Interview NATASHA INCHLEY Photographs PRUE RUSCOE
Makeup JACLYN HNITKO
Here's Looking At You: main picture, top, at her Sydney home with her youngest daughter Paloma, Eva Galambos wears Dries Van Noten, J.W. Anderson and Gucci; above, an embroidered Saint Laurent tuxedo jacket and Chloe handbag; right, Galambos in the dressing room with Paloma wearing Fendi.
hat ignited your love of fashion and design? I grew up in the day and age of grunge, back when it was extremely uncool to be interested in brands. We wore clothes that were deconstructed, that you'd ripped and torn yourself. It was about pushing your thumb through the cuff of your sleeve – being understated, modest, but with an edge. So I feel that taught me about creativity and creating your own look rather than obtaining it, and I like the fact that’s where my thinking started. It has allowed me to stay level headed as a businesswoman. Even though I love what I do, and I do love luxury, I think I learned early on about the sense of value for money and keeping fashion in perspective.
Do you believe that clothes can have a kind of emotional power? Yes I absolutely do. I think we’re conditioned in this country to believe that youth and beauty is synonymous. In Europe, it’s not like that. I think the power of feeling great can be linked to how you project yourself – for instance, a beautiful blazer with wonderful structure and impeccable details that no one else can see, that blazer can make you feel confident and empowered. When something is well made it’s like wearing a work of art because you feel unique and special. That's not at all to say it has to be an expensive item to make you feel that way, but good design is important.
Art has always been one of your great inspirations. You are one of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia’s founding ambassadors – in fact that's where you began your career as a guide and researcher. What prompted you to switch to fashion and open your own boutique? As a young child, I wanted to be a curator and work in a gallery, then my career course changed when I moved to London and worked my way up in fashion. Back in Sydney, I decided to open a boutique that had a curatorial side, and so in some ways the two worlds came together. I wanted to showcase fashion much like a gallery, where each rail had a minimal amount of clothing and every item was seen as a work of art.
Some Kind Of Wonderful: above, like a fashion candy shop, Galambos's dressing room is filled with the most covetable bags and shoes of the season; below left, the dining room features the pop art, Andy Warhol For Chanel No 5; and right, Galambos wears Dries Van Noten in front of a work by Archibald Prize winner, Del Kathryn Barton.
Tell us about the women who visit Parlour X, who are you buying for? We meet everyone from high-powered businesswomen to absolute creatives who purely love runway fashion. We buy a lot of the season’s prominent pieces in a way that is suitable to our market, not just for the sake of it. Our clients are also women who absolutely love luxury, beautiful pieces and good service. Our customer is definitely not a baby – it’s about women with a sense of maturity and style that comes from age and attitude. I don't want to cater to women who want to look ten or twenty years younger, that’s a really old fashioned notion in my mind. What is most important to me is helping women to feel more confident and more proud of where they're at. I love it when clients say to me ‘I don't want to be sharing clothes with my daughter anymore; I want her to have her own wardrobe and I want to have mine.’
I have always admired your tenacity and determination. Those traits have garnered you a lot of respect in the industry – and I suspect that was also the key to winning over fashion’s highest ranks, the luxury houses of Paris, London and Milan? It’s definitely not a simple case of asking to stock the brands you love most and then having it all fall your lap. There are a lot of politics in terms of exclusivity and yes, I had to fight for the brands I loved. I think, most importantly, it comes down to relationships and trust. When you represent a brand, you do so in the same way that the house itself would, and with the utmost care and sensitivity and loyalty. Quite simply, I have earned their respect. I think they like me as a buyer, they like my vision. I order uniquely, I order in a way that's different to anyone else but still very representative of a collection – these are edits that tell a story within a story, with key runway looks that might push the envelope a little. Plus there is my experience. Over the course of 15 years, the network that I have formed has moved around, or been promoted, but the relationships have very much been maintained. That idea of cultivating a friendship is honoured in Europe and it’s very important to me, too.
What are the best moments in this business? I am always moved when I know that I’ve made a difference to someone. I love it when clients come back to store and tell me they were hesitant, yet bought something out of their comfort zone and then went to a lunch where everybody commented and it made them feel special. I’ve had quite a few moments like that – and I do push people a little when I feel they are ready. We encourage our clients to feel great about themselves and express what they want to express as a person, and that’s the artistry of it all.
A Stitch In Time: above, Galambos at Parlour X. Housed within a renovated church in Sydney's Paddington, the store is more gallery than boutique, with its long line up of covetable labels including Fendi, Valentino and Céline. The mezzanine level serves as Galambos's headquarters with its own photo studio for the business's online component.
So what then are your thoughts on achieving the whole work-life-family balance? You are mother to two gorgeous girls, Alexa and Paloma. Is it an impossible dream, particularly when the boss of your business is you? The girls are my babies, and this store is my baby too, and so it is incredibly hard to find balance. I admit I find it difficult to switch off from work. I try as hard as I can on the weekends. I am away a lot, six buying trips a year, which also gives me pangs, but I am philosophical – there have to be sacrifices when you have your own business, and I hope at the end of the day they see me as a great role model, I hang on to that. I think it’s particularly hard for women because as mothers we are always torn. It is so complex but I always try my best and I also try not to weigh my brain down with guilt.
And lastly, what values do you hope to instil in your daughters? A hard working ethic is very important to me; I do want my girls to be ambitious. I want them to have a sense of fulfilment that goes beyond family life and I want them to be able to find things in their life that give them great satisfaction. I don't see them as mini-mes, I see them as individuals, and I hope to give them the guidance to pursue their dreams.