Much loved South Australian fashion designer Liza Emanuele is renowned for her high end red carpet and couture bridal gowns. Her eponymous label has graced the pages of countless fashion pages and is regularly seen on the Brownlow Medal red carpet. Celebrities including Delta Goodrum, Sophie Monk, Isabel Lucas, Holly Brisley and Evangeline Lilly wear her gowns. Yet hard working Liza is equally at home designing outfits for sports events and even Adelaide’s famous pandas Wang Wang and Funi. Her long time friend and Cocktail Revolution’s Kirstey Whicker caught up with Liza over lunch….
When you meet Liza Emanuele for the first time, one word comes into mind: dynamic. I thought this when we met as schoolgirls 25-odd years ago, and I’m proud to say nothing has changed!
Recognised as one of South Australia’s, if not Australia’s finest fashion designers, Liza continues to unveil what are seen as drop-dead-fabulous collections every season. “I honestly try to create gorgeous trans-seasonal pieces that last for years,” she explains. As many samples as possible are “road tested” by Liza and her crew before they hit production. Her endearing, matter-of-fact honesty suggests why her designs are so popular: “If I don’t love wearing it why should I expect others to buy it?”
Surprisingly perhaps, Liza’s first love was dance, inspired by her sister: “My sister was an amazing dancer! She was in “Cats” and she danced in Monte Carlo, London and then lived in America. I used to dance for a while, but I wasn’t very good, so I figured that I better start something else.”
When Liza left school, she worked for the exclusive “Toffs”, now Wild Child. At 19, Liza went to Milan to study fashion design at the prestigious “Instituto Maragoni” alongside fellow students Franco Moschino and Stefano Gabbana. “Amazing, it’s like a dream now!” she says.
Returning to Australia almost three years later, Liza approached legendary Adelaide Fashion Designers, George Gross and Harry Who. Luckily, they were looking for someone to join them at the time. Liza says she is blessed to have worked for the duo who continue to mentor her.
Like many juniors at that time, Liza started with “little bits and pieces” of designing. She laughingly confesses that a lot of the time she just “made coffees and swept floors”. Luckily though, Liza knew this was part of her path to success and it helped her stay real: “I worked really hard when I was in my 20’s, they could ask me to do anything, I wasn’t precious”.
In the 90’s Liza moved to Melbourne for three years for a very different experience to the ‘George and Harry glamour’. Working first for “Sportsgirl”, then design businesses that produced garments for all the majors, such as Big W and Myer, Liza’s design experience was now fully rounded. “I’ve really worked in all facets of fashion, I’ve worked ‘High End’ and I’ve worked mainstream and low-cost.”
Her gratitude is palpable not least because it was in Melbourne that she met her supportive husband Chris, with whom she has two gorgeous little girls.
I was fascinated that she worked for Big W and was quite curious: “What did you do for Big W?” She looks at me with a big sarcastic grin: “Tracksuits Baby!!!” We laugh as she continues: “Seriously! But they were really nice Tracksuits”. It was at this time that major international labels like Juicy Couture emerged and Tracksuits were revived as ‘Daywear’.
After three years in the trenches, Liza returned to Adelaide, where she started the hit new label “It Girl”, backed by George and Harry. She then decided to use her own name, launching “Liza Emanuele” in 2005. Her eponymous brand designs for podium models for iconic South Australian events that include cycling’s Tour Down Under and motoring’s Clipsal 500. -All the while designing for over 400 brides both nationally and internationally.
From Big W to her own label, Liza was following many a little girl’s dream. So, I asked if she is doing ‘High-End’ fashion now? “No I’m not,” she firmly states. “I like to produce styles which look ‘High-End’, but are affordable.”
Liza is proud of her fair price point for her magnificent fabrics and the quality of her pieces: “It’s a realistic price point.” She continues: “I can’t say they’re cheap, because they’re not. I like to produce a collection that looks ‘High-End’, but is a surprise to the wearer.” Liza is proud that all her pieces are completely Australian made.
As I comment on the fabulous quality of her pieces, Liza points to a top: “This fabric is from New Zealand and it’s beautiful. I kind of figure that it’s better to spend a bit more for me and my customers and enjoy it more and wear it more and get the longevity out of it, than skimp on bits and pieces and reduce the price by 20-30%.” I smile nodding, because I worked for George Gross and Harry Who at the same time Liza did, so I knew where that decision came from: “Did you get that from George and Harry?” She nods and laughs: “Yeah, I’ve got so much from those guys. I mean, I’ve totally got their heads”. She laughs again and points at me: “You do too, I know you do!”
So this year, Liza is looking to expand. “We’ve got to be realistic with what we want to achieve. To do that, we think online is the way to go because that’s expanding to anywhere in the world.”
We are very proud of Liza and all the hard work she has done (and let me tell you, I have seen how hard she works, -she blows me away!) So yes, that word comes up again, the perfect description of Liza Emanuele- DYNAMIC!