrust into an arena of luxury high-end apparel and marketing. Feeling very scared to work for someone else it was a chance for me to get an education. I learnt to use a computer!

My days were surrounded by stunning collections, beautiful models, fashion shows, celebrity, travel and aligning with amazing businesses like the VRC and Crown to service their VIP cliental. It was also a very productive time for my creativity as I was making headwear at the time and was so inspired by their designs that I became their in-house milliner making bespoke pieces for all their one-off designs. It was so much fun producing events and seeing my work on catwalks and stunning models. There was such a demand for something stylishly exotic and we had an audience at a time when we dared to be different.

Melbourne Fashion Festival and the Myer Design Award were proud moments during my time with them but a sudden decision to move to the Peninsula in 2005 shifted my energy which allowed me to focus on my own creative side. It was so different to the city with all its competitiveness. The strong sense of community was refreshing and I soon emersed myself into opportunities to network and start a new fashion journey.

It seemed as though I was the only one doing what I do so I opened up a studio at the Tyabb Packinghouse and exposed my work to a new demographic…the racing industry! I discovered the Racing Club and started writing for the local magazine at the time and over the next 11 years it was a platform to shake up fashion and enjoy styling all the locals, men and women alike. There was such a vibe down here. Everyone was excited to dress up, attend events and be seen. I couldn’t sit still so I harnessed that energy produced events and wherever I could.

I used that support to pull businesses together and raised money for charities. I had a real sense of purpose and so much was happening that I couldn’t even keep up with myself.

Over the last five years though our world and our glorious Peninsula have taken a deep dive. Not much has happened on the event frontier. It’s not fashion that’s changed though, it’s our mindset. Dressing has taken on a new renaissance. Sneakers are now our new best friend! It’s been a slow and steady return but I’m not quite sure we are back yet.

These days I’m lucky to work for an Iconic Australian label and get to style and dress people every day. I listen and try to stay across attitudes about where and how we wear our clothes. I’m finding the consensus is that it’s starting to get exciting again but the message needs a huge shout out. Its time we embraced standing out at functions, not just blending in. Our confidence in dressing needs to be reclaimed and in saying that designers need to parallel that idea and produce apparel that inspires us as well. It’s become a real hunt out there for special occasion outfits but if we settle for unelevated dressing we will start to blur the lines when we get an invite that says dress code ‘formal’.

We have always had unique businesses and boutiques showcasing a wide variety of local talent, contemporary labels and eclectic designs that have given them their signature style. Over my 20 years here some great ones have gone, some have become celebrated and as I have been exploring lately… I have found some sensational new ones.

I thoroughly enjoy being the stylist, the speaker, the maker and the muse so after a little bit of an introduction about my connection to fashion I am very excited to join the Peninsula Essence team and continue delving into our wonderful fashion community. I’ll bring you places to discover, styling tips and trends, stories, people and hopefully some chic soirees for all of us to dress up for! Let’s anticipate some stylish flair between our pages and join us monthly for your fashion forward journey.

Who knows it might be you in the spotlight.

Fashionably yours,