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    Category Archives: Interviews with Creative Women

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    Industry insights: independent fashion


    By Annette Wagner

    Most of us are acutely aware that the mainstream ‘fast fashion’ industry generates mass-produced garments directly to the retail floor in only a few weeks, and consumption comes with a hidden price tag. The ‘slow fashion’ movement has personally made me more conscious of the pieces I seek out and the designers that have a unique approach. Additionally, when Australian fashion is still relatively young compared with UK, European and US markets (despite our recent milestone highlighted in the brilliant exhibition ‘200 years of Australian Fashion’ held at National Gallery of Victoria, Australia) how does a label start, compete and compare in fashion landscape?

    Behind the racks, I really don’t know much about the fashion industry at all, so I asked Melbourne-based Australian label Chorus’ Cassandra Wheat and Louise Pannell about their experience.

    How exactly did two high school textile friends transition into business together? What was the exact point that you both committed and started planning to launch Chorus?

    In 2012 Cassandra had just returned from five years of living overseas to take up a position at RMIT, knowing she didn’t want to go back to designing for another brand. I was working at Mimco as their Visual Merchandising Manager and found out I was expecting my first child. We’d discussed starting some kind of label or business on and off for years and when I was on maternity leave it seemed like the right time to take the leap and start something. It really happened quite fast in the end.


    Our upcoming September outfit for which we have collaborated with European based surface designers Pinar&Viola on the print for the outfit. Photo by Isabella Capezio

    What are your roles within Chorus?

    Cassandra – Design, toiling, sampling making, fabric sourcing and selection, production management, Marketing and social media.

    Lou – Day to day operations and finance. Running the website, email design, customer orders/ relations, PR – managing the relationship with press and stylists. In saying that we each step in and out of many of the above roles, and both do what needs to be done on any given day. Cas can invoice and I can cut out production if need be!

    Cassandra, after graduating from RMIT with a BA in Fashion with Honours, then completing a masters in design at Domus Academy before working for Viktor & Rolf, you are now now currently undertaking a PhD in fashion. Have you always been so focused on  fashion and pursuing your passion and career?

    Yes, since I was very young in fact – there are sketch books of imaginary labels from my primary school years. That does not however mean that I have not doubted this path many, many times. Studying my undergraduate was hard, as was my masters and even more so my time at Viktor and Rolf, and I must say the work just gets harder, but I can’t imagine what else I would do. I have also, as made obvious by your question, been interested in pushing my education, taking that into the research space gives me a perspective not many practicing fashion designers have.

    Louise, after studying Visual Merchandising at RMIT, working in the industry here and abroad for over 13 years and consulting at many big name brands, how has your journey directed you into creating a fashion label here in Melbourne?

    What I loved about VM was the fact that its very operational and sales focused as well as creative. (I initially I wanted to do fashion design at uni, but when I met Cas in year 11 and saw how passionate she was about becoming a fashion designer and how dedicated a student she was I knew I wasn’t that person! A career advisor at school suggested the VM course at RMIT and the combination of creativity and retail felt right to me). I come from a family who has run businesses so I think wanting to work in sales and for myself is in my blood. Especially after the arrival of my first daughter I knew I wanted to work and work hard, but I wanted to channel my skills, time and energy into building something over the long term that was ours. I knew Cassandra and I would be able to run a business together, having been such close friends for so long, and knew our combined skills would work well. Cassandra has the design and making skills and I have the practical organisational skills that are required to run the business. And I still get to be creative with our shoots and image making, and in the past (and I’m sure again in the future) at our events and retail space.

    In such a competitive industry, what sustains both of your interests in building Chorus and continuing in fashion?

    We are working in rhythm now that just keeps things moving, having a resolved creative output every month gives us the opportunity to feel like we have achieved something good really often. So celebrating the small things helps. Also working with others in the way we do – collaborating with another creative for every second outfit – is very stimulating creatively, sharing ideas and making the work of others come to life is very sustaining.

