Designing and making clothes from her home on the Mornington Peninsula, Shannon McAlpine talks about life as a fashion designer with her brand, Pretty Parcel.
When did you first become interested in fashion and fashion design?
During high school I really enjoyed textiles and fashion design and knew I wanted to pursue further study and one day create my own fashion label.
How did you get into fashion design?
I started the business in 2010 when I was 24. I had always loved fashion and studied a diploma of textiles, clothing and footwear after high school. From there I just got involved in creating my own brand.
Was your mother or other family members into fashion? When did you really start noticing fashion?
Fashion and design definitely ran in the family back with my great grandmother who was a dressmaker, and my mother who made many of her own clothes and for lots of us in the family. She has been a huge inspiration to me and when the pressure is on she is a wonderful assistant for my business. During various overseas trips I have been interested in different cultures and their fashion, especially Harajuku in Japan and their amazing quirky outfits.
When did you realise you had a flair for designing and making clothing?
I had an amazing textiles teacher in high school who inspired me to follow dress making as a career. During my studies at Box Hill Institute, I loved the creativity and design of costume making and made many costumes for dress-up parties. After winning a couple of awards, I realised I could possibly turn this passion of design and dress making into a career.
What was the first item you made for yourself or somebody else? Do you still have it?
The first item I ever made was pyjamas in high school and yes I actually do still have them and they are still going strong.
When did you move your business to the Mornington Peninsula?
I have always loved the peninsula and used to come down here for holidays. It was about three years ago that my partner and I moved here because we wanted a sea change. It’s fantastic to live so close to the water and be able to work from my home studio.
Your clothes are so bright and bubbly. Where do you get your inspiration?
I am always looking for inspiration but have always been inspired by the vintage style of the 1950s and 60 designs. I don’t have a particular designer I aspire to. I like fashion from around the world, but particularly Japanese fashion and culture. I guess that influence comes out in the kitsch and vibrant prints.
What is your process when it comes to creating your clothing?
I make it up in my mind and then put it down on paper in the form of a design and pattern. I make all my own patterns and clothes from start to finish. I have always made clothes for my friends and myself, and started doing craft markets in Melbourne where I met a lot of people. I have sold through a few stores but never sold mainly online for the past two years. It gives me a lot more freedom to be creative and do custom orders.
What is a day like for you working as a fashion designer?
Long hours! Running your own business means you never really switch off so from early morning to late at night my mind is always running with creative ideas. What I love most about what I do is that every day is different. As I am the designer, pattern maker, cutter, sewer, advertiser and administrator I will never get bored.
What do you like about what you do?
I can run my business from the comfort of my own home, stay in my pyjamas as long as I like, I can be as creative as I wish and there are no limits. I love my customers and the support from other small businesses and have met so many amazing like-minded people through social media and at design markets.
What is the difference between your designs and others on the peninsula?
I loved the relaxed fun beachy feel of the peninsula. I am always on the hunt for new and different quirky/ novelty fabrics to make pretty parcel pieces stand out in the crowd. As my designs are slightly influenced by the 1950s and ’60s fashion, my clothing has a certain vintage feel with a modern twist.
Why did you decide to sell only online now?
Online sales allows me to run my business on a more personal, made-to-order basis and to create limited edition pieces which aren’t mass produced. It also means I can get my pieces to my customers a lot quicker and inform them about new releases as soon as they are available. I also like to offer custom orders so that my customers can slightly alter my designs to make them as unique as they are. Having an online store also means I can have customers from all around the world.
How do you succeed in such a difficult industry?
Determination, passion and dedication. It helps when you are doing something you have always loved, and I always knew I wanted to do it. I have been extremely lucky to meet people through social media and markets who have been really helpful.
How do you describe your brand Pretty Parcel?
It is a quality and timeless design of vintage clothing with a contemporary twist which offers individual, special, and lovingly- made clothing and accessories. Each season I have a whole new exciting range of one-off and limited edition pieces. Locally sourced and handpicked materials are used to create something unique that you can be confident in wearing. Pretty parcel encompasses femininity, playfulness, cute and whimsical clothing.