Perth fashion guru Liz Davenport has achieved plenty in her illustrious career; now she’s about to share the highlights. She’s just completed fabulous coffee table book, Liz: A Life of Colour, in which she shares her fashion and business secrets.
Lucy: Congratulations on this fine book. How long did it take to do?
Liz: It took about two months to put together the material. However it has taken years to tell it in way so it wasn’t just about a few dresses. It is a story about how you can actually achieve what I have done.
I gathered up everything I‘d saved from the last 40 years and discovered I had kept everything! I had news clippings going back to 1973. It is a book about how I learnt to sew, manipulate fabric and make clothes. It’s really beautiful. It’s like a scrapbook of vibrant colours.
Lucy: What’s the book about?
Liz: It‘s about having the bravery and tenacity to focus on a goal. How in the world’s most isolated city, I went from being a teacher to fashion agent to fashion designer with no formal training and had the tenacity to open shops in every Australian city and in London’s Bond Street. How I ran the business, while having three children and coped with guilt when I had to leave them. The book’s undercurrent is one of encouragement for businesses to give back to their local community, to make a difference in society.
Lucy: Why did you choose the title?
Liz: It’s a journey about how to control clothes, to teach your wardrobe who’s boss. I’ve actually developed a theory, ‘the theory of multiplicity’. It explains how you can mix colour so you can get multiple stories, to create a wardrobe with no boundaries. It focuses on getting colours that work together. The book talks about colours of high and low multiplicity. Obviously your best investment is going to be collecting colours of the highest multiplicity. Whilst being aware of how to buy the bricks that will give you the foundations, so that when you open your wardrobe, it is a pleasure not a panic.
Lucy: What would you say to women who feel the pressure to conform to an idealised form of beauty?
Liz: People place value on our appearance; so we have to learn how to manipulate our appearance to tell the story of who we are and what we want to be. It is a story of empowerment as far as fashion is concerned. You don’t have to be daunted by the media’s focus on impossible beauty. You can actually manipulate your clothes to give you the empowerment you require. There is too much emphasis on impossibly beautiful people, which is totally unachievable by the average human being.
Lucy: Who has been your greatest influence or mentor?
Liz: I can’t say influence or mentor, but I can say supporter. I met my husband at seventeen and we have walked the walk together. Being able to find a partner who believes in you, whom you respect and can actually work with, is another element of success. Without that, you can’t have a family. You need the support network that comes from within your marriage or your partnership.
Lucy: You have been a big name in the Australian fashion industry for over 36 years. Last year you were granted an Order of Australia Medal in recognition of your achievements. You would certainly have an abundance of industry experience to share with Australia’s budding designers. Could you share with The Starfish readers any advice on how to get this far?
Liz: I have virtually put my trade secrets into the book. I have been extremely unselfish! I have written about the lessons I learned, for anyone who is stepping in the foray of fashion or a new business. Perth is a remote city in a remote country. We have these young people doing all these wonderful things looking for a career. There are not enough positions in the world to go around. Therefore you have to create your own career path, with your own initiative, bravery and dreams. That was my dream and I had to make it happen. The message is one of empowerment, inspiration, and example.