Founder of the Australian-based fashion label Wheels & Dollbaby, Melanie Greensmith recently teamed up with celebrity and fashion photographer Ellen von Unwerth for the label’s new “Dejazet” collection.
The Wheels & Dollbaby label centers around the idea of offering women unique looks in which they can express their individuality. Designs of Wheels & Dollbaby typically exude a sexy, pin-up girl style, often mixing romantic feminism, like florals in bright colors, with über-sexy pieces, resembling sultry lingerie.
Wheels & Dollbaby pieces have been seen on the likes of Katy Perry, sister singing duo, The Veronicas, Amy Winehouse, Pamela Anderson, and Lily Allen. Rock legend Debbie Harry (or Blondie, as she’s more commonly known) and burlesque vixen Dita von Teese have both worked on Wheels & Dollbaby campaigns and serve as the faces of this risqué-but-chic label.
Founder Melanie Greensmith chats with Love Twenty about her new collection, her inspiration, and how any girl can rock a vampy Wheel & Dollbaby creation.
L20: Recently, photographer Ellen von Unwerth did the shoot for your new “Dejazet” collection. How did this collaboration come about and how was the experience working with a photographer who’s shot for magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair and who has worked with celebrities such as Claudia Schiffer, Rihanna, and Emma Watson?
MG: Well, it of course was amazing. I was in London and hanging out with Sascha Lilac, the famous stylist who works with Ellen a lot, and he suggested it to me and got the ball rolling! I loved the whole process–they were so on it. They chose the models, the theater, everything. Ellen just really got what I would like. I guess I was a dream client as I just let them go for it! Such a luxury for me.
L20: You’ve also worked with musicians such as Debbie Harry and your business partner is Mark McEntee, guitarist for the Divinyls. How do you feel music inspires your designs? And, what are your biggest inspirations in designing for Wheels & Dollbaby?
MG: Well, I have always hung out with artists, be it music, fashion or art, as I love a rich tapestry in people–not square types! I have always loved Rock ‘n Roll and Debbie was my idol as a kid. Even the first large concert I ever went to with punks in the audience in the late 70s was an amazing experience. Then to meet her and to become friends has been divine. She is one clever, talented and hot woman! It was her really that, with doing my first celeb campaign, got other cool people interested. She really helped me set the standard!
Mark is my lover and best friend–he is much more than business. We met in the 80s when he, with then partner Chrissy Amphlett, used to buy Wheels and Dollbaby from me in my first little store. I always fancied him but was no match for Chrissy! Years later he was single and I was single, we had a dinner and have been together constantly for 13 years. He is not like people expect–he is very rock and roll and creative beyond a real stylist. He is also a very conservative private school aero-modeling nut!
L20: How is creating a collection for a couture show creatively different than designing a ready-to-wear line?
MG: I don’t know, as I approach everything I design in the same manner. It’s gotta be fab, hot, and all the hot girls must want it!
L20: Do designers look at trends when creating a new collection? What trends have you followed and what trends do you feel you try to stay away from?
MG: I am aware of all the trends, but I get crossed wires if I look at stuff when I am really into designing a collection. My line does not come from trend–sometimes we are fashion trend in or fashion trend out, it never bothers me.
L20: How do you know when it’s time to move on from a trend and how do you keep things fresh and new?
MG: You feel in yourself when the excitement of new styles is softening. Usually, when I have worn them out to places and all my VIPs and friends have also. I then start to want new things.
L20: What was your first “big break” into the fashion industry? How did that experience shape your future in the fashion industry and in designing your own line?
MG: Getting into Harvey Nichols in London was big for me, but there has been many great moments that have steered my designing.
L20: How do you feel the business has changed since you first entered it?
MG: It’s changed enormously! I started with $5,000 and a load of guts! I don’t think you could do that now, as it is so much more corporate and expensive. It is kind of a shame because a lot of real talent probably never gets through because of that!
L20: Where do you see the future of the industry heading and where do you see your own brand going in the future?
MG: Who knows? Online, I guess. As for me, I would like to do homewares as I love that also.
L20: What style advice can you give to women based on the Wheels & Dollbaby philosophy?
MG: Put your own stamp on it with maybe an accessory, shoes, or whatever to my designs or anyone’s!
L20: What advice can you give to people looking to break into the fashion industry?
MG: Assist someone super cool and learn!