Georgie and Alex Cleary of Alpha60 at their Fitzroy head office. Photo – Sean Fennessy.
Alphaville – Alpha60’s Fitzroy store. Photo – Sean Fennessy.
Georgie Cleary of Alpha60 in her Fitzroy workspace. Photo – Sean Fennessy.
Alpha60 Shoes in the Fitzroy office. Photo – Sean Fennessy.
A sneak peek at Alpha60’s brand new Summer 13/14 range.
I am pretty sure these guys need no introduction. You should already be familiar with dynamic brother and sister duo Alex and Georgie Cleary of Melbourne fashion label Alpha60, because, aside from the fact that are totally ‘Melbourne famous’, we featured their incredible Northcote home here late last year. You know the one – gigantic upside-down feet in the loungeroom, and a whale bone on the stairs? Such a gem!
Since launching their business in 2005, Georgie and Alex have grown their much loved local fashion brand into a respected label known for its unique sense of ‘sophisticated quirk’. Alpha60’s many achievements over the years have included staging solo shows at Australian Fashion Week and the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, collaborating with Sportsgirl, ASOS and Polaroid, opening six Alphaville boutiques across Melbourne and Sydney, and securing international stockists across the globe. Alpha60 now employs 30 people in total, whilst Georgie and Alex still play very hands on roles within a head office team of just four people.
Alex and Georgie are incredibly close siblings. They’ve always lived and worked together. As kids growing up in Canberra, they were entrepreneurial from a young age, creating micro businesses together, selling flowers from their parents’ farm, and making bags, t-shirts and baked treats to supplement their pocket money! Alpha60 is the grown up, and very successful extension of this – a childhood ambition realised.
Alex and Georgie’s tight bond is one of Alpha60’s unique strengths. They just work so well together. ‘It’s probably a classic case of what you shouldn’t do in a business relationship’ says Alex of this unusual sibling business relationship. ‘We have never sat down and defined roles. We sit down and work out what has to be done and then get it done. It’s a synergy. Alpha60 doesn’t work without the both of us’.
And so, with a mantra of ‘keep your feet on the ground and head in the clouds’, Alpha60 continues to grow and reach new markets. Their range now includes sunglasses and accessories – and they’re super chuffed to have their relatively new shoe range stocked at Assembly, one of their favourite stores in NYC! Next year they will celebrate their 10th year in business!
Alpha60 launch their brand new Smmer 13/14 range this month, and they would like to offer one lucky TDF reader a $500 voucher to spend either instore or online this season! Thankyou Georgie and Alex!
To be in the running, simply leave a comment on today’s post before 10.00pm Melbourne time this Monday 19th August 2013. (UPDATE: The winner has now been drawn and contacted, congratulations comment 86 we hope you enjoy your prize!)
Please be patient if WordPress struggles to keep up with the entries this morning, as you have a few more days to enter! A winner will be selected at random and contacted by email next Tuesday.
Huge thanks to Georgie and Alex for sharing their inspiring story with us today!
Tell us a little bit about your background – what did you each study, what originally drew you to fashion, and to launching your own label Alpha60 in 2005?
We started working together when we were really young on a small rose farm just outside Canberra. We had our first business at the ages of nine and eleven years old, where we used to go down to the back paddock, cut wildflowers and sell them on a roadside stall! This then evolved into us getting old bulbs from dad’s nursery and planting them for next season harvest. We soon worked out that working for yourself was more rewarding than working by the hour and had a number of different projects on the roll.
We made greeting cards, bags, grew camellias, cut flowers, baked muffins, dried flowers into pot pourri (this was desirable as it was the ’80s!). One total hit was doing a ‘lemonade stand’ in the nursery but instead of lemonade we sold champagne and orange juice. Who can resist a couple of minors selling booze?! We walked away with $500 that day. Ripper!
We grew up in a very creative household, Mum and Dad ran a nursery/gallery/florist so small business was very much a part of our upbringing. It was pretty standard that we would come home from school and get involved in whatever the project of the time was. It ranged from arranging wedding flowers to delivering christmas trees. We were taught to ‘observe and absorb’ – something we still do every day.
After uni we branched out into a couple of different things: Georgie studied graphic design and after a small stint as the in-house graphic designer for a streetwear company she was promoted to womenswear designer, and I (Alex) studied engineering and briefly worked as an Aeronautical Engineer, before having a quarter life crisis to move to magnificent Melbourne.
Alpha60 was never a plan for us. It all started when we were hunting for interesting menswear. After having no luck, Georgie printed up a shirt for me, which got many comments and requests. So we made five for friends. These were quickly gone so we made 10. Ten turned to 20 and so on. After a few weeks of making for friends we threw a couple of samples in a cardboard box to show and luckily got an order from FAT, as it was then on Johnson St in Fitzroy. We were pretty naive, which kind of worked in our favour. Shortly after this we were selling to more than 20 shops across the country.
Our home was always covered in shirts, every surface had a print drying on it – and we couldn’t keep up with demand. After a couple of seasons of making we decided to make a few more pieces and turn the shirts and tees into a range. This has since grown to 200 pieces a season including shoes, sunnies, bags and jewellery.
Alpha60 has gone from strength to strength since you first started back in 2005! Did you ever expect to have your own high street stores and a brand that has become a household name in Australia? What were your initial goals for Alpha60 when you first started?
When we started it was just a hobby, which was actually really nice because it meant that we were not trying to make a living and we could keep it fun. It started without any plan, or intention to be a business. Which is lucky because we have learnt a lot as it has developed. I think that we would have been overwhelmed if we had set out with a plan to get to where we are now.
We remember when we first decided to make a range that included more than the shirts, we sat down and thought about what we would like to do in the next five years.
