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Five minutes with a designer of Haute Couture

Helena Game

It’s not every day that you get to chat with a professional Haute Couture designer, let alone one who will soon be showing their designs at Paris Fashion Week.

It’s also not every day that you’re able to see those designs in person—but that’s what you’ll be able to do when they take to the FASHFEST catwalk next week.

We spoke to Hajar M. B. Gala from De Challie Haute Couture about her background in fashion design, her journey to Canberra, and her upcoming shows.

Hajar in her studio

Hajar in her studio

Where did your love of fashion begin?

I was born in Azerbaijan and went on to study fashion, formally learning the traditional French couture method in Europe. After completing my training I moved to Australia and entered the fashion industry.

When I first arrived here many years ago I was a migrant with no family or contacts, but I worked very hard and was lucky to meet some amazing designers and people who supported me, like Marcello Faidiga (a high-end designer) who had a boutique in The Strand Arcade in Sydney.

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Marcello became a good friend and mentor, and his strong belief in me gave me the confidence to open my own atelier in the Strand, which I then had for nine years. They were amazing years, when I dressed celebrity clients and had my work featured internationally.

I moved to Canberra after being forced to close my store due to the Global Financial Crisis, but I never stopped sewing and have always had clients who have followed me wherever I went. I relaunched my couture house De Challie in 2015 with a gala show at the ANU Great Hall, which people still remember and talk to me about to this day.

How would you describe your design style?

I would describe my style as classic and elegant, I love and appreciate intricate details, embellishments, fine lines and feminine silhouettes. I firmly believe that each gown needs to have a character of its own.

How do you balance traditional couture techniques with contemporary styling?

I believe that no matter how many times one redefines style, classical simplicity and charm can never be outdated. The traditional couture techniques emphasise quality of construction, and elegant silhouettes, which means they are timeless. I believe that it is important to be true to these principles when developing a new design, and to not succumb to pressures within the industry from the rise of “fast fashion”.

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What is your design process when planning a new collection?

The process always starts with a few elements, which you use to build up into a collection where all the pieces have their own story and speak the same language.

Sometimes the design process is sparked by finding some beautiful fabric, other times it could be a piece of art or music which inspires me. I tend to always sketch each design up to 10 times each, I then finesse the details between each stage before I commit to the final design.

Developing and then showcasing a new collection is a deeply personal experience for each designer as you are putting yourself out there for the world to see.

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Do you design with a certain type of client or bride in mind?

Yes I do, the clients and brides who approach me all have an appreciation of couture techniques and quality. I visualise the De Challie client as a woman of elegance and style, striving to be unique, free spirited and fearless.

What inspires you and who are your style icons?

Grace Kelly is my style icon, I think she was one of the most elegant women who ever lived as well as a lovely person. I’m also inspired by the classic designs of Dior, and the periods from the 1920’s Jazz Age through to the Old Hollywood glamour of the 1950’s.

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What are you looking forward to most at your first FASHFEST appearance?

I’m looking forward to showcasing our special De Challie bridal collection at FASHFEST! Although Maison De Challie has been established for more than two decades this will be our debut appearance at FASHFEST and we are very excited to be involved.

Our bridal collection is very special to me, as I love every moment of working with our brides, and sharing in their excitement when designing a special gown. HerCanberra readers can expect modern yet sophisticated wedding dresses with refined silhouettes and feminine lines on the runway.

the essentials

What: De Challie Haute Couture at FASHFEST 2017
When: Friday 29 September from 9pm (Show Two)
Where: The National Convention Centre, 31 Constitution Avenue, City
Tickets: From $49. Purchase yours here
More information: fashfest.com.au

Follow Hajar and De Challie Haute Couture on Instagram and on their website.

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Helena Game

Helena is a wannabe journalist studying Communications and Journalism at the University of Canberra. Canberra born and bred, she is hopelessly in love with writing, stories and travel. She recently wrote her way around Japan for a creative writing study tour, and spent another two weeks in the Middle East on a journalism exchange, both of which have left her with a proper case of the post-travel blues. While she plots her next adventure, Helena is hoping to gain as much industry experience as humanly possible, and somehow finish her degree at the same time.

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