Feb 19, 2013 06:23
by Brenda Cunningham
No pressure, four-year-old Tallulah Cripps, but there is a big chance - if you are anything like your mum, your dad or your maternal grandparents you are going to end up in the ragtrade!
And it’s a fact mum, Chontelle, who runs the funky designer urban clothing store Pitbull Mansion in Hobart’s indie haven in Criterion Street, is well prepared for. “Tallulah loves coming into the store or going to work with Dad (photographer Dan Cripps) on photo shoots,” says Chontelle. “She loves to tell the models how to pose!”
It’s hard to outrun your destiny if you have grown up amongst colourful clothing racks. Even though Chontelle studied marketing and information systems at university and was building websites prior to 2006, she was always destined for a fashion career. “I was walking around my own parents store, Manhattan Ladies Fashion, when I was 13, going to factories, looking at labels, it sort of just happened.”
In an average day Chontelle may be styling shoots for their store’s online fashion magazine, wading through hundreds of lookbooks for upcoming labels, sending out a few online orders, helping in store, updating the Pitbull Mansion blog, Facebook and Twitter pages and somehow maintaining the precarious work-life balance we are all striving for in a Tasmanian paradise.
She is in the loop, but can disconnect when she needs to. “There are advantages and disadvantages to living here. If I lived in Sydney or Melbourne I would be at events every week. I only get to Sydney and Melbourne a couple of times a year because of the cost and inconvenience of travel so I don’t get to see every range in person but on the other hand I’m a mum so I don’t want to be out partying every night, it helps maintain that work-life balance and I hardly ever feel isolated.”
The physical store has an industrialised feel - all concrete floors and exposed beams with racks that hang on chunky chains. There’s a scandi element too with pale timber counter tops and stools. The clothing label choices are often opulent, sexy and right on trend - clothes that stand out in a crowd with labels like Chronicle of Never and Stolen Girfriends Club.
And there’s their own name of course - Pitbull Mansion. A little bit ironic? Well, yes, she says, but mostly the result of a brainstorming session for something edgy, memorable and glamorous and also a slight dig at the RSPCA who sold them a staffy-labrador cross which was probably more a Pitbull.
The store has gone from strength to strength since it started online in 2006 and had its brick and mortar opening two years ago. They have a devoted following of male and female customers from teenagers to early fifties, both online and in Hobart and are always evolving - examining prices, new ranges - “finding products that still keep our customers excited in a difficult economic climate.”“We are constantly looking for new ways for our customers to have a better experience both online and in store. It’s a very competitive market but we’re not restricted by geographic boundaries (and) Hobart’s fashion scene has grown in leaps and bounds,” she says. “There’s also more of an exciting arts culture since MONA opened (the state’s number one tourist attraction, the Museum of Old and New Art) and there are more people moving here from other cities, more people who are fashion savvy and keeping up with blogs on fashion.”
But despite her devotion to all things Armani, the Cripps have enough of a world-view to recognise the importance of other issues. They have three sponsored children from Ethiopia. And during the Queensland floods they organised an e-bay auction of donated clothes from their customers and designers and raised several thousand dollars for the disaster appeal. “I think in life you should never take yourself too seriously. If you begin to think the whole world revolves around what brand of jeans you wear, well... “For us, we like to give back. The fashion industry is sometimes labelled a bit shallow and frivolous. It’s nice to remember there are bigger issues in the world... can we marry the two?”
For Tasmanian-based trendsetters it’s also nice to know there’s a place with an ethical base that so full of label love you don’t need a Melbourne getaway to feel part of the fash pack.
ADDRESS: 14 Criterion Street, Hobart, Tasmania
TEL: (03) 6236 9900