We wrote a five year dream list that said we hoped to:
1. Be able to quit our other jobs
2. Create a bigger range and make more things
3. Show our range at our own solo parade
4. Sell overseas
5. Have our own shop
Funnily we were able to do all of this within a year. We quit our jobs, got our first small shop upstairs in Brunswick St, Fitzroy, for $300 per week. We got invited to hold a solo show at the NGA in Canberra as part of the Vivienne Westwood Retrospective, and hooked up distributors in the UK and Japan. So we had to rewrite the five year plan after that!
Alpha60’s current Winter 2013 range.
We know you get asked this question a lot, but we couldn’t resist! We’re intrigued by the fact that as siblings, you work together so well! How do you balance your close relationship with the demands of running a business together? What role do you each play, and how do your different skills complement one another in the business?
We have worked together for so long that it just makes sense for us. We come from different angles, with different skills, but we have the same goals and the same aesthetic. So even if what we do is different, we are working towards the same end. It’s probably a classic case of what you shouldn’t do in a business relationship. We have never sat down and defined roles. We sit down and work out what has to be done and then get it done.
As the business has gown our paths have become a little more defined. I come from the business side and Georgie the creative, and we meet in the big blur in the middle.
It’s a synergy. Alpha60 doesn’t work without the both of us. The goal has always been to be able to work together and create new things, and that continues to drive us now.
Our mantra is ‘Keep your feet on the ground and head in the clouds.’
Alex and Georgie in their Fitzroy workspace. Photo – Sean Fennessy.
How would you describe the Alpha60 aesthetic – what influences do you draw on when creating new collections, and what common thread ties all your work together?
We like to call our style ‘sophisticated quirk’. It is about developing things in a new and interesting way – classic cuts with a twist. We are lucky enough that we get to design what we like and what we would like to wear, so Alpha60 is really a continuation of our own style.c
Inspiration is taken from so many things – art, film, fashion, trees, architecture, music, gardens, walls, concrete. To start a season we usually start with a snippet of texture or colour from a favourite something, be it a colour from a Rothko painting or the face from a Papua New Guinea mask, or sometimes a plain concrete wall.
If we were to pick one thing to be inspired by it would be art and galleries, it’s where the collection starts and where it ends.
Can you give us a little insight into the inner workings of Alpha60? Where are you based, how is your office structured, and how many people do you employ?
We are based in a beautiful sunny studio on Brunswick St, Fitzroy. There are just four of us here. Us and our designers Olivia and Jess. Having a new range every month means that there is always something in development, something arriving and something needed – there is always lots going on!
We have six stores now so there are almost 30 staff all together, it keeps us on our toes!
Georgie discussing new shoe designs with one of Alpha60’s talented team. Photo – Sean Fennessy.
What have been one or two career highlights for Alpha60 in recent years?
Our total highlights have been opening our stores. Its always very exciting for us. The whole space is important – the colour, the design, the music, the staff, the VM.
We love designing spaces, it’s so cool that our job involves so many things and the stores really help with that. We can show our collections exactly the way we would like them to be seen.
We have also been really excited about our shoes! They are in their third season now and we are developing more. We have recently sold them in New York to shops like Assembly (NYC), which is really ace as its one of our favourites.
Which Australian designers, artists or other creative people are you loving at the moment?
Brendan Huntley – Artist, rockstar and all round good guy. We have a couple of his paintings and would like some more!
Riley Payne – How anyone has as much patience as Riley to draw as he does is amazing!
Jen Berean and Pat Foster – We are babysitting a couple of JB and PF pieces at the moment – we hope that they don’t want them back ever!
Vali Myers – A true Melbourne legend.
Can you list for us 5 resources across any media that you love to look at regularly, or which influence you creatively?
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
We are not sure if it’s a burden or a blessing, but there doesn’t seem to be many typical days here. Running a small business means that we have to have a go at everything – from design to bookwork, from drawing to PR, photo shoots, shoe fittings, styling shop fits, painting, packing. There must be 10 different ‘hats’ worn each day.
Just the way we like it!
What would be your dream creative project?
How about making a movie with Jean Luc Godard, that starred Anna Karina and had a soundtrack by Iggy Pop.
Bit of a long shot, but you said dream!
What are you looking forward to?
We think that it might be our 10 year anniversary coming up in March. We are not exactly sure when we officially started, so we are going to make that the date!
Stay tuned – we will have a celebration!
Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
Its pretty hard because we love both neighbourhoods around work and around home.
Fitzroy (The home of Alpha60 HQ) – Newtown social club, The Union, smith st, N.Lee, Scilla, Grub. There are just too many eats/drinks/outs around here to fill.
Westgarth/Northcote (Home) – Joe’s Shoe Store (bar), Pizza Meine Liebe, Northcote Social Club. It’s just away from town and a little bit suburban with a little bit of action. It’s great around there.
What and where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?
Alex – It’s a dead heat. Cumulus for dinner is about the favourite. Equalled only by our friend Roopa who made Chipolte and Chocolate Sausages for a four-year-old’s birthday last weekend! WOW!
Georgie – Izakaya Den, amazingly delicious! Last time I was there I spotted Lucy Feagins across the bar!
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Alex – Hopefully down the coast at Phillip Island on a nice 4ft wave.
Georgie – Walking with Pino and our seven-month-old baby Wren to the farmers’ market via Mixed Business, a favourite breakfast spot, while we grab a bunch of flowers from Fowlers as we wait for a table.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
Alex – It’s not a secret, but Newtown Social Club on Brunswick St is great, best sandwiches in town! And a secret unused and accessible rooftop in Fitzroy, perfect for a secret summer knock off!
Georgie – The gardens behind the Abbotsford Convent.