Her fashions made it to Fifth Avenue, New York and still her mother told her it was a shame she only came fifth.
Fashion icon and now author Alannah Hill puts on a gravelly voice and adopts the stance of a heavy smoker, imaginary cigarette in hand, as she impersonates her late mother, probably the strongest influence in her life.
Her impressions both surprised, shocked and delighted a captivated audience at the Grand View hotel where she launched her memoir Butterfly on a Pin on May 11. She spoke only briefly about her exploits designing 1500 pieces a season and the demise of her role in her own fashion label, but most of all about the difficult childhood that shaped her.
This too is the subject of her book, a story she said she had written in her head for the past 30 years and had caused three members of her family to no longer speak with her. She reads out a good chunk of the book, recalling the day she thought her mother would die, herself and her siblings a thin wall away eating stale honey sandwiches.
“All of us have secrets. I just couldn’t hold my past back any longer. I can’t run any more,” she said.
In speaking at the Grand View, she alluded to a childhood of abuse at the hands of her brother and father.
“Just when you think you are done with the past, you realise the past isn’t done with you. The book was my chance to reinvent myself,” she said.
Her first new beginning was at age 15 when she left her small Tasmanian country home (two bedrooms and seven people) wearing a sailor frock, $50 and six suitcases.
Her distinctive heavily made up look complete with hair accessories is the mask she hides behind, while inside a fragile little girl is trapped like a butterfly on a pin.