Collezioni Haute Couture is excited to share an exclusive interview with Hajar Gala, Creative Director of Maison De Challie.

Fairytales come alive at Maison De Challie, the brand synonymous with the finest in luxury bespoke Couture. Glamour, escapism, elegance, and magical imagery are also on the menu. No wonder, this couture house is the ultimate choice for the world’s most stylishl women.

Founded by Hajar Gala, Maison De Challie caters to elite couture clients, offering unparalleled, by appointment only, service at the brand’s showroom. The principal designer and face behind Maison De Challie, Hajar Gala has contributed enormously to the art of couture over the past two decades by introducing many special techniques to Australian Couture, earning her a reputation as one of Australia’s most elegant couturiers.

1) How did your passion for fashion come to be?

From a very young age I had a passion for creating garments. I would happily reconstruct and transform even a newly bought dress into something totally different, and often get into trouble for ‘ruining it’ according to my mother. Against my family’s wishes to become a medical doctor I enrolled in a private fashion institute. Upon graduating, I wanted to launch my own couture house and this dream became a reality soon after arriving in Australia in the early nineties when I opened a store in the historic Strand Arcade in Sydney. It was a classic couture atelier where I created bespoke gowns for discerning Australian women.

2) In your opinion, what is the relationship between art and fashion?

As a designer I think there is a very strong relationship between art and fashion. I’m constantly inspired by art, architecture and music, and often this is the spark that inspires me to create a new collection or gown. I also believe that couture is an art form in self that is often underrated. It takes tremendous skill and artistry to create a couture piece for a client which showcases and enhances the female form, whilst also being aesthetically beautiful with the highest levels of craftsmanship. In couture, each gown is developed irrespective of cost using as much material and time as is required to realise the artistic vision of the piece. This is in stark contrast to mass produced clothing and fashion which is about making clothes as quickly as possible to the lowest price point. True couture pieces are utterly timeless and will live on forever, this can be seen through the love and adoration that people all over the world still have for the classic Dior pieces he created in the 1950’s which look just as elegant and beautiful today as they did on the day they were made.

3) How important is craftsmanship in couture?

Craftsmanship is everything. The traditional couture techniques emphasis quality of construction, as well as elegant silhouettes which gives them a timeless quality. I have always loved and appreciated intricate details and embellishments, and as a couturier, I think it is very important to always remain true to these principles.

4) Tell us about your bespoke atelier, what are the steps involved and what do you think is the most important one?

All gowns are individually designed over a series of private face to face or Skype consultations, where a shared vision for the dress is achieved and the client gains a feeling of the style, silhouette and fabrics by viewing our in-house collection As each gown is made to measure, a number of fittings may be required either at our Atelier, or for our international clients  at their preferred location. It is during this intimate collaboration that a one of kind De Challie gown evolves. I think the most important step (and my favourite one!) is after the initial consultations have been done and the first toile (calico) is completed. I love to see my clients face light up when they start to see their gown take shape for the first time.

5) What future plans do you have for Maison De Challie?

Maison De Challie’s current collection will be showcased internationally at Paris Fashion Week in October. We were blessed with a number of invitations to showcase overseas but chose to focus on Paris as it is the traditional home of couture! We are planning more showcase events in Europe next year, and would like to participate in the World of Fashion event in Rome which is a wonderful couture event which has been featured in your magazine. Thank you for featuring us in Collezioni, it has been a pleasure talking with you.

Five minutes with a designer of Haute Couture

HELENA GAME

IT’S NOT EVERY DAY THAT YOU GET TO CHAT WITH A PROFESSIONAL HAUTE COUTURE DESIGNER, LET ALONE ONE WHO WILL SOON BE SHOWING THEIR DESIGNS AT PARIS FASHION WEEK.

It’s also not every day that you’re able to see those designs in person—but that’s what you’ll be able to do when they take to the  FASHFEST catwalk next week.

We spoke to Hajar M. B. Gala from De Challie Haute Couture about her background in fashion design, her journey to Canberra, and her upcoming shows.

WHERE DID YOUR LOVE OF FASHION BEGIN?
I was born in Azerbaijan and went on to study fashion, formally learning the traditional French couture method in Europe. After completing my training I moved to Australia and entered the fashion industry.

When I first arrived here many years ago I was a migrant with no family or contacts, but I worked very hard and was lucky to meet some amazing designers and people who supported me, like Marcello Faidiga (a high-end designer) who had a boutique in The Strand Arcade in Sydney.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR DESIGN STYLE?
I would describe my style as classic and elegant, I love and appreciate intricate details, embellishments, fine lines and feminine silhouettes. I firmly believe that each gown needs to have a character of its own.

How do you balance traditional couture techniques with contemporary styling?

