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Chat: Peter Alexander

Monday, March 2, 2009
<p><b>Interviewer: 60 Minutes presents a live interview with fashion designer, Peter Alexander.   </p><p>

Interviewer: 60 Minutes presents a live interview with fashion designer, Peter Alexander.

Interviewer: Peter thank you for talking to us tonight, in our live online chat room.

Peter Alexander: I can’t believe I was just on 60 Minutes, it was a very surreal experiences watching myself on a television show that’s an institution.

Flippy: How did you get started in the beginning? If you can't sew, how did you create all your clothes?

Peter Alexander: I basically came up with the concept, and I got my friends who could sew and cut patterns to help out with my ideas. So I more had all the ideas my friends and my family helped out with the skills I didn’t have.

PolkaDotBrid: What was your biggest challenge?

Peter Alexander: My biggest challenge is to not turn into a boring business man and keep the passion and the fun into what I do, because you can start getting bogged down with numbers and profit and bottom lines if you let yourself. So I try to remind myself how it all started and what’s really important in life.

Hairymuppet: I absolutely love your PJs! I'm curious where abouts are you based? Is your HQ in Australia or America now?

Peter Alexander: I’m a Melbourne boy, my headquarters are in Melbourne. I’ll never be based anywhere but Melbourne, that’s where my family and friends are. However I do travel a lot.

aimee: Hi i just wanted to tell Peter that I love his slippers and I wanted to know if he wears Peter Alexander jamies???

Peter Alexander: Truthfully I don’t wear them to sleep, I wear them around the house to watch TV and when I get home, but when I actually get to bed I get very hot (I have my dogs with me) so I tend to strip them off and then put them back on in the morning.

geeeeeeeeeee: Who's the most famous person you have put PJ's on?

Peter Alexander: Famous is a very subjective, it could be anyone from Kylie to Paris, there are a lot of stars so it’s kind of hard to say who is the biggest. Though one did just pop up in my mind, Princess Mary.

PolkaDotBrid: Will you ever redo the original ghost pyjamas?

Peter Alexander: That is so funny, I get a lot of requests for them. They were so long ago I can’t believe you still remember them. Yes I will, I promise I will because they seem to be a real Peter Alexander classic.

Felicity: Hey Peter.... Your PJ's rock and I have over 20 pairs!! What has been your favourite range that you have designed?

Peter Alexander: First of all, thank you for being such an avid fan it’s very flattering. My favourite collection, I change my mind each week, it’s so hard to say what I like best because once I’ve done something and it’s out there, I’ve moved on and I go to the next thing. But probably if I had to answer, it would be the cloud pyjama.

maddie: Where do you find your inspiration?

Peter Alexander: I get asked that a lot, inspiration comes from all over the place. It can be from travelling and seeing different cultures, therefore seeing different patterns and colour combinations. It can be from fashion magazines, I do like to take trend from fashion and give it a sense of humour by putting them onto sleep wear. I also get inspired by walking down the street and how people put their clothes together. And also history books, old war papers, things like that.

chicken: Peter , do you make large women sizes ?

Peter Alexander: We go up to size 18, but that is a generous cut 18. My mother is a larger size so she always hassles me that we’ve got something to fit her. So that’s probably the biggest we do go up to at this point, but there is demand for sizes 20 and 22.

Pyjama-Boy: What advice would you have for those in business who may be finding it a little difficult in these financial times?

Peter Alexander: When I started my business it was in ’87 which was a recession like it is now, in a way it’s a good time to start a small business because if you can succeed in these times, you can grow with the economy. However, my advice is keep your overheads as low as you possibly can, I worked from my mother’s house for five years before I could afford to rent an office, my mother worked for me for free before I could afford staff so again I think, keep overhead low and you learn from the first few years of your business and when the economy starts to grow, you will grow with it.

lovethepjs: Hi Peter, I love your pj's - what is it that makes them sooooooo comfortable? Is it the quality of fabric?

Peter Alexander: It’s like the KFC spices, there’s a secret recipe that I would have to kill you if I told you. I just tend to cut on the larger size to make it more about comfort than how you look. But thank you for that, I appreciate it. I think comfort is the ultimate luxury.

dana: Love your designs and style of fabrics - do you create your own fabric collections or do you choose them from other companies.

Peter Alexander: Both, I have a fulltime in house designer who I work with, who brings my ideas to fruition and I also purchase designs from other textile designers, so both.

