These days, Collette Dinnigan is just as likely to be poring over samples of wood as she is the fine French lace for which she earned her name in Australian fashion.
Dinnigan, 51, is having something of a second career in interiors since restructuring her fashion business four years ago to spend more time with her young family.
“I am working on other projects. I am so busy … and learning quite a lot with timber and different mediums. Who knows maybe in the future … I might go back to something that involves clothing … but right now I don’t think it’s where I should be.
“It’s not something I took lightly and I’m not about to just jump back into it again.”
But that doesn’t mean she’s taken a back seat. In between designing a children’s range for discount supermarket Aldi, glasses for Specsavers and designing the interiors for several luxury properties in NSW, Dinnigan and her husband, entrepreneur Bradley Cocks, daughter Estella, 12, and son Hunter, 4, spent 2016 living in Rome.
“There’s so much more tradition, they have the history of generation to generation. Material possessions aren’t nearly anywhere as important to them as a lot of Australians. It’s very much about the family and food and time together,” she says.
The couple loved la dolce vita so much they even purchased a property there, adding to their impressive portfolio, which includes a farm on the south coast of NSW and a cottage in Paddington, in central Sydney.
“It’s something about staying young … you never stop. We don’t sit still,” she says.
On Monday, Dinnigan receives an Order of Australia (AO) for her services to fashion, her support and promotion of Australian wool and as a role model to women.
“I wasn’t doing [the work] for recognition but it made a huge difference to our fashion industry and opened a lot of doors to other people,” she says.
“You can never stop and [success] doesn’t just come to you. I don’t feel entitled to this [award] at all, I just feel honoured to be given it.”
As the first Australian designer to show on schedule at Paris Fashion Week, Dinnigan said fashion is “very present at the moment”.
“Certainly what we did wasn’t fast fashion and it was very ethical and it was about quality and not quantity.
“Fashion is too ahead of itself sometimes and it’s too fast and there isn’t the longevity of pieces that were heirloom pieces.”