As the brand grew, expanding into Myer in the ’70s (in turn pioneering the concession model), the Cue look evolved; mod minis made way for disco drama, then came ’80s power-dressing, cool minimalism in the ’90s, and high-quality tailoring through the noughties and into the now. Yet over the years something has remained consistent – a certain style signature that lives on half a century later.
“There’s an essence when you pick up a Cue garment,” says Levis, attributing this strong sartorial DNA to his team. Cue may be a family business – Levis’ wife Lynette sources fabrics for the brand, and children Melanie and Justin are both executive directors – but it’s an extended family that makes up his staff. Each of Cue’s head designers has risen through the ranks and stayed for more than a decade – “they pass the baton to one another”, explains Levis. And numerous staffers, from pattern-makers to product managers, have been at the business for 25-plus years.
The family, says Levis, extends even further to include suppliers and makers. Cue is the largest local manufacturer of fashion in the country and accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia. “By maintaining the majority of our production in Australia, we’re helping keep the factories alive,” says Levis. “We’ve worked with some of them for 40 years.” Keeping it local has the added benefit of speed – a faster turnaround from the design room to the shop floor.
This is where the label has excelled: that sweet spot between traditional fast fashion and designer womenswear. Perhaps it’s what lured supermodel Claudia Schiffer to front a campaign in 1997. Catherine McNeil and Jessica Hart followed suit, though Levis notes the company is equally committed to nurturing rising stars. In 2013, it acquired a stake in Dion Lee – providing business support to the young, internationally lauded talent – and also founded Cue’s sister label Veronika Maine in 1998.
Next month, Cue will drop a capsule collection presenting some of its key pieces from the past five decades re-imagined and reworked for now (think a tailored white trouser from 1992, and a sleek ’70s jumpsuit). But while the range acknowledges the past, it faces the future, says Levis’ daughter Melanie. “The intention is to keep women looking good, and feeling happy and confident,” she says. “It’s always about the strength in women.”
Levis adds, “Since Cue began, the role of women in society has changed. When women started entering the workforce in the late ’60s and ’70s and ’80s, we were already there for them. Women are now running companies and running countries, and our designs have reflected that.”
Fashion, quite literally, on cue.