    Chorus has a unique approach to launching new designs. What inspires your monthly capsule concept?

    It was really a response to feeling like the traditional fashion calendar of bi-annual collections was not working for us – on many levels. It was involving continued large investment, leaving us with stock we had to clear, and only providing us with two sets of images per year to promote our work with, so we had to shift. This way we can offer the newness people want from fashion in a manageable way.

    Knowing the right people is critical in most industries. How important is networking in your industry?

    It is important for sure, but for us it’s more about building relationships with like minded people that encourage us.

    What has been harder, getting started or being able to keep going?

    Keeping going with out a doubt. Starting was a lot of man hours, but keeping going demands innovation and flexibility.

    I think its safe to say that the fashion industry is predominately women. How supportive are women in the industry?

    There are actually a lot of men in the industry, particularly at the top, and in the past we have both worked alongside many talented men and women. It depends in what part of the fashion industry you are in, for sure in our sector of independent labels in Melbourne there is a swing towards women. I think there is a perception that the fashion industry is very closed and that brands keep their secrets and don’t support each other, however I feel like the network of Melbourne designers is very supportive of each other.

    How important was working OS for you both? And, why?

    Cassandra – For me it was pivotal, I think being from Australia we feel we are somehow inferior to countries that have larger industries and longer histories of the discipline. It was important to prove to myself that I could gain employment in a fashion house that showed in Paris. That being said my job there was so similar to those I had had in Australia, it really highlighted that skills are transferable and that my RMIT education was a good one. Travel also gives a great perspective on your own culture, I think its important to keep travelling, and wish I could afford to do it more.

    Lou – I agree with Cassandra, it was vital time of learning and discovery for me. Being tested in all the ways a new city and country can test you – not being able to find work, not having your support network around you and literally have no money, to finally getting my ‘dream job’ which was the VM for Mimco when they launched in the UK. Working for an Australian brand trying to establish itself in the UK was a challenge as the UK and Ireland is such a broad, established and saturated retail environment. At the same time it was lovely to work with familiar people (Australian HQ and lots of Aussies in the UK stores) and brand. It was a hard slog, but again I learnt so much about people and communication and working in different cultures and across very distant time zones! The retail environment in the UK, particularly London is so inspirational. I loved nothing more than heading into central London on the weekend and checking out Liberty, Selfridges or Harvey Nichols latest windows and collections.

    What is the Australian fashion industry like compared to UK/European industry?

    The Australian industry is small and it doesn’t have the hundreds of years of history, which is great in one way as we get to be more innovative as we don’t have the established rules of working. However, because we are not so established and also a relatively small population compared to the other big fashion centers of the world there is not the investment or support for Australian fashion brands as there is in UK, Europe or the US. In saying that the advent of the Australian Fashion Chamber recently has been a positive step for the support and strengthening of the industry both here and overseas.

    Where do you often find the most inspiration?

    In working with other creative women. Working with our various creative collaborators’ provides us with endless inspiration.

    What is the best advice you have ever been given?

    To always follow your gut and that cash flow is king!

    Do you have any recommendations for others wanting to pursue a career in fashion?

    Don’t do it unless you mean it and although it’s a cliché, you have to be prepared to give it your all.


    Posted by: Emma Clark
    Categories: Growing a Business, Interviews with Creative Women, Starting a Business | Comments Off on Industry insights: independent fashion
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    Industry insights: Myf Warhurst’s 5 tips for women in media


    This is Part Two of our Industry Insights interview with media legend Myf Warhurst. Read Part One here!

    By Annette Wagner

    Over the course of your career, you’ve interviewed many amazing heroes, interesting and inspirational people. What happens when you meet those childhood crushes: are you enamoured by your guest, or potentially challenged by meeting someone like Germaine Greer?! How do you manage your most anxious moments, when you always appear with confidence?

