For Alice McCall, Staying True To Her Brand’s DNA Has Never Been More Important

The designer talks going back to her roots, "finding joy in creating."

Despite weathering some of the fashion industry’s biggest stormsfrom the 2008 global financial crisis to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemicAlice McCALL’s ethos has remained the same, creating designs that push past those tough times to find a quirky, joyful and effervescent look at the world of fashion–something the designer knows has been key to making it through.

Speaking to marie claire, the designer, who has spent over a decade at the forefront of the global fashion scene, says understanding what that core value is, has never been more important than it is right now. “I think during these times, it’s important not to change your DNA,” McCall explains. “I’m not suddenly going to be a leisurewear brand, because that’s not what we do. Understanding not to step too far away from what your core is, but learning to adapt and get that balance right.” 

That sentiment rings true with the release of its latest collection, FOLKLORE, a tribute to the tales from decades past. Embracing a sense of nostalgia, the local label looked back to its origins, “finding joy in creating”, while also sourcing inspiration from the current world order (and our time spent at home). Vintage interiors formed the basis of the designer’s key pieces, all crafted in a soft palette of pastel shades contrasted with their signature accents of bold colour. 

As McCall explains, she found inspiration in everything from “Russian folk tapestries, [to] 1960s velvet jacquard curtains and 50s flocked wallpaper.” 

Of those interiors, one of the label’s new twin sets was sparked by a vintage 1950s bath mat found by the designer. “There’s always something quirky in the collection, and I think that signature Alice McCall is just something that’s a little bit left-field and off-beat.” 

alice mccall
“I so loved that we printed a book to showcase the campaign. These days where things are disposable, being able to create something long-lasting that doesn’t date and still feels relevant was really special,” says McCall. (Credit: Supplied by Alice McCall.)

The brand, in line with many changes fellow designers are making this year, has decided to put more emphasis on their “quality over quantity” ideal, making the decision to create just three collections each year. 

“I think, a really important lesson right now, is to take time, to be conservative, to be considerate about the designing, about the cut, about the fit, to continue to focus on making the product durable and have longevity, rather than be disposable,” McCall says, adding a newfound focus has been placed on “elevating the product more than ever,” but while “not elevating the price point.” 

While the designer may have rediscovered the joy in creating, the past several months has not been without its hardships. “It’s tough having to trim the team back, and it’s hard, what you have to do to survive,” she says. “But I think with that, even more than ever, it’s time to slow down, the simple things are so important. Asking people how they’re doing, connecting with people, remembering not to rush because you’re more constructive if you’re breathing and having a moment to just be considerate.” 

And even though designing will always be at the heart of what McCall does, even she understands that now, more than ever, is a time to think strategically as a businesswoman, or as she says, “making those decisions that can be financial wins.” 

“I like the saying of, how do you make diamonds? Under pressure,” she explains. “It’s hard work at the moment. It’s really tough, but I pat me and the team on the back because we’re working hard, but we’re making some magic.” 

As for what the future of the fashion industry holds, McCall hopes we start to realise the effect it has on our world and use it as a means to make real, tangible change. “We know the effect the fashion industry has on the environment, and I think understanding that change can be one step at a time, I think that’s really important, rather than not changing your footprint in the industry.” 

That mantra has trickled down to everything the Alice McCALL label does, with more environmentally friendly and sustainable practices being introduced wherever possible. 

“From this season, we’ve gone into 100% biodegradable packaging, which is really important, as well as looking at making more environmental choices with the fabrics we’re using, whether they’re natural fabrics or they’re recycled polyesters, just ensuring that there’s that component in what I’m developing,” she added. 

“It feels like we’re in the right direction and we’ll continue to focus on making those changes.” 

marie claire is supporting #WeWearAustralian, helping to shine a light on the Australian fashion industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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