Collette Dinnigan has been an icon of the Australian fashion scene since the early ’90s, so when she announced she was quitting it all two years ago her customers, admirers and even closest friends were completely stunned.
On last night’s Australian Story, the popular designer reflected on her decision to close her Sydney, Melbourne and London stores to allow her to focus on her family. The turning point came while she was working on her first book, Obsessive Creative.
“When I was given the final copy of my book, it made me quite retrospective about my life and my business. And so seeing it made me quite emotional in thinking about what I had achieved and my family in particular, and all those moments that are very personal,” the 49-year-old told the ABC programme.
“And I guess it kind of just turned something in me or clicked, something clicked and I felt like, for me, now I have to make a change. Another collection, another show, another this, another that, another store: it wasn’t what was important to me and it wasn’t what was motivating me any more.”
Her husband Bradley Cocks said it became "really apparent" that something needed to happen when the pair found themselves working six days a week, often conducting meetings while Dinnigan breastfed their son Hunter.
"Collette put together a very personal book about her life and her career. And I think her seeing that in a physical form and very visually was absolutely a catalyst for her thinking about the next chapter of what she was going to do," he recalled.
Dinnigan has admitted the decision was a difficult one that couldn't be taken lightly, previously telling the Daily Mail: "[There is] a lot of weight on you when you have that many staff and, you know, their families have mortgages and children to support, it's very serious."
She has also spoken of how her mother's death more than 20 years ago made her realise how important it is to spend time with her family.
"I have two children of my own now, I don't want to miss any of those special moments with my children because my work got in the way. I haven't stopped for 24 years, but I do not believe that any moment spent with your children is not a wasted moment,'' she told Fairfax Media two years ago. (Post continues after gallery.)
''I am doing this with total honesty and with my integrity intact. People like to speculate that something must be wrong, or that we are in trouble, but it is not that at all. It is about me being able to make a decision about the brands which respects their value.''
The mother of two eventually disclosed her "big secret" to family and friends on the night of her book launch in 2013; she said it was a "very emotional few minutes" having to say the words out loud.
"She said ... 'I’m going down this new path and I’m really excited about it.' But I could see that it’s very difficult to give up something that you’ve grown for so long," model Sarah Murdoch, one of Dinnigan's close friends, recounted to Australian Story.
Two years on, Dinnigan is enjoying spending time with her husband, Hunter, and Estella, her daughter with former partner Richard Wilkins.
"You can't do nine-to-five in fashion, it's all-encompassing. But I can control it now. I'm able to spend school holidays with my family rather than having to be in Paris for shows," she told the Daily Mail.
Ultimately, Dinnigan says she's learned the things that are most important to her have become "more emotional" as she's grown older.
"When you’re younger, it’s much more, I guess, aspirational and materialistic. And ultimately it sort of doesn’t really matter what you surround yourself with: you’ve got to have good people," she said last night.
"Probably the greatest thing I’ve learned is that sometimes you’ve just got to let things go. And... and that’s the way it is."
Have you ever stepped back from your career or something important in your life? What was it like for you?