    Rest assured, I’m often terrified. I wonder where other people get their confidence from sometimes. I must have a calm exterior, because mostly I’m frightened on the inside. I always think everyone is more confident than me, but don’t we all? My remedy though, is to just plough on through. Once it’s over I often wonder what I was so worried about.

    Germaine gave me the best advice before I sat down on a panel with her (and excuse the swearing). I asked if she was comfortable sitting where she was. She looked me directly in the eyes and said “I don’t give a f*ck”. And she doesn’t. It might be the best advice ever.

    Women in Australian media, especially mainstream television, appear to be still in very stereotyped roles, however, the ABC has been really good to you over the years. The ABC is far more progressive in allowing women to challenge conventional perceptions and has made substantial progress behind the scenes in employing more women and promoting them to senior positions, making greater diversity a requirement. Having worked in both public and private media, what’s your observation of women in the Australian media?

    Australia’s still stuck a little in terms of the types of women we see on TV, but it is changing. And yes, the ABC and SBS are better but commercial TV is pretty dire, to be honest. I realised it recently when I went to America and saw so much more diversity on the screen. We really do need to lift our game in all TV that is produced here. It’s still pretty white, male and middle class.

    Your broad appeal and genuine nature is incredibly identifiable for the majority of women. (Definitely the majority of us!) What happens when worlds collide, in full media attention? Can I ask about that dress, you were styled in by someone else, to wear to the Logies in 2009? The “shock frock” which you went on to ceremoniously burn? How do you deal with negativity and rise above other’s expectations that aren’t in line with your own values? Is there a flame, and an extinguisher, always close by? (I’d like to add, it is an incredible list of women’s names on the “shock frocks” list we’ve all forgotten about over the years, but for all my searching, I couldn’t find an equally well maintained list of badly fitting or 1980’s inspired collarless shirts & suits for men. AND who hasn’t had a bad formal number anyway?!)

    I’ve worn a million crappy outfits, and had some incredibly big hairstyles and garish makeup over the years (and had fun doing it too), so it’s really best not to care to be honest. When that Logies stuff happened, it surprised me. I was only on a little ABC TV show and not a commercial network so I thought no one would care about what I wore. I just got a bad year. I should have been raked over the coals for far worse outfits, but who knows how it all works? I still don’t and I still don’t really care. I think it’s important to be thought of for what you do rather than what you wear.

    Lastly, what are your top 5 tips for other women starting or currently in a career in the Australia media industry?

    1. I’m terrible at advice because I can’t even give myself any half the time. I still haven’t worked out how this thing works? If there’s an instruction manual I’d love to see it.
    2. The media landscape is constantly changing so you need to be adaptable more than ever before. It’s terrifying, but if you’re in the media you probably know this already. There aren’t any jobs for life in this business anymore, sadly.
    3. If you’re going for a radio or TV role, be yourself, don’t try and be someone you’re not. People can see through that in a heartbeat and in the end, it’s what you’ve got that makes you different from someone else.
    4. You only learn from doing in this industry. Throw yourself in the deep end often. You’ll be surprised by what you can do.
    5. A lot of the media jobs are decided by other people and they involve things you can’t control – like whether or not other people like you or think you’re right for the gig. You can however, try to develop a reasonably good sense of self, so if you do get sacked, or don’t get that dream job or get made fun of in the media, you know you’re going to be okay. Good friends and family help with that too.

    Annette Wagner is a designer, marketer, creative consultant, artist and writer. She is also on the board of the Creative Women’s Circle. Obsessively passionate about the arts and the creative process, she is determined to not talk art-speak and instead focus on supporting and sharing concepts and insights most creative types crave to know.

    Tags: feminism, industry insights, media, myf warhurst
    Posted by: Emma Clark
    Categories: Advice and Tips, Interviews with Creative Women | Comments Off on Industry insights: Myf Warhurst’s 5 tips for women in media
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    Industry insights: Myf Warhurst on feminism, media and quitting while you’re ahead


    This is Part One of our Industry Insights interview with media legend Myf Warhurst. Stay tuned for Part Two next week, where she shares her top advice for women in media (and what it’s like to interview Germaine Greer)!

