Alex Perry

Alex Perry

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ALEX PERRY: I like to think that I don't fit into the category of what people think a fashion designer is all about. Taste is subjective - one person thinks I'm incredible, somebody else thinks that I'm just garbage. I am a dag in Prada clothing.

MEGAN GALE: Putting on an Alex Perry dress is like transforming yourself into the ultimate version of yourself.

PJ MADAM: The very controversial Alex Perry designs like a dream...dresses the stars...and is unashamedly unafraid of making a spectacle of himself.

MAN: With the glasses..

ALEX: No, it's alright. I'll take them off.

PJ: So what's real here?

ALEX: It's all real. It's all real.

PJ: Including those?

ALEX: I go to the gym, I just go to the gym. There is nothing not real, there are a few fillers and there is a bit of Botox but that's that. That's normal, right? All my life, I've loved sunglasses.

PJ: So tell us something about Alex Perry that we don't know.

ALEX: Well, it's not my real name, for a start.

PJ: That's right. What is your real name?

ALEX: It's Perzanidis. Alexandros Perzanidis.

LEE: Which means "rivet maker".

PJ: Rivet maker? In Greek?

ALEX: Greek, yeah. didn't know that.

PJ: Alex and his older brother Lee have their differences.

LEE: I, for instance, always wear my sunglasses on my face.

PJ: The sons of Greek immigrants, the world they grew up in was working-class Sydney. Lee loved their backyard cricket games and Alex barely tolerated them.

ALEX: So boring, so by the time I finished batting...

LEE: Let's just say he didn't fulfil his bowling responsibilities as a brother and an Australian!

PJ: He wouldn't bowl for you?

ALEX: My dad immigrated to Australia. He came halfway around the world to a country where he didn't speak the language. Like, in my eyes, incredibly brave and I was brought up in an environment that we were made, every day, to feel very loved.

PJ: Describe Alex Perry, the child.

ALEX: Um, you know, I was really shy. I never thought that I fitted in very well, you know? I was fat and I wasn't very good at sports.

PJ: Were you bullied?

ALEX: Yeah, of course, I was bullied. I was tied up to poles, you know, I was intimidated, I was all that stuff. But that was teasing back then so by today's standards, um, yeah, I copped a lot of bullying.

PJ: Had you admitted what you wanted to do back at school, what would the reaction be?

ALEX: I wasn't completely stupid. Like, if I had said to somebody, "I'd really like to make dresses, what do you think about that?" Instant head flushing. I'd just walk myself to the toilet block and say, "Come on, do it!"

PJ: At 18, he could already strike a pose. After studying design at tech, Alex got a job with June Dally-Watkins managing models. Then, at 30, in tiny rented premises next to a shop selling barbeque chooks, he took the plunge and started his own label. Mum was pleased. Dad, perplexed.

ALEX: It just took Dad a little while because I couldn't quite...I couldn't make him understand what a fashion designer was. He didn't understand those terms and I said to him, "It's like a tailor" and he went, "Oh, a tailor," and I could see it in his mind, like, "that's respectable."

PJ: From that small frock shop in the suburbs...Alex Perry created an empire, becoming a larger-than-life character designing delicate, beautiful dresses. What stage of the process are we at now?

ALEX: I'm just playing around now. I'm actually not sure what I'm doing.

PJ: When Alex designs, it is more about intuition.

ALEX: I just literally play around on the mannequin. I cut things out and I have a look at it, you know, "Is it working, is it not working?"

PJ: With every dress, he built a body of work but his first big break was dressing 'The Body'. Elle Macpherson got him a page in 'Vogue'. Then came his first cover.

ALEX: I didn't have enough money to change the brakes on my car but I was in 'Vogue'. And then it all started to happen.

PJ: This drive that you're talking about...does it stem from a place where, you don't originally come from that world?

ALEX: Yeah. Are you trying to say that I try to prove myself all the time?

PJ: Do you?

ALEX: Yeah. Yeah, totally. I don't come from that world. I...I actually don't consider myself really part of it.

PJ: Alex's world outside of fashion is a very private one - one he shares with his wife, Mary, his silent partner.

ALEX: I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her. She unwaveringly supported me, believed in me every step of the way and made it possible. Um...and she loves me and I love her. From the first time I saw her, she is the most beautiful girl to me. We've been married for 25 years and even now I'll say to her, "Even when you put your hair in a ponytail and doing housework and stuff," there's something very glamorous about her. Um...I'm so lucky. I'm so fortunate.

