Alannah Hill leaves her own label

The renowned red-lipped fashion designer has announced she has terminated her employment with Factory X, 18 years after the Aussie icon began her label ‘Alannah Hill’.

Factory X Group, the business controlled by David Heeney which also produces brands including Lisa Gorman and Dangerfield, will continue to operate the 42 ‘Alannah Hill’ stores. But according to a statement released this morning, the designer  will: “not design for, or have any further input into, the brand that bears her name”.

The much celebrated fashion label, that famously embraces femininity and romance, was launched in 1997 to much fanfare and immediate success. The internationally recognisable brand has been worn by celebrities including Nicole Kidman, Kylie Minogue and Taylor Swift.

But it hasn’t been an easy climb to the top for Hill. One of five children, she reportedly left home and moved to Melbourne  when she was 16 and started her fashion career as a sales girl at a Chapel St fashion outlet in 1981, before eventually moving on to design clothes for the store. Sixteen years later she found a business partner and opened her first store on the same iconic Melbourne street.

Hill’s fashion empire has come a long way since then, with 14 stand-alone stores across the country, 22 concession stores in David Jones and more than 350 employees. The mother of one has also found personal bliss, having been rumoured to be engaged to musician Hugo Race of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds fame.

Often seen sporting her signature heavy eye make-up and frilly, girly fashions, Alannah said of her departure:  “I am deeply saddened to make this monumental decision.  I was completely devoted to my label and all that it represents to girls Australia-wide.  My heart, my soul, my every little thing has been poured into creating a brand for girls who love and share my vision of ornamental, sensational and beautiful clothes.  I won’t be taking a “wellearned break”, nor will I be going on safari!  My dream is to continue to create fashion that radiates joy and the power of transformation, not just in fashion but in life itself.  Thank you to all the wonderful people who have supported me along the way.  Your dedication and love, quite sincerely, has meant the world to me.”

Rumours in the media have been circling since mid 2011 that  Hill and her employers at Factory X were on rocky ground. One columnist wrote that the designer had been ‘banned from her own office’ at the company’s Abbotsford headquarters. Unfortunately Hill is yet another in a long line of Australian designers to have faced tough times in the recent economic climate, with fellow Aussie fashion designers Lisa Ho and Bettina Liano facing similar turmoil in recent months.

Q & A with Paolo Zegna

When did you first visit Australia? Where did you go? And what were your first impressions?

I visited Australia for the first time with my father when I was little more than a boy in the 60’s. I was immediately very impressed by the gorgeous landscapes  and the beauty of this country that I’m really  fond of. Even now I’m always astonished when I have the chance  to visit some Australian farms, still  surrounded by beautiful unspoilt nature.

How does wool from Australia  differ from the rest of the world?

Merino breeding is complex and difficult, requiring great skill and experience. Incredible commitment required, often in demanding environmental conditions. Selective breeding has created the unique Australian Merino, which produces the highest quality grades of wool suitable for apparel. Australian Merino has been bred to produce, as well as fine wool, a heavy fleece and wool of consistent color and strength. It is remarkably difficult to rear sheep that produce Superfine Merino. The finest qualities of wool are obtained from sheep reared primarily for this fibre. Sheep breeds have evolved from a variety of environmental and genetic factors, with the soil and climate of a country largely determining the type of sheep and wool quality produced.  Renowned for being soft and fine, Merino wool is loved by producers and consumers for being a unique fibre that’s easy on the skin and on the planet. Close to 80 per cent of Australia’s sheep flock is Merino, so the wool produced is well suited to high-quality apparel and top-end fashion houses.Other major wool-producing countries, such as China or New Zealand, have greater proportions of crossbreeds relative to Merino. As a consequence, they produce wools more suitable for interior applications, such as carpets, upholstery and furnishings which are not suited to the fine apparel market.

What is driving the Zegna expansion in Australia?

To shed light  on an important but little-known aspect of Zegna’s luxury menswear. To improve our worldwide brand awareness. To explain our verticalization strategy and why we place such strong value on the importance of the raw materials. To celebrate an important Anniversary for Zegna and the Australian wool industry

What constitutes a fine fabric?

Fineness is a measure of wearability, comfort, touch and natural luster.

How has the brand been active in promoting improvements in wool production in Australia and the rest of the world?

Zegna’s continued commitment to Australian suppliers is strengthened by the Wool Awards, which marks 50 years in 2013. It’s very important for us to support individual wool growers across the country because this is an incentive for the Wool Growers to continuously improve the quality of their wool production. Success is linked to the prestige that participating in the Trophy represents for growers.

It has certainly helped ensure the production of an increased supply of superfine wools  and it has also helped growers gain recognition for their commitment to quality which translates into better commercial potential for their wools. Woolgrowers are a significant part of Australian society, often employing many local people throughout the year to help care for their animals and land. By supporting woolgrowers, Ermenegildo Zegna helps support Australian rural communities.

Why choose superfine merino wool?

Wool is one of the oldest known textile fibers. Wool is a natural, biodegradable fiber; it is both renewable and recyclable and has natural antibacterial properties and insulates the body against cold and heat. It is also fire resistant and does not melt when burned.Merino wool in particular is exceptionally soft and naturally comfortable.To qualify as superfine, Merino wool fibers must be no thicker than 19.5 microns  (1 micron = 1 thousandth of a millimeter).All wool fibers are undulated, but fibers from Merino sheep are more wavy than less precious kinds of wool.Merino wool fibers are highly resilient and elastic; they can be bent 30,000 times without danger of breaking or damage

 What percentage of your range is made from wool?

Out of the raw materials that Lanificio Zegna produces, wool counts the 60-70  per cent.

Have you seen any changes in demand for the brand in the recent years?

Currently, consumers tend to regard design or wearability over fabric quality. However, EZ has made huge efforts in quality of fabrics, which has not changed over the years. Quality is the base of Zegna’s production.Absolute quality has made Zegna such a successful luxury brand.Wearability and design, without quality are short-lived.

Our heritage has been built on producing the finest fabrics in the world. It has been and continues to be a key to the success of our company.Our red seal is synonym of style, luxury and exclusivity.

A fabric marked by the label “Cloth – Ermenegildo Zegna” means the customer is assured of its unmatched quality and our aim is always the customer satisfaction from A to Z.

What is your personal favourite style of suit? 

Double-Breasted suit

What is your vision for the brand going forward?

Our pioneering vision is and continues to be one of our strongest assets. We have a strong vision, a strong team and solid strategies. We have the power to continue to grow and develop the brand. We acquired complementary businesses that share our values and dedication to excellence. We are truly passionate about the company and are committed to its long-standing success

What is your view regarding online shopping?

Today the global world of digital marketing is a necessary and significant pillar perfectly complimentary to our brand strategy. With regard to this, we are developing a series of activities in order to involve our customer in a global Zegna experience. Zegna wants to confirm its commitment in offering an excellent product and an impeccable attention to customer service.