    By Annette Wagner

    There are more women than men in Australia. Our female population has hit 12 million, but there are still 96,300 baby boys to be born from the fellas to meet the 12 million mark.

    So, it is encouraging to know that our media isn’t all white middle-aged males dominating cameras and microphones, and that the people on our screens and radios accurately represent the population.

    Hang on. Do they?

    While it is necessary to discuss parity for the future, I think it’s equally important to focus on and support women that are making a difference now. Thankfully, Myf Warhurst has been making a difference in my media world for a longtime.

    Myf is an endearing favourite of many musically-minded people and her increasingly broader creative industry hosting ability comes with intelligence and a welcoming selection of canapés, putting both big name interviewees and lucky audiences at ease.

    After studying Music Education and Arts at Melbourne University, Myf started writing music reviews for Melbourne street paper InPress, then landed the job as editor. Since then, her rise as a well-known Australian doyen has been steady and continues to grow.

    On air with Triple J, she started with her first radio bi-weekly segments for Merrick and Rosso’s Drive program, then moved to hosting the Net 50 request program on Saturday nights, then hosting weekday Lunch shift and The Trashy Lunchtime Quiz, before finally hosting The Breakfast Show with Jay and the Doctor. She was coerced by Peter Helliar to join him as co-host on their Nova breakfast show which ran from 2007-2009 and then returned to ABC Local Radio hosting the summertime afternoon program.

    Of course, it’s not just her voice we have come to recognise, it’s that welcoming smile and her authenticity. Her television appearances include many, but captaining a team on Spicks and Specks from 2005 to 2011 certainly accelerated her recognition and popularity. It provided the leverage Myf needed to see her own six-part series realised, Myf Warhurst’s Nice, and since then, if you follow her on Instagram, there isn’t much we don’t know about her, and her cats, Terry and Steve.

    Far from any Cat Lady connotations however, she’s currently on the airways hosting lunch with Myf on Double J, is also a regular presenter on The Project, is the go to hostess with the mostess at many speaker events, and continues to be a contributing writer for many publications. To be honest, it’s a life I envy a little, backstage at Coachella and interviewing childhood crushes or current creative geniuses.

    Having just returned from a well-deserved week off in France and the UK, getting back to work on Double J and between the next hot bed of creatively inspiring people attending some other enviable event, I asked Myf to answer some questions about her experience so far in media which she kindly obliged.

    Be warned, inevitable music and pop culture puns throughout.


    Clearly, your intrinsic love of music and pop culture have been your driving force, maintaining your career direction since you started working. Have you ever been distracted or challenged to continue on your own tour bus? Inspired to do something else, or perhaps even a little dissatisfied with your direction? If yes, what helped you get back on your bus?

    I constantly think about doing other things. I want to write a book, become an architect, fulfil my dream of ice skating for Australia at the next winter Olympics, do another stage show (like the Spicks and Specks live show we toured around the country), go back to University. It’s just down to having the time and the vision. When you’ve got a full time gig people don’t realise that it’s much more than just the hours on air, it’s a full time gig, so it’s hard to indulge all the other dreams. But I will never stop having harebrained ideas about what I want to be when I grow up.

    Not so long ago you took a gap year, or two, and based yourself in the UK. We actually spoke before you left and I recall you saying that you’d never had the chance to do it in your 20’s, and it was the right time to take a break. How did you find re-establishing yourself in a different market, and/or focusing on your writing? Were there any lessons learnt?

    I had such a magnificent time living in London. Career-wise it probably wasn’t the best thing to do, as it’s hard in my game (which is essentially a personality game) to establish yourself in an industry that has no idea who you are and don’t care about what you’ve done. To be honest, I think I left my run a bit late. I really wish I’d tried to do it when I was much younger, say in my 20s. It felt so right for me to be out of my comfort zone, it was really healthy and what I needed at the time. Fortunately I was able to get quite a bit of work from Australia while I was there so I could keep myself afloat. In my dreams I’ll do it again one day but it probably won’t happen. Not right now.

