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It's been 50 years since our fabulous founder Fella Hamilton saw a stylish woman wearing a turban at the sauna and Fella Hamilton the brand was born. In her own words Fella describes the beginnings of the business, “I was inspired by a woman I saw wearing a terry towelling turban. Upon finding out this was from London and unavailable in Australia, I set out to create my own, and the business grew from there.”

 

“So, it really just happened, all without a plan, quite accidentally.” Fella was approaching local pharmacies throughout Melbourne to see if they wanted to stock the turbans and with no previous experience as a retailer they were selling like hotcakes. It didn’t take long before other stores took notice, and that’s when things really grew. Fella says, “It was a thrill to see my products stocked in the high street stores!”

 

‘‘I remember Sportsgirl buying them, and they filled their windows with models, each one with a different colour on,’’ she says. ‘‘I stood across the road and looked at that, and I thought it was just beautiful.’’

 

The company eventually expanded the range of terry towelling designs to include a full range of leisurewear. In fact, Fella Hamilton is often credited with kickstarting the trend of terry towelling in the 1970s and 50 years later the brand is still one of a select few Australian fashion brands that are setting style trends.

‘‘A lady I used to sell to in Surfers Paradise told me when she ordered my towelling tracksuits it was mad, they sold like hotcakes,’’ Fella says. ‘‘All the ladies, they all came in and all they wanted were my tracksuits.’’

As this fashion trend began to fade Fella and the family saw that stores were becoming increasing difficult to negotiate with, so decided to take the leap into their own retail outlets. "Unfortunately, the business did not thrive towards the end of our wholesaling period. I we had not moved into selling our products directly, we would not have survived".They opened a factory outlet at the St Kilda factory and after its success followed that with standalone retail stores.

 

About the move into retail Fella says, “moving into retail was a win-win for everyone. The customers got the products cheaper and had a better, more comprehensive range and choice, and we were no longer dictated to by the stores and we could become masters of our own destiny.”

 

Fashion and retail trends have changed over the last 50 years but unlike a lot of other retailers who haven’t been able to survive economic ebbs and flows Fella Hamilton continues to grow. This may be, in part at least, due to the strong attachment to their roots as an Australian brand and their love of their customers.

 

Fella has said that the best thing about owning her own business is being able to employ a lot of Australians and maintaining ‘Made in Australia’ status. But that doesn’t mean it’s all been a smooth ride. If there was something she could change about the last 50 years of the company, Fella says she would have opened their own retails stores sooner.

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Fella has said that the best thing about owning her own business is being able to employ a lot of Australians and maintaining ‘Made in Australia’ status. But that doesn’t mean it’s all been a smooth ride. If there was something she could change about the last 50 years of the company, Fella says she would have opened their own retails stores sooner.

Fella stepped away from the day-to-day running of the business in the early 2000’s but that doesn’t mean she isn’t still the brand’s biggest advocate and favourite customer.

 

“I enjoy wearing new-season pieces from the Fella Hamilton collection and add beautiful scarves and my favourite jewellery to keep it as my own individual style,”

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So, what fashion advice does Fella, the woman who has influenced so much Australian fashion in the last 50 years, have for everyone else?

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And what is the best piece of advice that Fella has for anyone considering starting their own business? “Quality always wins.” Simple words from an extraordinary lady.

 

The Fella Family XX