Welcome to a new week of BusinessChic where I’ll be changing the pace and moving to publishing three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I realise that you live busy lives and need each visit to be jam-packed with the quality content you want to inspire your own stylish work life ans as a result, I will be publishing more in-depth pieces like last week’s eat piece (stay tuned for more ideas on where to hold your next business meeting or coffee catch up) and series like today’s interview piece. And most importantly, in response to the most popular request I’ll even be publishing multiple street style looks in the one post so that you can scroll through a whole lot of great work looks in the one go.
Today I’m excited to share my interview with you featuring a great career change story! I first met Alana when we interviewed her for the Melbourne in Fashion podcast last year. As the Cultural Program Executive for the 2015 Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival (VAMFF), Alana is responsible for curating the Cultural Program (which ran March 1-15) which showcases the rich sartorial fabric of our great city. Alana is also a lawyer and having not come across a lawyer-turned-curator before, I simply had to follow up and find out more.
I hope you enjoy this interviewed accompanied by a little photo essay as Alana was also kind enough to allow me to follow her around the festival from the VAMFF office, to the Business Seminar sessions and to Central Pier for the Premium Runway Shows. In addition to all of these, Alana only four weeks away from the delivery date of her first child so we have the added bonus of seeing a stylish and creative take on maternity workwear!
Whether you are a mama-to-be or are interested in a role in the fashion industry, I hope that you are inspired by Alana’s story:
How did you get to your current role as Cultural Program Executive?
It definitely wasn’t a straight line in getting there! Lot’s of amazing internships and work experiences including at the Guggenheim in Venice and ICA in London, working on my own curatorial projects and doing an MFA in Curating at Goldsmiths in London. Oh and working as a lawyer definitely gave me a slightly unique angle too.
What did you study? Going back a step, how did you choose Arts/Law? When did your interest in Curation start?
I always had a passion for art growing up but knew that I also wanted to do a double degree that would give me additional skills and grow my knowledge in other areas. I think that one aspect of personality is that I love to learn from and engage with a range of different disciplines. Looking back now I can see that my study choices reflected that quality. Also, while I love to think in a creative way, I also love analysing and communicating – skills which are really honed in undertaking a law degree and which are integral to any good lawyer.
In my Arts degree I majored in Art History and while I started off having no interest in contemporary art, preferring instead to focus on the Renaissance and Baroque periods, a month-long intensive subject on contemporary art which was conducted entirely in New York was the catalyst for what is now a very passionate interest in the art of today. After completing Arts/Law at the University of Melbourne I was offered a graduate position at King & Wood Mallesons (then Mallesons), one of the top tier commercial law firms in Australia. There graduates are groomed like race horses and the quality of training and professionalism which I gained there continues to influence my work ethic. While I was at Mallesons I kept up with my interest in contemporary art – and what was by then turning into an interest in curating contemporary art – by completing my Honours in my Arts degree with a research focus on curatorial practices in new art institutions in Australia and sitting on the board of Bus Projects – a non-profit ARI (artist run space).
I had been living in London for a couple of years where I was completing the MFA in Curating at Goldsmiths, and planning to return home to Melbourne. I saw the role advertised through ArtsHub, applied, and got the job a couple of weeks before the move back. It was amazing timing as the role really enabled me to immerse myself back in the arts community in Melbourne and build on the networks I had been forming in London and Australia.
What did you wear to your job interview?
I had a couple of phone interviews so I was probably in my pyjamas at the time!
Sites/magazines/resources that help you keep your finger on the pulse with your work?
For my independent curatorial practice studio visits with artists are essential. Most of the time though these usually happen over a coffee in a cafe where the artist takes me through their work using their laptop. Social media has also become incredibly important to maintaining and growing my creative networks and continuing to be aware of what’s happening – many of my “friends” on Facebook are artists who I have met before and/or whose practices I am interested in, same for Twitter and Instagram. It’s a great way of hearing about exhibitions and other projects happening both locally and internationally.
My curatorial research also influences my ideas for the Cultural Program. Initial planning for the Program is also very much influenced by what I see, hear and do. This includes attending different fashion and other creative events, including runways, exhibitions, performances, public lectures and discussions about and around fashion. I like to keep an eye out for what other festivals around the world are doing, both in terms of programming and how they administer their programs. I also do a lot of reading and research online.
What’s your workplace dress code?
Anything goes at VAMFF as long as you wear it with confidence! I tend to go for skinny jeans with an oversized shirt or t-shirt and blazer. I usually always where something black but love a t-shirt with a statement or crazy bright print.
How do you describe your personal style?
I think I have a tendency to either go all black (and sometimes a bit of white) or super bright. I do like to dress for whatever the occasion is and the occasion tends to be the starting point when I’m putting an outfit together.
Brands that you like for work attire? How has this changed since you found out that you were expecting?
I don’t think my changing pregnant shape has really affected my personal style, as I love fashion too much! Looking back on the past 9 months I’ve still bought a LOT of clothes, most of which are not “maternity wear” as such, but are pregnancy friendly. That said, I very recently bought the J-Brand maternity skinny jeans in both blue and black denim and have been really loving (and rely on) them.
Until about 30 weeks I got away with wearing my Helmut Lang skinny legging-style jeans which I have in both a grey and black wash, as they have an elastic waist – these were absolutely wardrobe staples for me. I also wear a lot of Ksubi t-shirts and Romance Was Born silk tops and dresses.
Cosmetics, skincare and hair product/s that you love?
I don’t cut corners with skin and haircare products so love Kerastase and Kevin Murphy for hair products (especially the Kerastase Keratine Thermique and Kevin Murphy Powder Puff), plus Aesop, Lancome and Image Body Care for skincare. I’m also slightly obsessed with moisturising and since becoming pregnant have used Goe Oil on my tummy with no stretch marks so far! Cosmetic products I can’t live without are Lancome Doll Eyes mascara, MAC blot powder, Guerlain bronzer and paw paw balm.
Any tips for bad hair days?
You know I’m having a bad hair day if you see my hair up in a ponytail! I also very recently discovered dry shampoo – a bit late to the game but it was a life saver during the past VAMFF week!
As a stylish Melburnian who works in Melbourne CBD, what are your favourite venues for coffee/breakfast/lunch/dinner/
Coffee places near the VAMFF offices I usually frequent: Cup of Truth, Axil, Dukes and Cento Mani. I also have a serious weakness for the gingerbread men cookies at Axil. I love a pressed juice for a pick me up (one of the Greens or the Strawberry Mylk). For lunch Bowery to Williamsburg, Oli & Levi, Chuckle Deli. A new CBD dinner spot I am loving lately is Magic Mountain Saloon. I also had a faultless dinner at Coda recently. Finally, I have a penchant for dumplings and for these Hu Tong wins hands down.
When do applications for the 2016 VAMFF Cultural Program open?
Applications will open via our website in June but you can register your interest in applying now at vamff.com.au/culturalprogram