Wheels and Dollbaby is a cult contemporary womenswear label that has its own personality with a bag full of adjectives: it’s cheeky, kinky, minx-like, sophisticated, classy and luxurious.
The brand opened doors to its small flagship store in Sydney, 25 years ago, and today celebrities like Katy Perry, Courtney Love, Dita Von Teese and Jessie J have taken the label to the limelight, also known as Hollywood.
The mastermind behind the label, designer Melanie Greensmith, had her stylish mother to look up to who was a showgirl in her days of fame and money. At the time, Greensmith surrounded herself with Blondie and Vivien Westwood, and today she has a wardrobe full of Louboutins and a make-up bag filled with YSL palettes. Greensmith believed in living the life you’ve imagined – and she imagined one oozing with luxury and glamour.
Come August 1, we’ll see the anticipated launch of Wheels & Dollbaby’s spring / summer 2012/13 collection, titled Butterfield 8.
Hence, Fashionising.com sat down with Melanie to talk about Wheels & Dollbaby, what inspires her and the importance of sex bombs in today’s society.
Talking to Melanie Greensmith
What made you start Wheels & Dollbaby?
I started when I was 19. It was my lifestyle – I used to go to watch Rock ‘n’ roll bands play. I loved fashion and all sorts of glamourous things. I started making things for my girlfriends and then it became a career. It wasn’t like I had a business plan or a 5-year plan. We have history and brand intergrity because it isn’t made up and it’s real.
You have always tagged Wheels & Dollbaby as a ‘lifestyle brand,’ as opposed to a clothing brand. Why so?
We are all about bodycon dresses and skirts. This brand is sexy, edgy and it encompasses a whole lifestyle. I am as much into antiques as I am into rock music. Wheels & Dollbaby is a theatrical brand with a rock ‘n’ roll glamour attached to it.
Who is the ideal Wheels & Dollbaby girl?
They are kinky girls who don’t just want to wear the trends they are told to follow. They love YSL and Givenchy make-up. They wear Lanvin shoes and they have an edge.
How is Wheels & Dollbaby unique in the fashion industry?
We are unique in the fact that we are very organic. We are made in Australia. We are only a small company and yet we dress some of the biggest celebrities in the world. We don’t follow trends and we have our own Wheels & Dollbaby niche market that dresses women from anywhere like 18-year old fans of Reece Mastin’s music to Goldie Hawn.
Season-by-season, what keeps your inspiration fire alive?
I love Hollywood old stuff. It’s glamourous and a fantasy – the woman is decked and beautiful. She has trapping the man in her charm. I get inspired by a whole lot of things that I roll into one thing – French antique furniture, vintage fabrics and rock music.
Melanie Greensmith, founder of Wheels & Dollbaby
What, according to you, is the role of sex bombs in today’s modern society?
We like all different types of women; we don’t just dress sex bombs. Sex bombs now have way more power than the olden days. Some brands have an iconic image of a pretty or classic girl, but we just have a ‘sex bomb’. I don’t take this image thing seriously, because it’s fun stuff. If Katy Perry wears your clothes, you can’t be serious, right?
Elizabeth Taylor is the inspiration for the new collection, Butterfield 8. Who do you think is an Elizabeth Taylor of today?
Emma Stone, she’s my favourite at the moment. I would really like her to be my Wheels & Dollbaby girl. I see her as part of our brand.
When you style and photograph Australian redhead bombshell Tiah Eckhardt for your campaigns, what exactly do you want her to bring out in the photograph?
Animation – Tiah has the same fashion aesthetic as me. So I don’t have to instruct her, per se. She wears my stuff, how it should be worn and she looks polished and classically elegant. She still looks a sex bomb.
What about Tiah appeals to you?
We don’t like skinny models with no bosoms, so Tiah is perfect! She’s got a personality – her audience see that in her. She is larger than life – she could be an actress and anything. She’s a little minx!
Future plans for Wheels & Dollbaby?
This year is our 25th year, so we want to expand in England and European market. And just have fun – we’re known to do that anyway!
Talking to Tiah Eckhardt
Now that we’ve got the designer’s and the brand’s point of view, it only makes sense to talk to the face – the sex bomb, so to speak – of Wheels and Dollbaby, model Tiah Eckhardt.
Tiah’s story is a fascinating one – she started in Perth with burlesque and acting lessons, moved to Sydney for a modelling career and today is a household name in the industry. Some credit her vibrant ginger hair, while others are bowled over by her charming personality.
We chat with Tiah on why lingerie modelling appeals to her and what is it like to be a mother of a two-year-old in this industry.
What is it about Wheels and Dollbaby that appealed to you?
I was a big fan of the label, long before I started working with them. Growing up in Perth I fantasised about this glamourous, French/European aesthetic, and old Hollywood movies. Also, in Perth there’s not a whole lot to do, so all my friends were in bands. When I moved to Sydney, as a teenager, I was living right around the corner from the Crown St [W&D] store and fell in love with it, it embodied everything I was into.
Wheels & Dollbaby sell luxury and sex via the brand, how do you feel about being an epitome of that ultimate ‘sex bomb’ image?
I’m very flattered! But I’ve never actively tried to project that, I’m just kind of um, really honest about who I am. I like sex, food, luxury, beautiful and carnal things and if that gives me [the sex bomb] image, then that’s cool because I’m just being myself!
So many women look up to you as more of an idol, than a model; do you feel the pressure?
I’m first and foremost really, really flattered. I feel no pressure at all. If anything I get pressure too often not be that, because obviously as a model you have to be versatile.
Does being a mum of a toddler put any pressure on you?
Who says you can’t be a mum and be sexy? Anyone who says otherwise is just enforcing a bullshit Madonna/whore dichotomy and that really bugs me and needs to stop!
Where do the Wheels & Dollbaby campaigns stand with the other work in your model folio?
Wheels & Dollbaby campaigns are probably closer to my personal style than anything else. It’s how I dress when I go out and it’s how I do my hair and make-up when I need to get dolled up. In fact, in a few of the campaigns I’ve done my own hair and make-up or helped style little bits and pieces. Mine and Mel’s style and interests are so similar she’s often said ‘Just wear it the way you would wear it yourself’ and it tends to be pretty spot on. It’s great to be such good friends with a designer and have them trust you to represent their brand like that.
Tiah Eckhardt for Wheels & Dollbaby
Now, we’ve seen your lingerie review blog – what is it about lingerie modeling that appeals to you the most?
I’m just a big lingerie addict, always have been. I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money on it. I love it, nerd out on it, and I have hundreds of sets. I review a different set every day on my blog (thedailyknicker.tumblr.com), so it makes sense that I enjoy getting paid to wear it.
How was it shooting for Wheels & Dollbaby’s Spring / Summer 2012 campaign? I believe Elizabeth Taylor was the inspiration for it?
It was great. The collection was inspired by Liz in Butterfield 8, and if you watch the movie you’ll see the baby-blue and almost ‘powdery’ filtered influence that seen throughout the range.
You’ve done Burlesque in the past, are musicals on the horizon for Tiah Eckhardt?
I actually started doing musical theatre when I was 4. My mum loves telling the story of how I came home from a rehearsal once and had taught myself how to read by matching up my lines to a script I stole. I went on to train in dance, drama and a little bit of singing and this all sort of sparked my interest in burlesque, later on. I’d love to go back to it but oh to find the time between everything else! My life is kind of fun enough anyway.
To view the full spring 2012 campaign from Wheels & Dollbaby, starring Tiah Eckhardt, click on the gallery above.