White Story’s founder Fiona Myer talks authenticity, slow fashion, and the beauty of timeless staples
Cutting through the noise
There’s no better way to make a statement than to go against the current. In a sea of bold colour and clashing prints dominating garments from high fashion to high street, Melbourne-based label White Story’s pure white essentials is the antithesis that stands out loud and proud.
When we met Fiona Myer, founder and CEO of White Story, there was a sense of pride and genuineness surrounding what she does. With a venerable background in fashion forecasting and a passion for ceramics and architecture, Myer believes in tailored pieces that defy the need for seasons and cycles. Expect the gamut of full-sleeved shirts, oversized blazers, organza dresses, and linen jumpsuits, mostly in white and neutral tones.
White Story’s well-curated space along High Street Armadale in Melbourne is finished with stark whitewashed walls and flooring, and does without superfluous window displays. Yet it captures a spirit that is classy and effortless. Here’s what Myer has to say about the birth of White Story, nurturing young talent, and androgynous fashion.
How did White Story come about?
Fiona Myer (FM): White Story was conceived in the ABC Kitchen in New York with my then partner — I asked myself, “Where is fashion? What are we doing? Does it actually matter?” For me, it was about going back and finding that blank canvas. Translate that back into fashion and the white shirt became part of that metaphor for moving forward. The first chapter of White Story was the white T-shirt.
I only ever had eight white shirts to begin with — I worked out of my garage in Toorak and it generated interest with friends and people I knew and that grew until I realised there was a glut of white shirts. I mean, how many white shirts can you actually have in your wardrobe? [laughs] Everyone was very supportive but later we did capsules of colour with little highlights of ink and digital trims in black, before moving into this whole ready-to-wear collection over the last three years.
You also believe in nurturing young people.
FM: With my three children now grown up and living abroad, I thought, “I’ve got a window here where I can have another go at nurturing young people.” My big thing was not to avoid people under the age of 30, and support that bridging gap between where they’ve left school and haven’t adjusted to the industry. There is an excess of students and not many positions — I seek out interns and the interns eventually become full-time employees. Almost all my staff were interns.
What are some principles you live by when it comes to White Story?
FM: Authenticity; it’s all about authentic staff, our building, and our principles. It’s being honest with ourselves and our true values. Modernity; that ties in textural changes and pure forms. We have smooth to sandy fabrications, and dry to shiny and smooth ones. Elegance; a white shirt never dies. It’s classic, timeless, and it is what it is. Purity; there’s this sense of pure form, whether it be in artistic form or within the fashion industry, or anything that we do — it’s unadulterated, and there are no tricks. It’s not trying to be something it’s not. These are some of the chapters that will unfold and be told, and authenticity, modernity, elegance, and purity are key words that describe where I’m coming from.
This could lend itself to a fragrance line, or homewares, ceramics, and sculptures. It’s got longevity and is here to stay. The more I give to my business, the more I realise how many lives it can affect. Someone said to me the other day, “Do you realise that every time someone wears a white shirt, you’re touching them with your energy?” I'll never thought about that.
Where does White Story retail now?
HM: We have a store on High Street, Armadale; we are on Matchesfashion.com and Farfetch. We sell at Tomorrowland in Japan, and Formation and a few others in the United States. We're looking to move into the Middle East.
How many pieces do you have in your ready-to-wear line?
FM: We have about 40, but over two or three colours. Our latest collection is quite a big one — I thought to maybe pull it in a little bit, and don't be all things to all people. That's where it gets a bit tricky; we do what we like but the customer dictates it — at the end of the day, it's who buys it. The demographic seems to be my daughter, who is 25, right through to a person in their 80s. That’s how broad it is.
Do you still use your trend forecasting past in what you do today?
FM: I don't know what it is about forecasting, but it's not something money can buy. I think you either do have that instinctive behaviour or not. Whenever I think of something, if I don't do it, somebody else will do it.
Any thoughts of doing menswear in the future?
FM: Yes, very much so. It’s not just about doing menswear. It's about androgynous wear. I mean, what's boy, what's girl? Who doesn't like wearing their boyfriend's clothes? A lot of people go for oversized shirts which I've got in the collection, and I just started reversing the buttons, which is my first take on men's. I popped them around the other side so that guys don't go, “Well, that's clearly a girl's shirt, I'm not wearing that.” If it’s reversed, it kind of gently sends a new message to them.
What are your constant sources of inspiration? Where do you turn to when you think of your next collection?
FM: I look at movies, culture, ballet, and the arts. I feel lucky enough to be surrounded by young ones who take trends seriously. But the most inspirational thing for me is travelling. Not necessarily even seeing anything, but just being away — being on the plane where you’ve got time to meditate and find the answers. I absolutely want to build a little quiet room here in the office where people can go and take a five minute break. You don't have to pretend to have a coffee or sandwich to stop. You shouldn't need that. It could be just nothingness as nothingness brings the answers. It's not the vessel, it's the space between the vessel that counts. It's allowing yourself the space between the lines.
It's great to see what you're doing now because fashion is constantly about what's new and what's next. You've taken a step back and are saying, “Return to slow fashion, these pieces are things you can build in your wardrobe over time, collection upon collection.”
FM: I guess the word I'll use to describe that is timelessness. You don't just chuck them out — I mean you might — but you don't have to. One thing I do with the modest amount of colour I'm introducing is having variations of that. The next collection will be a capsule with only neutrals — whites, creams, and through to beige. There will be about 10 different colours, and this beautiful graduation. Everything works together and it's so easy to get dressed; you can pull things out and you know this goes with that.
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