    On reflection of your media industry experience to date, highs and lows, here and abroad, was there a time or realisation that it was going to be a different journey for you from those of your male colleagues? How do you find the culture for women, from when you began, to now, in both radio and television?

    This is a tough one to answer. I’ve always been a strident feminist, even when I began, but it’s interesting to look back now and I realise that I’d never thought of myself in a minority. It’s funny, it’s only been the last few years that I began to recognise the lack of women in the media. It’s changing, fortunately, but it’s only been the last few years when TV shows have become conscious of not having all male panels (on panel shows in the UK, this was the norm and I found it quite odd). I also didn’t think as much about the male dominance in radio world either. As I get older, I notice it a lot more and I make every effort to make sure everything I do is diverse.

    When finishing Spicks and Specks, you said, “I’ve been lucky enough to experience many great things. I’ve seen Frank Woodley’s privates, been naked under a desk with Pete Murray, and met many of my childhood musical crushes. Life can’t get much better than that, so this seems like the perfect time to wind things up.” How did you know that it was time to seek out another challenge and end what had been a huge part of your career for 6 years? (Because being under a desk with Pete Murray did sound good!)

    Yep, Pete and I have never been naked under a desk again, sadly. Finishing Spicks and Specks was a decision Alan, Adam and I made together, and I think it was the right thing at the time (although I haven’t been offered many other gigs since, and will probably never do a TV show as loved as that again). I think leaving under our own steam was good – in TV, you normally get sacked so we thought it might be a good thing to go out on a high. And we had done the show for a long time. It felt right to hang up the boots. I do miss the boys though, and working with them. It was one of those special right time, right place, right people shows. They only come once in a lifetime.

    Annette Wagner is a designer, marketer, creative consultant, artist and writer. She is also on the board of the Creative Women’s Circle. Obsessively passionate about the arts and the creative process, she is determined to not talk art-speak and instead focus on supporting and sharing concepts and insights most creative types crave to know.

    Posted by: Emma Clark
    Categories: Interviews with Creative Women, Regular Columns | Comments Off on Industry insights: Myf Warhurst on feminism, media and quitting while you’re ahead
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    Regional creative: Amanda Cole, designer


    By Mirella Marie

    Amanda Cole is a graphic designer from Newcastle, Australia. Alongside her husband Scott, she runs Shorthand, a creative studio that specialises in branding. I wanted to get Amanda’s insights into running a business in a regional area after moving from a capital city, and her thoughts on starting up a design studio.

    After living and working in Melbourne for many years, how have you found the transition to Newcastle, both personally and professionally? 

    The transition to Newcastle was actually a move home. I completed my degree in Newcastle, living here before heading to Melbourne. Personally it wasn’t too stressful as I was returning to old networks and my husband and business partner Scott has been there every step of the way (including that dreaded 10 1/2 hr drive!) Professionally it was a bit daunting at first. There isn’t the sheer volume of potential clients in Newcastle like there is in Melbourne. Getting your name out there is tricky, as businesses in smaller places put a lot of weight on word of mouth referrals. You need to be patient as it takes time to build up your reputation. We were lucky in that previous Melbourne clients were nothing but supportive of the move and many have stuck with us even now, two years down the track.

    How would you describe your work?

    We are first and foremost a branding studio and that is at the core of everything we do. Generally our projects begin with a client requiring a new brand, or a rebrand in the case where a business is evolving. We like to work closely with our clients, spending time getting to know their business first before jumping into creative. Once an identity is finalised we roll-out to any number of touchpoints, be it business cards, stationery, web or environmental design. Visually we are big believers in less is more and find that a minimal approach allows for the clearest communication.


    Who is your typical client?

