Survivor all dolled up with a party to go to
Melanie Greensmith is a survivor, a perfect example of how having a unique fashion offering can outlast trends and fortunes.
Tomorrow night she celebrates 30 years in business for her label Wheels & Dollbaby with a party to close the Perth Fashion Festival.
“I’ve ridden a few waves,” Greensmith says. “I think I’ve lasted because the brand has always been about a certain lifestyle, which is my lifestyle.
“I’m just lucky that a lot of people follow what I do and still want to wear it. I’m always amazed when I see young girls of 18 in our clothes, and their mums wore my stuff and now they’re wearing it, so that’s pretty cute.”
The label, known for its sexy-nostalgic rock’n’roll aesthetic, has garnered celebrity fans and collaborators, including Dita Von Teese, Debbie Harry and Daisy Lowe, who have all fronted campaigns for the brand.
The Dita effect and the rise of burlesque took the label to new heights before the global financial crisis hit. At one stage it had 20 concessions including at Harvey Nichols and Harrods, and 60 wholesale accounts, in Britain.
Opening an online store relatively early has paid off in spades, says Greensmith, as it accounts for about 75 per cent of business, with US the biggest market.
Greensmith says keeping the business tight has helped her ride those fluctuations. “I never got investors or anything like that. I was very cautious when I started because I had nothing. I’ve been like a squirrel,” she says. “Instead, I’ve bought real estate.”
The designer and her partner, Divinyls guitarist Mark McEntee, live between a semi-rural property outside Perth and an inner-city apartment in Sydney.
For tomorrow’s party, the Divinyls will play for the first time since lead singer Chrissy Amphlett died in 2013. The Preatures’ Isabella Manfredi takes the microphone, with bandmate Jack Moffitt also playing.
“It’s great that Mark and I can do something together,” said Greensmith, recalling the time he and Amphlett played on the bar for a brand launch at Harvey Nichols. “I miss her.”
Crystal Ngo, left, and Michaela Bennett on the runway for Wheels & Dollbaby at Perth Fashion Festival