I believe that no matter how many times one redefines style, classical simplicity and charm can never be outdated. The traditional couture techniques emphasise quality of construction, and elegant silhouettes, which means they are timeless. I believe that it is important to be true to these principles when developing a new design, and to not succumb to pressures within the industry from the rise of “fast fashion”.

WHAT IS YOUR DESIGN PROCESS WHEN PLANNING A NEW COLLECTION?
The process always starts with a few elements, which you use to build up into a collection where all the pieces have their own story and speak the same language.

Sometimes the design process is sparked by finding some beautiful fabric, other times it could be a piece of art or music which inspires me. I tend to always sketch each design up to 10 times each, I then finesse the details between each stage before I commit to the final design.

Developing and then showcasing a new collection is a deeply personal experience for each designer as you are putting yourself out there for the world to see.

DO YOU DESIGN WITH A CERTAIN TYPE OF CLIENT OR BRIDE IN MIND?
Yes I do, the clients and brides who approach me all have an appreciation of couture techniques and quality. I visualise the De Challie client as a woman of elegance and style, striving to be unique, free spirited and fearless.

What inspires you and who are your style icons?

Grace Kelly is my style icon, I think she was one of the most elegant women who ever lived as well as a lovely person. I’m also inspired by the classic designs of Dior, and the periods from the 1920’s Jazz Age through to the Old Hollywood glamour of the 1950’s.

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO MOST AT YOUR FIRST FASHFEST APPEARANCE?
I’m looking forward to showcasing our special De Challie bridal collection at FASHFEST! Although Maison De Challie has been established for more than two decades this will be our debut appearance at FASHFEST and we are very excited to be involved.

Our bridal collection is very special to me, as I love every moment of working with our brides, and sharing in their excitement when designing a special gown. HerCanberra readers can expect modern yet sophisticated wedding dresses with refined silhouettes and feminine lines on the runway.

Couture designer Hajar Gala’s journey from Azerbaijan to Australia to Paris Fashion Week
PHOTO Sometimes Hajar works through the night at her Griffiths studio to meet deadlines.

Seeing your designs take centre stage at the prestigious Paris Fashion Week is the epitome of career pride for a high-end designer — but for Canberran Hajar Gala, it also marked a huge personal feat.

Against her parents’ wishes, Ms Gala took on a career as a young adult that she was forced to abandon just as her lifelong dream appeared on the horizon.

But persistence paid off and after starting from scratch a second time, she made it to the world stage last month.

Reflecting on her turbulent journey, Ms Gala traces it back to her childhood in Azerbaijan, where she would be roused on for transforming curtains into Barbie Doll dresses.

As she excelled academically throughout her school years, her family encouraged her to study medicine.

“I think I did disappoint my dad a bit because I had the potential to become a doctor,” she said.

“But I was just really drawn to fashion and my goal was couture from day one.”

 

After Ms Gala trained at the International Fashion Academy in Europe, her family migrated to Australia.

So, she took a risk and established her own brand in Sydney.

Before long her designs were catching the eyes of international designers and her dream of showcasing them in Paris — the birthplace of haute couture — seemed in reach.

But family issues forced her to abandon the brand.

“I just came back from Florence, and I was getting approached by all these magazines, but I had to give it all up,” she said.

“It was due to a number of unfortunate and very personal events.”

She clearly remembers disconnecting her phone on the night she shut down the shop.

“It was tough, because I was nearly there,” she said.

 

“I would sit at home and dress Canberra brides whenever I could,” she said.

Eventually she gained enough support to open another couture store and launch her brand, De Challie.

Just two years later she was invited to exhibit not one, but two shows at the 2017 Paris Fashion Week this October.

While deeply ecstatic about the honour, which has been awarded to few Australian designers and none from Canberra to her knowledge, she had just two months to prepare.

“I said ‘oh my god, we’re not going to make it’.”

But after many sleepless nights spent working in her studio, she did.

Standing backstage at the Renaissance Hotel in Paris and sending her models off, each wrapped in 200 hours of her hard work, was an indescribable moment.

“I had tears in my eyes,” she said.

“This was Paris Fashion Week — known as the home of couture and fashion internationally — where it all started. It was the one.

“I’d felt like I’d caught up with all the lost time.”

Ms Gala believes its her ability to portray her own story through her creations that makes them unique.

While gaining inspiration from classic designers and following the basic principles of haute couture, she also combines the Azerbaijan style she admired growing up with modern trends.

“Azerbaijan costumes are very much like this 50s silhouette, strong-fitted waist with voluminous skirts,” she said.

“And they’ve always been by dream. I always wanted to wear one when I was a young girl, with all those hand embroidery and beading; belts with lots of jewels.”

She said she would not have made it without support from the Canberra community.

“I remember when I first opened this shop, this young girl saw my photos and said ‘oh you copy couture?’

“And I said ‘no, they’re my designs’.

“But while there was not much couture in Canberra, I knew I had to make it in this city that had become my home.

“Now, I am proud.”