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Australian designer Alannah Hill on trauma, resilience and motherhood

As one of Australia’s most trailblazing and iconic fashion designers, Alannah Hill shares how she overcame childhood trauma and business betrayal to find that happiness is a lifetime’s work.

Alannah Hill

After 18 years at the helm of her eponymous fashion label, Alannah Hill was forced to walk away – leaving her hard work, her trendsetting brand and her name behind.

“I didn’t know where I started or where I finished without the well-constructed brand I hid behind. It was one of the loneliest periods in my life. One of the most baffling times in my life. One of the most soul-destroying times of my life,” she admits.

“My mother had just passed away and I was suddenly dealing with an unknown force – lawyers. Employment lawyers, trademark lawyers and finance lawyers. They were all brutal, kind, mesmerising, smart and very expensive.

“I was learning so much from them, like who owned my name and what did I actually own?”

Five years on and her former financial backer, Factory X, continues to run the iconic chain of stores Alannah helped build from the ground up.

Throughout her career, Alannah had the honour of dressing and styling the likes of Katy Perry, Nicole Kidman, Courtney Love and sisters Dannii and Kylie Minogue.

Despite losing her name, her identity, she was determined to channel her inherent sense of creativity, intuition and ultra-feminine style into a new brand. In 2015, LOUISE LOVE was born and retailed exclusively through David Jones.

Louise Love
A shot from the Louise Love's summer campaign shoot

“Louise Love is me! I always had another girl hidden deep inside me. I have been so many girls in my time and yet only ever myself with so much more to give. My second name is Louise, and my gift to you is love,” Alannah explains. “That is my Louise Love motto.”

Less than a year later, she was forced to close the brand after what she calls “a small disagreement with cancer”. While recovering from her melanoma diagnosis, Alannah reinvented herself yet again – this time as an author.

Published in May 2018, Butterfly On A Pin details the designer’s troubled childhood in rural Tasmania, filled with stories of hardship, fear and abuse.

“I thought I was a little strange and not like everybody else. I felt ‘unjoined’ – like I didn’t fit in anywhere,” she reflects. “We don’t understand as children that we’re smack bang in the middle of being damaged forever.

“We don’t understand what it means to live through a traumatic and loveless childhood until it’s well over. To unpick the trauma thrashing around in my childhood, I knew I’d need to write a book.”

The unflinching, bestselling memoir follows Alannah’s journey from 16-year-old runaway to mother to successful designer and stylist, proving that your past does not always define your future.

Butterfly on a Pin

“I can honestly say that writing a memoir did not help as much as I thought – I was rather disappointed actually. There were no cathartic feelings of euphoria, no high fives or a little nip of shandy at midnight after the last word was smashed out,” Alannah admits.

“I realised, rather grimly but determinedly, that I would always feel the earthquake tremors from the past, revisiting me, and erupting when I least expected them.

“Finding happiness and inner peace is a lifetime’s work, and if you have a teenager living at home forget it!”

Nevertheless, Alannah admits that the one thing that has kept her life on track is her role as a mother to her teenage son, Edward.

“It’s so much harder being a consistent, loving, parent ensuring you’re a role model, a chef, a babysitter, a taxi service, a respected cleaner and not shouting out at any given moment,” she explains.

“Edward’s happiness is a full-time job and it’s very important to me. I’m always getting into trouble for stickybeaking, looking through his pockets and nattering to his friends (when I’ve been told not to).”

Alannah is also working exclusively with Saxton, Australia’s leading speakers bureau.

“I travel to schools, picnics and world summits delivering my message of hope, empowerment and how to rise from the ashes like a phoenix – despite all our crooked falls,” she explains.

When she’s not speaking, she’s working on her second book, Pearls Of Wisdom.

“It’s 10 autobiographical irreverent, irrepressible essays. A combination of agony aunt, self-help guru, moral philosopher and gothic humourist with barely a platitude in sight,” Alannah explains.

“My new impossible dream is to find a forward-thinking business partner with big ideas to celebrate in the new launch of Louise Love.”

“Finding happiness and inner peace is a lifetime’s work”

Alannah’s chaotic past has armed her with strong business instincts and an even stronger sense of self. Her advice for other go-getting women looking to launch their own business: don’t go it alone.

“Do not do it alone, do not spend your own money, and do not even think about it if you yearn for a social life, friends, stability, no stress, a good night’s sleep, a healthy diet, and a burning desire to succeed at all costs,” she explains.

“If you want any of the above… do not do it! Success only comes once you understand your own mind. Your thoughts are that powerful, so stop procrastinating, and go and create the life you deserve.

“There will be fear, there will be failure and if you’re not committed it will not work. If you’re committed, it still might not work!”

When asked to describe herself in just three words, Alannah stops.

“It’s almost impossible, but I will give it a go,” she says. “Resilient, paradoxical, intuitive and wilful. That’s why I gave four answers: wilful.”

Alannah Hill will be speaking at the Women in Leadership Summit 2019. Limited tickets are available, click here to secure your spot.

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