Alannah Hill – Aussie Author

The Book Cover

About three weeks ago a friend and I attended a book event at Fuller’s bookshop in Hobart.  The blurb about this interesting Tasmanian lady sounded very interesting in the advertisements. About 250 other people agreed with that thought and the event was packed to the gills with people wanting to hear her story.

Alannah spent her childhood in a very rural area of Southern Tasmania.  She talked of her childhood which was positively gruesome with mental and substance abuse by her parents.  She grew up and left home in her teens to escape parents who really didn’t like children at all but had five of them.  Their abuse consisted mainly of severe denigration of everything they aspired to do.  Alannah lived in a fantasy world and who wouldn’t in this situation.  She began designing clothes and became one of Australia’s leading fashion designers based in Melbourne.  She had multiple stores and was very successful, a feat that was never acknowledged by her parents, especially her mother.

She loved dressing up in quite outrageous clothes and her tastes reflected this in her designs. Her designs were trailblazing and instantly recognisable and became very iconic.

After 18 years of partnership with Factory X she released a statement that she was leaving her role as Creative Director and Founder of the Alannah Hill brand.  She stated in her talk that her own brand name of Alannah Hill was taken from her and from then forward she could not sell clothes under her own name as it was copyrighted elsewhere.  There is obviously quite a bit of bitterness about the whole situation.  However the name still exists in the fashion world. If one buys an Alannah Hill design now it has nothing to do with Ms. Hill.  She has been unable to get her brand name back under her control.

After eighteen years of partnership with Factory X Alannah released a statement informing her many loyal fans that she was leaving her role as Creative Director/Founder of Alannah Hill. The shock of Alannah’s departure from her own label captured the public and the media’s imagination. Alannah has had no creative input into the Brand Alannah Hill since 2013. Factory X continue to run the chain of stores named after her.

Photo by PSParks taken at Fuller’s Book Shop Hobart.

In 2015 she launched a new fashion brand Louise Love online. It was retailed exclusively through the David Jones Department store.  In 2016 she closed her online store to recover from a melanoma cancer she was dealing with and decided to write her memoir.

Butterfly On A Pin is the book that has been published and what a ride it is going to be.  She details her childhood, her rise in the fashion business. The betrayal she felt of losing her name/identity in her business must certainly be included.

It has been described by the publishers as a “shocking and exhilarating memoir” describing her transformation from a joyless and abused childhood to a dream come true career peak of love, loss and reinvention. Publishers are Hardie Grant, 2018.

I really enjoyed hearing her discuss her life and success.  She did a wonderful job of impersonating her mother, using a very different voice from her own. One tale she told was when she opened her brand on Fifth Ave, New York and rang her mother to tell her. Her mother was not impressed and could only reply, “Why aren’t you good enough for First Ave?”  The audience had quite a laugh.  Alannah was wildly dressed and more actor than detailer of a depressing childhood.  I think some may have found her confrontational to a degree and thought, “This woman is wacky.”  I loved her and enjoyed all of her stories.

My friend and I did not stay around as the line for the book signing went around the store more than once. I bought the book later in the week and have added it to my TBR pile.Snip20180527_1

We were hungry and disappeared into a wonderful Thai restaurant/takeaway around the corner where we enjoyed hot food on a chilly night.

The event was fun and we look forward to more events over the upcoming dark evenings of winter.



Australian Women’s Author- 1800’s

Snip20180201_4Excerpt from Australian Dictionary of Biography:

Mary Louisa (Mollie) Skinner (1876-1955), nurse and writer, was born in Perth on 19 September 1876, second child of James Tierney Skinner, army officer, and his wife Jessie Rose Ellen, daughter of George Walpole Leake. The family moved to England and Ireland in 1878 and at 9 Mollie was sent to an academy for young ladies in Edinburgh. A keen student and voracious reader, she had to abandon formal education in 1887 because of an ulcerated cornea. She spent so much time during the next five years in England in a darkened room with her burning eyes bandaged that she thought of herself as the fifth sparrow (Luke 12:6)—’a poor, befeathered, blinded little bird yet still having joyful life, ability to fly, to sing, to preen, to pick up crumbs and drink and to find fellowship with my kind’.

After painful cauterization partially restored her sight, Miss Skinner began to write poems and stories; she also learned singing and cookery. Later she trained as a nurse at the Evelina Hospital for Children, London, and at the Metropolitan Convalescent Home for Children; she recognized within herself an intuitive power, or sixth sense.

Unlike her mother, Mollie was homely: short and sturdy, with thick, dark hair and smoke-blue eyes. She wore sensible clothing and low-heeled shoes. She was intelligent, perceptive and practical, her mind ‘a delight of unexpected treasures among a conglomeration of serviceable items and irrelevant bric-a-brac’. Born with a cleft lip and threatened by blindness, she avoided marriage but found single life hard. She earned her living as a nurse, and wrote for pleasure and money. Both callings were considered ‘common’ by her family.

Continue reading her bio here if interested.

Snip20180201_5This last week the card drawn for the Deal Me In Challenge was the Ace of Spades. The story was a very short story called The Hand and it was written by M L Skinner in 1876. It was a simple tale of a few nurses working in a shed of a hospital in Western Australia one night. The night is dark and one of the nurses walks into a room where something seizes her ankle in a firm grip. She has no idea what has hold of her and of course screams.  When another runs into the room holding a lantern, which of course gets blown out and needs to be relit, it turns out the ‘grip’ is caused by a hand.  A straggler had become lost in the heat, wandered about and in a delirium ended up collapsed in the hospital. The hospital was shaped like the letter L and the back side of it was only under cover, not completely enclosed.  The story, in my opinion was very weak and I am still not sure what its meaning was. Perhaps to show the conditions in this building of which they worked? I have no idea. I would be surprised if this was Ms Skinner’s finest work. I must admit though that it did hold my attention in its sparse four pages.  Maybe it is more about defining a moment in the late 1800’s in rural Western Australia and I did get a feel for the night. A sort of memoir (if it was a true account which kind of felt like it.)

The descriptions were good and I could feel the heat and the dark and see the shaded light caused only by the lanterns available.

I was running behind in the Deal Me In Challenge with getting this story read. On Tuesday, the day I wanted it finished by, I still had not completed it. I had an eye surgeon’s appointment (just a check-up) and thought, “Right! I always need to wait while I get shuttled around in this busy practice and wait for my eyes to dilate. I’ll read it then.”  I looked forward to some forced reading time. I found a quiet area of the waiting room. Opened my book and began the first paragraph. I felt a small wave of peace.  At which time another lady sat beside me and I knew I couldn’t hide from as our arms were practically touching. She is a member of a group I belong to. Of course it would be “HER”. The most talkative, chatty bunch of the entire group and down she sat with a big smile on her face at seeing someone she knew beside her.  The story of my life.  Luckily the story was so short and as her number was called I too got  moved to another area of the practice and managed to finish the story while the photos of my eye were developed.  That is life in Tasmania. You can’t go anywhere without bumping into someone you know.  We are known for it.  Time to draw another card. (In silence, I hope.)Snip20160609_6