Fit and Flare
For the Melbourne-based fashion designer Alice Edgeley and her namesake brand, designing for herself and her customer is usually one and the same.
Featuring Alice Edgeley
Photography by Eryca Green
Words by Laura Neilson
It’s barely nine o’clock in the morning in Melbourne, Australia, when Alice Edgeley appears on the video chat screen, yet the fashion designer looks like she’s ready for an extremely fun night out—or perhaps she’s just back in from one. Wearing a snake-print blouse with flashes of turquoise, chartreuse, tangerine, and bright red by her namesake label, and a decisive single swipe of black eyeliner, Edgeley is the consummate exemplar of the woman for whom she designs: eccentric, feminine and colorful, and always matched with a strong undercurrent of irreverence. It’s rather fitting, then, that Edgeley would model many of her pieces herself on the Edgeley brand’s website—she’s her own best spokesperson.
“I think I started doing fashion illustrations when I was nine. Just daydreaming and letting my mind wander…I always dreamt of outfit designs,” she says.
Growing up in Melbourne, Edgeley says she adopted a peculiar fondness for turbans at the age of ten. “My mum wore head wraps a lot, and it was when the band Gipsy Kings were really big,” recalls Edgeley, who is now 44. Her personal aesthetic has evolved over the last three decades, but her dramatic sensibility remains (as does her penchant for turbans). It’s clear upon first glance that Edgeley’s wares are unapologetically unfit for fainthearted wallflowers—unless those flowers happen to be a flamboyant assortment of buds presented in a trippy, acid-hued print, as seen on one of the designer’s recent stretch-mesh dresses.
In fact, it’s fair to say there’s a performative quality to Edgeley’s work, perhaps owing to an early apprenticeship and extended work in costume design that she pursued in her teens. In 2007, she moved to London, where the fashion scene was surging with new designer talent. “I’d worked for almost ten years in the industry, making clothes and costumes, so I was pretty efficient at sewing. That got my foot in the door at Christopher Kane, and they gave me a job two weeks later,” she remembers. At the time, Kane was a rising star in his industry, but with only a few collections to his name. “Christopher had just moved the business out of his house to a little studio, so we were a really small team,” Edgeley recalls.
After three years working closely under Kane, Edgeley—finally ready to call herself a “fashion designer”—returned to Australia, where she debuted the launch of her own label by opening a shop on Melbourne’s Gertrude Street. “It’s been 13 years,” she marvels. “Same location, I still sew and do everything.” She’s also now married to the same gentleman she was dating at the time she left London, a fellow Australian who works in design as well, but with jewelry, she says, noting that the move back was both for personal and professional reasons.
True to character, Edgeley’s design process is both atypical and personal. Creating a piece often requires a destination: a night out with friends, an event, a trip—anything outside her front door. “I have somewhere to go, I want to wear something, and maybe I’ve got some weird bit of fabric, so I’ll make myself something on the spot.” Of course there’s no guarantee in the spontaneity of the moment, but when the final product is a success, Edgeley says the rush of adrenaline makes the event of going out all the more electrifying. From there, a collection might emerge and take shape, of which the majority of Edgeley’s pieces are made to order. Not only does the methodology conserve resources, both human (her own labor and production) and material, but it also allows Edgeley to tailor the garment to its wearer.
It’s arguably one of life’s greatest luxuries to own a demi-bespoke piece of clothing that’s fitted to one’s own body, yet there still needs to be a greater sense of education and awareness on the consumer’s part, she notes: “I don’t think a lot of people in general have wrapped their heads around that yet. But a lot of my customers have said to me that I’ve really changed the way they feel about their bodies, because they feel really confident in how they look.” For Edgeley, it’s certainly one of the more gratifying aspects of the front-facing demands of her job as a designer, shop owner, and all-around ambassador for her brand.
Fashion shows, however, have always felt like a strain. She finds the standard-issue runway format boring, and moreover, hates the awkwardness of standing around and making self-promoting small talk afterwards. When Edgelely does occasionally concede to the idea of a fashion show, the event is equal parts “show” and “fashion.” “The last one we did was a Bob Fosse-inspired show,” she says, which featured dancers, performance artists, and members from a local rock band. “It was quite fun,” she gushed.
Self-promoting her work as a designer is one thing, but performance on the whole has never been a daunting deterrent in Edgeley’s life. Prior to the pandemic, she took up drumming in order to join an all-girl rock group, and currently plays in the band Curlers. Being onstage inevitably affords the opportunity for extravagant wardrobes—not that Edgeley ever needed much reason.
“There might be some more sequins, but I just really like dressing up when I go out anyways.”
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