Sur­vivor all dolled up with a party to go to

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - GLYNIS TRAILL-NASH FASH­ION EDITOR

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.”

MARIE NIRME

Crys­tal Ngo, left, and Michaela Ben­nett on the run­way for Wheels & Doll­baby at Perth Fash­ion Fes­ti­val

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