    Our studio doesn’t have a typical client and we tend to attract from a variety of sectors, which I have always enjoyed. In saying this, quite often their problems are similar e.g. businesses evolving internally with new technology having a bigger influence on processes. In recent years the studio has attracted a lot of not-for-profit organisations which has been really rewarding.

    Which part of the creative process do you enjoy the most?

    Presenting the concept to the client is always stressful – but when they love the work and have a big smile it always makes my day. We have an initial collaborative approach with clients and like to involve them in the strategic process. I find working this way really beneficial, as relationship-wise we form a team. This also means when we unveil the concept, the client already has a general idea of what the identity is going to look like so there is no ‘presentation shock’. By getting clients more involved, they take more ownership over the brand as truly theirs which is great!

    What advice would you give to someone starting a design studio?

    While some manage to pull it off, I would advise against attempting to start a studio straight off the back of study or abruptly leaving a full-time position. The way I got to where I am now was in small transitional steps. I began freelancing after hours until I could no longer manage both it and my day job. After this I began a part-time position and eventually moved on to doing my own thing full-time. Even then I still occasionally took contract jobs or a bit of freelance before I was in a really secure place to start the studio. This was great for me as it’s low stress, low risk, and gives you opportunities to keep earning some steady cash whilst setting yourself up and gaining regular clients.

    Once you’re set up, keep your overheads low by setting up a home office – although if you don’t trust yourself to get things done at home, co-working spaces are a great alternative.

    Plan ahead. You need to be constantly thinking about the future and looking for new clients to keep the work flowing. Aim to transition your regular clients to retainers to give your business stability. Make sure your website and social media are regularly updated – leaving these jobs until the work starts to dry up will only give you a headache. 

    Lastly, don’t neglect the admin. Xero is great if you’re looking for some easy to use accounting software and helps you keep an eye on those monthly budgets. Also, figure out what those budgets are! There are lots of easy to find calculators out there to help determine how much and how many hours you need to be charging. If you prefer the printed word, the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines is a great resource.


    What is the creative community like in Newcastle?

    Really blossoming which is fantastic! There a lot of talented people here doing amazing things. Newcastle has one of the highest retention rates of any place in Australia. This is of great benefit to the area because while people often leave to experience other (bigger) cities, they then bring that experience back home with them when they return. 

    What does a typical day involve for you?

    I jump on my phone with my morning coffee to check any overnight emails, social media and read the news before heading to the office by nine. As Scott and I have evolved our roles within the business, I now spend the first full half of the day on meetings, scheduling, accounts, proposals and emails. After lunch is when I’ll aim to get into any creative work – this can be helping the guys with any overflow or actioning our latest brand roll-out. 

    Each day ends consistently at five. After working in bigger agencies where it seemed competitive as to who could stay the latest, I’m very aware of leaving on time. Occasionally if there are deadlines looming we will work after hours, but I like to avoid that as much as possible.

    I enjoy cooking so most nights revolve around making dinner. Being winter, it gets dark earlier so nights are spent in hibernation, but in summer it’s hard to resist a walk along the beach to the Anzac Memorial Walk (if you’re ever visiting Newcastle I recommend it!).

    What are your plans for the future?

    Currently the biggest priority is moving into a new studio space by the end of the year. When we established the studio in Newcastle, we started in a smaller space while we got ourselves settled but have quickly outgrown it. Currently we have three team members, with the studio networking with quite a few external creatives on a project-by-project basis. We intend to keep this model moving forward as it allows for the greatest flexibility on projects and personally it makes for my ideal studio balance.

    To view Amanda’s work visit http://shorthandstudio.com. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

    Photography by Sophie Tyler

    Mirella Marie is the owner and creative director of Vertigo, a Melbourne based graphic design studio specialising in brand identity and design. She is also a contributor for Women of Graphic Design, a project examining the work of female designers around the world. Join her on Instagram @studiovertigo.

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    Posted by: Emma Clark
    Categories: Growing a Business, Interviews with Creative Women, Regional | Comments Off on Regional creative: Amanda Cole, designer