PJ: Now you realise that people would be surprised that you are married. Are you surprised when people assume you're gay.

ALEX: No. They have done it since I was at school. And it's...when they say that to me, they think that by calling me "gay" is an insult. Some of the best friends that I have are gay and lesbian and I love them and I don't...if you call me that and you are trying to insult me - um, call me a paedophile, that will insult me. But calling me gay and insulting my friends I love who are beautiful, you're, um, you're missing the mark.

PJ: Is it something...

ALEX: Look, I'm not the blokiest bloke on the block, come on! All my life, I've loved sunglasses.

PJ: Now let's get to some of the areas of your career which has attracted a bit of criticism.

ALEX: Mmm. Let's do that. Let's do that, shall we? You know, sometimes something is funny in your head and it just needs to stay there? She needs to shake hands with conditioner and make it her friend. Should I have said that? Possibly not. Political correctness
has gotten to a point where you've really got to watch every...I've got to watch everything that I say.

PJ: On the Foxtel series 'Project Runway', Perry sets wannabe designers challenges against the clock. So could he, and would he, emulate them and accept a challenge set by us? It's often said that you know how to dress a woman better than anyone else.

ALEX: So (BLEEP!) true. I'm feeling a bit arrogant today.

PJ: Good! That's good. Are you going to put your money where your mouth is today?


PJ: Alright, let's do it.

ALEX: Bring it. I mean, this is the most important stage - getting the fit right. So if any length needs to come out of it, you know, I can do that in calico and then transfer that to the pattern.

PJ: I have to admit this is quite confronting.

ALEX: Yeah, but, you know, the end result is not going to be confronting. You've sort of got to go through this.

PJ: And how important is the Cinderella moment?

ALEX: It's all about the Cinderella moment. I mean, that's why you do this. It's why girls wear dresses like this. It's that transformative moment where you go from your everyday life to, like, "You know what? I want to feel special. "I want to feel a bit like a movie star, I want people to notice me when I go out," and go, "You know what, you look really beautiful."

PJ: What do you think your strengths are as a designer?

ALEX: I've got a really good sense of proportion on a woman. I can tell you what will make you look thinner.

PJ: You just looked at me below the chin just when you said that.

ALEX: Yeah, got to scan it. (LAUGHS)

PJ: Is that what you do? That wasn't so subtle.

ALEX: Yeah, of course I do. If somebody comes in here, if I look at a woman, and she wants to, you know, to have something beautiful made, I've got to see what I'm working with. So...What do you reckon? It's good, right?

PJ: It is good, yeah, it is.

ALEX: Well, today is Thursday and we're showing on Monday so today is a full day, the first full day of fitting. So all the girls coming in, we have got them coming in at 15-minute intervals.

PJ: In the catty world of high fashion, the fashionistas are always ready to pounce. Not even Alex Perry is safe. Every time a model steps out on his catwalk, his name is on the line.

ALEX: It's going quite well, like, we are ahead of schedule and the alterations haven't been too drastic.

PJ: I have a lot of insecurities every time I do a show. I'm forever questioning whether it's good enough. I'm baring my soul a little bit to you. I've worked so hard creatively on what this is for so much time and I don't feel that there is a lot of respect for evening wear designers.

PJ: Will you actually enjoy it? Will there be a moment when you go, "Nup, this is awesome."

ALEX: No. Just when it's done.

PJ: What did you do after the show?

ALEX: Um, went home, put my pyjamas on and watched 'My Kitchen Rules'.

PJ: (LAUGHS) You're kidding?

ALEX: Lay on the couch, had a Four'N Twenty pie and a Mrs Mac's sausage roll. Somebody asked me once, you know, like, who is the most successful person that you admire? And it was Dad because, you know, he left Greece, he was an orphan, he came to Australia, started with nothing, created us. And he didn't make millions but he had this incredible, loving family that he was the leader of so I can't think of anything more successful than that. He's my hero.

PJ: And he recently passed away?

ALEX: Yeah, last year. Yeah.

PJ: What would he say today?

ALEX: He'd say I love you. (WHISPERS) Yeah. He'd say I love you.

PJ: Given what you achieved last night, how proud would he be?

ALEX: He was proud of me every day of his life. Every day.

PJ: Now, you know, everyone who knows that I'm doing this interview have asked me to ask you what's with the sunglasses?

ALEX: All my life, I've loved sunglasses. It's such a broken record. I don't get what obviously pisses people off but I don't care. I don't care about what people think about me. The person that I don't know thinks about me and my sunglasses - I can't tell you how little I give a shit.