Nadia_Kerr: Hello Peter. Just curious where you found people to help with the manufacturing and financial side of your business when you first started out?

Peter Alexander: I got a loan from my father of $3000, and basically I put my mother’s house up for mortgage, so I did it myself. I did ask business men that I knew questions as I went along, but looking back if I could relive the time, I would have done a basic business course because I truly believe that would have helped. If I had a choice between a business or fashion course, I would have taken the business course. Because learning how to manage accounts if vital for anyone starting a business.

suma: How do you get buyers to get interested in your particular product? Especially when the market is saturated?

Peter Alexander: When I started my business there was no other sleepwear brands so I was pretty lucky as I stood out. Nowadays it would be a lot harder to start, but what you’ve got to keep in mind is the fashion industry is a fickle industry and they always want something new. So if you have a new idea or fresh approach, they need you just as much as you need them. So that’s the good thing about the industry, they are always hunting for the next big thing.

Sam_Birkett: Were you ever interested in other types of designing?

Peter Alexander: Not really, I’m terrible at interior design. I don’t think so, I think I just really liked the frivolity of fashion and in a way the stupidness of fashion, the fact that it’s about emotion and fun. If you’re talking about architecture, that is far too serious for me and wouldn’t appeal to my stupidity!

Felicity: What is your favourite colour to use on PJs? Every time I get a new catalogue, I want to buy EVERYTHING on it!! LOL...

Peter Alexander: Thank you, that’s a great compliment! That’s my aim. My favourite colour changes, the shade of pink always sells the best, but I’m a bit of a blue boy myself, and love sky blue. But pinks always sell well, so it’s a battle of fashion versus the bottom line business side.

PJ-NAY: What's your favourite season for Jim-Jams? WINTER UGGs or SUMMER slips?

Peter Alexander: Good question, I do love a cozy flannel PJ for cozying up with my dog or watching TV, however there is something sexy and summery about a little nightie, so they both have their pros and cons, I’d have to say probably, Winter.

Pyjama-Boy: Peter... How do you keep the passion going and going and going. Also, the relationship you have with your Mum is absolutely beautiful

Peter Alexander: I think I keep the passion going because I really enjoy it and perhaps because it’s such a major part of my life now, I’ve been doing this for 22 years. So it’s almost part of me, so if a garment has my name on it I want to make sure it’s perfect. My mother is very special to me, we’re very connected and since my father died we’re basically been there for each other and she was a major part of my business when we started, and luckily for her she’s retired and I love her very very much.

Nadia_Kerr: Did you have to give any of your products away to celebrities initially to get a name for your business in the fashion industry?

Peter Alexander: Sometimes yes, but mostly no. It depends, some celebrities do like things for free, particularly the American younger celebrities. The actors and professionals always insistent on paying, like Tony Collette and Kylie, people like that tend to respect that this is your business and will pay for it. While more the younger stars see it as a perk of their career. But basically, I figure why give it to them for free? It’s not like they’ll be seen on the red carpet wearing it.

kendal: Do you really take your little dogs to work?

Peter Alexander: When I started with the Just group, I took my dog Penny to work everyday with me, unfortunately she has passed on 5 years ago. I now have 2 new dogs, Jessy and Butch, they tend to drop into work once twice a week, but because there are two of them they tend to distract me, but because there are two of them they can keep each other company at home. Other staff members are allowed to bring their dog to work, so you’ll normally find another dog in my office at some point.

sydneygirl2: Will you bring out some dog pyjamas to match certain collections in the catalogue?

Peter Alexander: Personally, I’m a little funny about dog clothing, most dogs have got a fur coat so don’t really need clothing. People tend to dress them up more for their enjoyment rather than their dogs, so I’m not a huge fan clothing for dogs. However I do occasionally do little funny t shirts with sayings on it for a Christmas gift, but I don’t really like seeing dogs as fashion accessories.

bayley: Are you planning on designing more Boy and Girl matching sets? My husband and i have the Cowboy matching from last season and we love it?

Peter Alexander: Funny you should say that, the Winter catalogue that is coming out in April has got a lot of matching PJs so please enjoy.

Stanley: Peter, how did you learn how to make it on the internet....it is such a competitive marketplace?

Peter Alexander: When I started on the internet I didn’t have any retail stores, so the only place to get it was through me. I got a lot of press and that created a lot of demand for my product, so people searched it out on the Internet and I developed a great mailing list. My recommendation for anyone starting a business on the net, is to figure out how people will find your site and why would they buy from your site if your product is available offline.

