“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.
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.