“It’s not in my na­ture to sit back”

As Alex Perry marks 25 years in busi­ness, and a new bridal col­lec­tion, the de­signer ex­plains why he prefers to look to the fu­ture rather than re­flect on the past.

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy HUGH STE­WART Styling KELLY HUME In­ter­view SHEL­LEY SED­DON

Af­ter 25 years in the bru­tal, com­pet­i­tive world of fash­ion, a hard-work­ing and suc­cess­ful de­signer could be for­given for choos­ing to put their feet up, dial back on the work­load and hand the reins over to a trusted pro­tégé. Alex Perry is not one of those peo­ple.

From the set of an ex­clu­sive photo shoot for Stel­lar, Perry says that “slow­ing down is not an op­tion for me. I love be­ing busy. When you’re cre­ative, you’re al­ways in­ter­ested in the next thing.”

And for Perry, who al­ready cre­ates four ready-to-wear col­lec­tions each year, that next thing has ma­te­ri­alised in the form of his first line of off-ther­ack bridal gowns. Perry, of course, made his mark as the man for madeto-mea­sure wed­ding dresses in the mid-2000s and it re­mains a lu­cra­tive part of his busi­ness.

“When I first started, the na­ture of wed­dings was dif­fer­ent,” Perry ex­plains. “They were re­ally big af­fairs. I [worked with] a lot of Greeks, a lot of Jewish clients, Ara­bic girls, Le­banese wed­dings… they were big pro­duc­tions.” Now, Perry tells Stel­lar, the big day is less about hav­ing a Cin­derella mo­ment; rather, brides are treat­ing the aisle as some­thing of a red car­pet.

“I’ve got a more mod­ern girl who’s very in­ter­ested in fash­ion, so when it comes to her wed­ding she wants to look beau­ti­ful, she wants that mo­ment,” he says. “We’ve turned down the vol­ume, in one sense, but lifted the fash­ion.”

The Alex Perry Bride range, which just launched glob­ally, fea­tures 25 pieces; brides-to-be can browse of­fer­ings on­line, reg­is­ter their in­ter­est and then book in a 30-minute fit­ting with Perry’s team of ex­perts. The flash­bulb mo­ment that birthed the range oc­curred when he out­fit­ted Phoebe Hooke for her mar­riage to NRL player Sam Burgess in 2015. “That re­ally ce­mented it for me,” Perry says. “It was a gor­geous dress – along the lines of some­thing we had done in ready-towear. We trans­lated it into bridal and got such an in­cred­i­ble re­sponse.”

This is about as much as one will get in the way of re­flec­tion from Perry, who has no in­ter­est in mark­ing the mile­stones of his ca­reer. “I never com­mem­o­rate,” he says with a shrug. “I’m not dead yet! I’m still in the mid­dle of it; I don’t have time to look back and pat my­self on the shoul­der.”

Still, it is worth re­mem­ber­ing just how far Perry has come since he opened his first shop on a bustling boule­vard in the work­ing-class Syd­ney sub­urb of Kens­ing­ton in 1992. He paid $250 a week to rent a space next door to a chicken shop, and hoped to lure cus­tomers from a sprawl­ing home­wares mecca nearby.

There were 10 dresses on of­fer, which he stuck on a rack pur­chased from IKEA. Fab­u­lous win­dow dis­plays were cre­ated to catch pass­ing eyes; all Perry could then do was hope for the best. “It cost $2000 to set up shop – that’s all I had.”

The in­vest­ment paid off. By 1995, Perry was show­ing at the in­au­gu­ral Aus­tralian Fash­ion Week, and has par­tic­i­pated ever since 1997 – the same year he drew in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion when Linda Evan­ge­lista walked in his show. Over the sub­se­quent years, the de­signer has fea­tured su­per­star mod­els such as Alessan­dra Am­bro­sio, Ni­cole Trun­fio and Lily Cole.

To­day, Perry heads up a ver­i­ta­ble em­pire that has moved far be­yond cloth­ing. He has worked with Spec­savers for five years, col­lab­o­rated on de­sign for bed­ding and rugs, and is a brand am­bas­sador for Elec­trolux. In 2015, the Alex Perry Ho­tel & Apart­ments opened in Bris­bane’s fash­ion­able For­ti­tude Val­ley.

But he re­mains protective of his brand, and tells Stel­lar he is very par­tic­u­lar about who gets to be­come one of his es­teemed “Perry Girls”. He reg­u­larly dressed the likes of Elle

“When I first started, wed­dings were dif­fer­ent”

Macpher­son, Jen­nifer Hawkins, Me­gan Gale and Mi­randa Kerr be­fore branch­ing out to in­ter­na­tional stars in­clud­ing Jen­nifer Lopez and Ri­hanna. Still, Perry in­sists, “I don’t throw any­thing at any­body. It’s not like celebri­ties ar­rive in the coun­try and I send a bag of dresses to them.” In­stead, he aims to work on build­ing strong re­la­tion­ships with stylists. In turn, Perry now finds him­self work­ing with some of the world’s most fa­mous women.

“We re­cently dressed Ni­cole Kid­man for Stel­lar,” he says. “This year we have dressed Kim Kar­dashian for Vogue and we just cus­tom-made a cou­ple of out­fits for her last week and sent them over. We had a mo­ment with Princess Mary. Lily Aldridge was amaz­ing. Rosamund Pike. Jaime King…”

That’s a lot of glitz and glam­our, but away from his work du­ties, the man whose friends call him “Al” leads a low-key life in the sub­urbs of Syd­ney

with his tight-knit Greek fam­ily. On week­ends, he might be spot­ted at his lo­cal shop­ping cen­tre – if he’s not on the couch loung­ing in his track pants watch­ing what­ever it­er­a­tion of the Real Housewives fran­chise he can. In fact, Perry is such a fan that he was tapped to host and mod­er­ate the epic re­union gath­er­ings for the Syd­ney and Mel­bourne ver­sions. “The most chal­leng­ing day of work in my en­tire year,” he cracks. “And that’s re­ally say­ing some­thing. I know it’s car crash tele­vi­sion, but it makes me laugh.”

Madeleine Ital­ian lace and tulle strap­less em­bel­lished gown, $7500.

ALL SEWN UP (from top) Perry works on one of his de­signs in 1999; with the late Char­lotte Daw­son, his close friend and col­league; on the panel of Aus­tralia’s Next Top Model with judges Me­gan Gale and Jen­nifer Hawkins; Sam Burgess and his bride Phoebe...

Gigi Ital­ian lace strap­less em­bel­lished gown, POA.

WED­DED BLISS De­signer Alex Perry is now of­fer­ing off-the-rack bridal gowns, in­clud­ing the (left) Lindsey silk duchess satin strap­less sheer gown, $10,000, and (right), Cameron satin crepe bikini gown with silk waist, $4000; al­ex­perry.com.au/ bride.

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