Nadia_Kerr: do you think your business took off as well as it did because there wasn't much competition?

Peter Alexander: Absolutely, when I started I was really in a league of my own, no one was doing what I was doing, and I think that’s the key now for successful brands, coming up with an idea that is fresh and hasn’t been done before. And you’re saying something to the consumer that they haven’t heard before. Having said that, I do try and keep ahead of the competition now and competition is good because it stops you from getting lazy.

katie: How difficult was it to find a manufacturer to realise your designs, and keep them exclusive. I have read that some of your fabrics are from Sri Lanka - is that correct?

Peter Alexander: I did start manufacturing in Sri Lanka when I first started my business, as far as keeping patterns and things exclusive, it’s very hard to do unless you’ve got a manufacturing factory, so you just have to take your chances with that sort of thing. As far as fabric goes, I get them from all over the place, Tokyo, China, Sri Lanka. I used to have them made in Australia, but about 10 years ago the whole Australian fabric industry did a turn around and it just wasn’t viable to continue making them here anymore.

Nadia_Kerr: How long were you running your business for when you realise it was finally going to succeed in the fashion industry?

Peter Alexander: Probably about seven years in, the first seven years I had a lot of ups and downs and then on the 10th year I sold my brand to the Just Group, I still do all the creative design and basically run the business, but it secured my brand as fashion is a very cut throat business and I was getting too bogged down with the business side. I get to do all the fun creative stuff.

Nadia_Kerr: If you didn’t initially borrow money to get started do you think you would be where you are today?

Peter Alexander: No, probably not, you have to have some financial backing, though mine was only $3000 it was enough for me to get some patterns made and get some fabric. So you do need to start off with some cash, the less the better, but unfortunately finance and money is a side of business, that’s why it’s called the fashion business.

indigo966: LA is so outrageous, how do you "ground" yourself out there?

Peter Alexander: It is pretty outrageous, it is so celebrity obsessed and I did so some crazy things like go to the Playboy Mansion, meet the Girls Next Door, meet the stars. I think because I was older it was very easy for me to understand my place there and not get too caught up. If I were in my 20s I could have gotten caught up in the madness. Now I’m older, I understand you are nothing special, you’re just a clog in the wheel.

sydneygirl2: Peter, will you ever make an Australian themed range! We haven't had one yet!! Peter Alexander: The only time I’ve done an Australian theme ranged was when the Sydney Olympics were on, but more so for something for Tourist to buy than Australian. I suppose I should be more patriotic, tho green isn’t the best colour to sleep in so I might have to concentrate on the Gold. Although I suppose some indigenous ideas might be something to think about for the future.

Alison: Peter, How long do you think you can maintain printed catalogues? They must be an expensive way to market.

Peter Alexander: Interesting question, the catalogue are very expensive, you are correct, but they drive people into stores, drive people onto the Internet and drive people to buy from the catalogue. So they have 3 functions to it, however the Internet is becoming more important. I think 5-6 years the catalogue might go, and it might be about the internet, but I do enjoy it as part of my branding an extension to my design.

mfk12b: How do you handle other brands who come out as "copycats"?

Peter Alexander: A lot of brands have come out as copycats, I’ve gotten used to it. I find it on one hand flattering, on the other frustrating. But I get inspiration from other designs, so why not from me? However there is a fine line there, there is one particular brand that I won’t mention that have stores everywhere that does tend to cross the line a little bit, but it does keep me on my toes to make sure I do a better job.

sarah: Do you have any suggestions for someone who is trying to start their own business in the fashion industry (jewellery)?

Peter Alexander: My suggestion would be give serious thought on why your line of jewellery is different from what is out there. Is it a different point of view? design? Does it have a story to it? Think bigger than just the pieces of jewellery, think about what the collection is about and what it says about you as a designer and how you are going to stand out in the market place. And sometimes it’s good to get opinions from people who aren’t your friends and family so they can be very objective and good luck!

Interviewer: Unfortunately Peter, we are out of time, do you have anything else you would like to share before we finish tonight?

Peter Alexander: Thank you all for taking the time blog with me, sweet dreams and until we sleep together again (professionally not personally), keep smiling. Love Peter.

Interviewer: Once again thank you and goodnight.

Interviewer: This concludes our chat with Peter Alexander, Sunday March 1, 2009.

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