What is your design ethos?
I design what I would like to wear. I like simple, comfortable and elegant clothes made from luxurious fabrics; classic pieces with a rock chic edge! I also design clothes that fit with my lifestyle, which includes a lot of travel and adventure.
Why have you decided to collaborate with VS Sassoon?
I'm originally from London and I grew up with Vidal Sassoon. It's an iconic brand that's always reinventing itself and I think there is a synergy between my brand Little Joe Woman by Gail Elliott and VS Sassoon – both are creative and innovative, bold and stylish. Truthfully it's an honour to work with VS Sassoon.
Does working with other brands excite you and why?
Yes it allows a new outlet for my creativity and that's always exciting for a designer.
What was your inspiration for the bag design?
We settled on a gorgeous and luxe butterfly design in the end for the VS Sassoon Curl Secret Bag. Why? Because a butterfly is beautiful and sophisticated, well travelled, free spirited and adventurous. A butterfly is also delicate but strong, transformational, full of surprises and regularly defies the odds. We felt that that was exactly the kind of woman who would use the Curl Secret. Also there was a synergy to the shape of movement - the Curl Secret creates natural, free flowing curls and the butterfly embodies natural free flowing flight forever circling and encircling an enchanted summertime world. The purple/plumb colour of the Curl Secret was also an inspiration – a strong colour that speaks of abundant nature.
Could you take us through your design process.
I am always thinking about my next collection. You never know what will give you an idea – it might be a colour or a shape or the feel of something but whatever the inspiration it plants a seed, which grows into something very tangible. I then brainstorm my ideas with my head designer, adding, subtracting and eliminating if need be until we are at the point where the ideas really take shape and together we come up with drawings so that the ideas take a clear form. Next, we move to the sample stage so that you can see if these ideas are practical and will work and then if they do the process moves towards production. That's very exciting; to see that kernel of an idea become reality.
What excites you today about hair and fashion?
I like that hair and fashion today is about enhancing the way you look not adding a layer of artifice, it's natural but still very glamorous and exciting. It's real and raw, powerful and beautiful.
How would you describe your own personal style?
Classic, clean; edgy chic.
Do you think you have a strong signature style or are you very adaptable to fashion trends?
I am not fashion forward in so far as I don't chase trends. I know myself and I have found my style. I like clothes, make up and hair that enhances me not artifices me. Simple, subtle, luxurious but always with a little attitude.
How do you advise women on how to find their own style?
Start by experimenting. Read magazines but don't copy them for their sake of it. Use them for inspiration and try a variety of looks until you discover what sits true with you. The same with you hair and make up. Find what feels right for you and embrace it.
The VS Sassoon Curl Secret creates romantic curls - would you describe yourself as romantic?
Absolutely I have been happily married for 17 years (to co-owner of Little Joe Woman Joe Coffey). I am very girly and like classically romantic things like flowers and good food – I love cooking and sharing a meal with Joe. I would definitely describe myself as romantic.You were a famous iconic model and now you are a well-known fashion designer. Is it hard to live your life in the spotlight all the time?
Actually I think my life is quite private and I certainly live it with the intention to be private. I am not very good at recognising when people recognise me! My mother always points out when people do a double take in the street but it goes over my head. The only thing that I feel that is clearly in the public domain are my designs, my clothes.
You are a very well-travelled international woman – you've lived in London, NYC and now Sydney – how has that journey made you who you are today? Do you think you have changed much on that journey?
I was 17 when I hit New York. I lived there for 24 years and I came of age there. I learnt to drive there, set up my first independent home there and carved a career there and now here I am in Sydney and have been for 10 years. At first it was hard to adjust - Australia seemed very far away but now it's where I want to be. I love the lifestyle, the weather, the food and the sense of relaxation and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
What does Australia offer you creatively and emotionally?
Australia is very real and offers me so much. It's truly home.
You are very strong and entrepreneurial – what advice do you have for woman out there who might want to follow your entrepreneurial path?
Don't forget the business side of things. You might be the most creative person in the world and have the best ideas but if always pay attention to what works for you financially then it's going to be a hard path for you.
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