Monday, 11 November 2013


About a week ago I was surprised as anyone to hear that Australian designer Collette Dinnigan was calling it quits on her fashion label of 25 years.  Internationally lauded, admired, respected and worn, the Collette Dinnigan brand walked into the wardrobes, parties, red carpet events and offices of celebrities and not so celebrities, around the world.  She even has a stamp dedicated to her.

Her brand of feminine, flirty, exquisitely made and intricately detailed dresses and suits beckoned from perfectly fitted out stores in fashionable areas around town and on racks in heavy hitting department stores.  Barneys New York, Harvey Nichols, David Jones and Joyce in Hong Kong all stock her beautiful ladylike styles.  She was the first Australian designer to be invited to show in Paris by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture - that's big!  Everyone from brides, socialites, actresses, models have clamoured for her designs; she really was sitting pretty in her perfectly groomed caramel locks.

And then, life kinda shifted a little; at 47, she married, had a new baby boy who joined a nine year old girl to make up a new family of 4.  Suddenly Paris Fashion Week just didn't seem to cut it, particularly after a recent trip away, when she returned, Colette felt her 11 month baby didn't recognize her.  Balance was the needed.

As a self confessed 'obsessive creative', Collette felt that she "... wasn't doing my job or motherhood properly,'' she told Fairfax Media. ''I like to do things at full-mast and I wasn't prepared to be a mother at half-mast any more."   Wow, that's honesty...  "I haven't stopped for 24 years, but I do not believe that any moment spent with your children is not a wasted moment,'' Dinnigan said." 1  

At that moment, I think Collette gave weight to the whole staying at home with the kids scenario.  Granted, she is comfortable enough financially to be able to walk away from a 'full time job' and focus on the kids (which is full time, 24/7, no switching off!), but I'm sure the decision wasn't made lightly given the number of people in her employ and her responsibility to them as well.  She will still work on her diffusion line and her line of childrenswear.

So over the next month, the boutiques will close down and I'm sure racks of clothing will disappear (if it hasn't already been snapped up!) and a slice of aussie fashion history will be preserved; because in the end, we all crave balance; and when balance or equilibrium is not present, nothing seems to fit well regardless of how beautiful it looks on the outside.  Did Collette just need some balance in motherhood? 

Collette chose the private over the public persona and in this day and age, it says volumes about the role of motherhood and family.  I think, as you get older and you have a child later in years, you tend to want to stay home longer to revel in the moments and the stages that the baby will grow through.  If you're able to, you can leave work for a time, or do part time work (if you're fortunate enough to find something to suit your skills and your intellect!) but you love the balance of being able to be there for the kids (that's just me).  When you're younger (say late 20's, early 30's), you have the drive and the intensity and hunger to keep working full time whilst you might have youngish grandparents to help out at home, or employ a nanny or au pair to care for the kids while you're at work building a career for the future.  Either way, both paths are fraught with indecision, double guessing, self doubt, and guilt.  For a mum with ambition, creativity, & great skills there is no easy answer.   Insert cartoon with a huge garden maze; polished well groomed mum on one end and baby, job, accolades, calm, balance at the other end - now navigate your way through/around it!  But is it just that we put that weight or pressure on our shoulders to have it all, juggle everything, over compensate for stuff when we don't really need to prove ourselves to anyone else externally?   Is it an external appreciation thing?  

I'm often having these sorts of conversations with my friends; mums with one or two young kids; Young mums, Older mums, Working mums, Stay at home mums, Part time workers, Lawyers, Psychologists, General Managers, Managing Directors, Artists & Creatives, Retailers... the conversation is ongoing, nothing definitive.  For myself,  I'm constantly searching for balance in my life... as variables change, I find you have to be nimble  and forward thinking enough to roll with it, tweak the plans a little and keep going till you get that balance back.  After all life always changing.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts too; do you have balance enough?

"If you're good at something you will always be able to get back in to it. Women should be confident in their ability to reinvent.''   I love this lady!

Summer 2014

Summer 2014

Collette with her baby boy, Hunter

Behind the Scenes of summer 2014 runway show - click below

1 comment:

Classiq said...

Beautifully written, Helen. I admire mothers with a career, but I admire more mothers who realise that there may come a time when they have to step down, if only for just a while, and dedicate themselves to their children. You said it, what a lady!

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