Backstage Chat: Colette Dinnigan, the Australian Designer Who Took Paris By Storm

Colette Dinnigan may not be a familiar name for the region’s fashion lover, but she’s made a name out of herself and she’s planning to tap into this ever growing region through providing shipment option to Singapore. Dinnigan is a South African-born designer based in Australia. She first ventured into the world of fashion when she launched her  dry-clean only lingerie collection back in 1990, and to date, she’s still famously known for her lingerie collection. It’s everyone’s dream to make it big in the fashion capital cities, and coming from Australia which is so secluded from the rest of the world, most designers there faced the same challenge as those from this region: not enough exposure. But she nailed it by being the first Australian designer to be asked to show her ready-to-wear collection in Paris since 1995. Her self-named label has been sold in Barneys New York, Harvey Nichols in London and Hong Kong. From her humble beginning with one store in William Street in Sydney’s Paddington back in 1992, to the rest of the world.

I spent my teenage years in Australia and I saw how the Australian are so proud of her. They’re very proud of their home-grown labels and designers and they’re actually wearing them. Something that I think Indonesians are still lacking of, but we’re on our way there. So you can probably imagine how Australians praise Dinnigan highly.

Romancing the Colette Dinnigan Collection

As a student, of course I couldn’t afford a single piece of her creation. But that didn’t stop me from stepping into her boutique located in Chapel St., Victoria, daydreaming that maybe someday I would be able to own one of her pieces. I haven’t yet purchased any of her designs, but I could trade that dream by meeting Colette Dinnigan in person during the Audi Fashion Festival in Singapore. Her collection for as long as I can remember was always filled with romance – and to date, when I heard the name Colette Dinnigan, I would associate it with the word “romantic”. When I utter this to Dinnigan and asked her how she translates it to the recent collection, she describes romance as “all about femininity, dreaming, feeling special, feeling confidence.” Adding to that, Dinnigan also said, “Women shouldn’t dress for men, they should dress for women and for themselves. That’s the thing too about romance. You have to feel good. You don’t necessarily need to romance, it can romance the situation and feel flirty. It’s important because the world that we live in is very hard and very fast and I do think that women like to put on something soft and pretty.” I have to agree with her here. For me, dressing up can serve as a tool to make or break my day, that includes romanticising a moment.

 

On Transformation of a Woman & the Relation of Colette Dinnigan’s Collection

During this festival, Dinnigan brought with her the Autumn/Winter 2013 collection and I could see how her collection has become more mature, but still young at heart. Mature in a way that it’s “More sophisticated, tailored and lots more attention to detail,” said Dinnigan, emphasising in feminine cut and body consciousness. With hues such as white, silver and black dominating the collection, it immediately coughs out the word “strong” but then again the detailing of the pieces creates a sense of delicateness.

“It’s about painter master painting his subject to a strong confident woman and he paints inky colours and dark blue. She’s there very strong and confident with a coats on and jacket. [And] As her layers taken off as he’s painting her [we] get to know her little more intimate. As he paints more brush strokes of oil, he gets to know [her] and makes her bolder. Whereas as she looses her layer she becomes more intimate, soft and gentle. It’s a transformation but it’s to show that a woman is always strong but she’s still very soft and gentle – that side of intimacy that’s very feminine,” explained Dinnigan when she talked about what inspired her to create this collection.

A Ready-to-Wear Collection with Bespoke Approach

Dinnigan’s creation is meticulous; she designs most of the detailing  involved in her collection herself. What I mean is that she designs most of the fabrics, print and dye the laces, develop design with embroideries and she even goes to the detail of producing swatches for the beading so that it suits her taste right “to a T”. You get a sense of bespoke in her collection though it’s a ready-to-wear label because of her flair for details. Every single garment that she produces is numbered.

Most of the laces are produced out of France and beading in India. Though some of her designs are manufactured in China but mostly are still manufactured in Australia – which brings out the concern of production price. Since producing in Australia means steeper price, she has considered to slim down the producing process and cost but it takes much consideration to veer into this, as she commented,  “… but we got to be very careful because what we do is still handmade and that’s why I want to align myself with someone … where they can be involved in production and manufacturing, a lot of it are so attention to detail, so much beading – it’s so much couture in a way …”.

 

All I can say is that I very much enjoy the show that I saw at the Audi Fashion Festival in Singapore and it solidified the image of Colette Dinnigan in my mind that she will remain as one of my favourite ready-to-wear designers to date. Enjoy the collection… because I surely do. :)