The idea for First Base
I’ve been working in fashion for about 15 years, I had a different label and about five years ago, I decided I wanted to create a product that had a longer shelf life than a floral cocktail dress - you know, you get a print and wear it once and then feel like you can’t rewear it. I was over that disposable factor and I wanted to clothes that were seasonless and had a longer life span. It was basically just coming at it from a different angle.
We started with 10 pieces, mainly in jersey - trackies, shorts, hoodies, tees and tanks. First Base was about those foundation pieces. It was 12 months before we did activewear. That was always part of the plan but had a longer lead time, getting the fabric right on activewear was going to take about a year. So we launched five years ago, right before the activewear trend exploded and it was received really well.
The big bang
We sold online initially, then Amanda Shadforth shared our campaign images on Oracle Fox and Tuchuzy saw us on the blog and suddenly they wanted 500 pieces of stock. Basically because of Oracle Fox posting it. It blew up from there.
We did a pop up at The Pacific over summer ‘17 in Bondi, then Westfield Bondi Junction had a short term space, so we dived straight in and thought we’d play with the big boys. There are pros and cons with a Westfield, the customer is very diverse, the volume of people is enormous but the quality of the customer wasn’t necessarily there so it was great to understand retail and learn about our products but after the 12 months I felt like we were better suited to being in the heartland at Paddington. At the end of 2018 that’s where we opened a permanent location.
I’m working on another store at the moment but if I’ve learnt anything, it’s that anything can happen. We hope to open another in 12 months and then another 24 months down the track from that.
My healthy week
My health philosophy is basically 80% healthy, 20% vodka and cheese. I drink my alcohol in spirit form and straight on the rocks. It just feels boss and it’s also low carb! Just the attitude alone helps it taste better.
I’ve been mostly vegetarian for three years now, after I’d realised I was eating too much processed meat. Things like salami and ham where you’re not getting any nutrition. It was definitely a feeling decision, but now it’s partially an ethical decision. I’m not a spokesperson or anything, but the older you get, you can see the impact of being a human and living, and if I can lessen my impact in some ways, then I will. I don’t miss meat at all.
We now just eat so many vegetables, a huge array and my cooking has gotten a lot more exciting and experimental because you have to be creative with what you make. We eat a much more balanced, nutritious diet - I used to base meals around a protein and salad, but now get so many more nutrients from a variety of foods. Lots of lentils and broccoli. I made a chili con carne the other night and Andrew [her boyfriend] I’m sure was trying to convince himself there was meat in it, but no - I made it with lentils.
There’s nothing normal in our pantry. The pasta we have is lentil pasta or made from beans, everything is substituted. If Andrew wants some original food he has to go out for it. For the most the part. We don’t eat things like sugar, white refined carbs or fried foods, I like to cook and make healthy, nutritious stuff. That’s during the week. On the weekend I’ll do whatever. If there’s a bowl of chips while we’re having a drink at the pub, I’ll have some.
The whole health balance thing is about trying to do the good things when you’ve got the energy, I think some people can be too strict - which is why I believe in the 20% vodka and cheese.
I practice yoga twice a week religiously - that’s how I met Andrew, he’s a yoga teacher so I go to his classes. Then I’ll do one pilates class and one gym session or an ocean swim or surf. I have done more in the past (I used to train six - seven times a week) and I would like to do more but I’ve been injured for nine months.
Since starting First Base it’s become very important to me to have that workout time to myself and you do feel better when you do something - you need that mental break from work. Prior to First Base I was a bit haphazard.
How does alcohol fit in?
In a dream situation I try to be conscious of what I drink, because even if I have one or two at night during the week I’m just not that fresh the next day and I have to fit so much into my day. I work long hours so it just doesn’t bode well. That’s not to say I would never, but I generally just try to drink on weekends only. I do try to avoid wine because it doesn’t work for me, I’m more of a straight vodka, gin, tequila. They give me little or no hangover and work best for my body.
The main thing I do is really actively try to not care what people think about me or what I’m doing. I really disengage with that and I find it personally very satisfying. I don’t care if people find me weird. I try and mediate in yoga twice a week, but just disengaging with people, trying to appease people, fitting into a mould ... I disconnect with that. I am me and keep on my path and do my thing.
I’ve stopped mindlessly scrolling on social media as a part of this. I find it really distracting and I think that helps. There’s so much comparison, I try not to go on there and compare myself to others because I’ll find myself thinking about how I shouldn’t have eaten pizza last night. Disconnecting from that has been really helpful for me, especially in our industry, dealing with influencers and all of that stuff. So no looking at people in bikinis on holidays while I’m stuck at work has been great for freeing my mind.
Simple beauty is best
My beauty routine is pretty basic, wash my face, exfoliate and moisturise but my favourite thing to do is go and see Melanie Grant and have a facial - once every two months cause I’m too busy/slack to go more often. I’m obsessed with the Omnilux treatment, sometimes I do a double at once cause I don’t have time to go back the week after! Getting older, I’ve found my skincare needs to be a bit more elevated but I believe in investing in the health of my skin. Fillers and Botox just aren’t for me. I take fish oil, zinc, vitamin B and they make quite a difference to the quality of my skin and how hydrated it is.
Hair care. Or care less.
So, here’s an admission. I let my staff cut my hair for me. I hate going to the hairdressers and spending $400 on getting my hair cut. I go to the hairdresser’s maybe once a year for a colour cause I can’t stand spending five hours in the chair. The ends of my hair is bleached properly, but the rest of it is actually spray in stuff that bleaches it (don't tell anyone!). Then I put product in it and it looks like tried but I didn’t! My hair is my one thing that actually just works on its own.
We do all the basics, use canvas bags to go shopping, own keep cups, natural cleaning products, recycle, compost, and more recently I’ve tried to be more conscious of buying bulk wholefoods and taking jars shopping.
First Base’s environmental footprint
My bigger action is with work, because you’re talking about a bigger operation than just a household. So we have worked hard at eliminating harmful packaging, reducing freight emissions, working with Carbon Neutral Australia in offsetting our carbon. If everyone just does one or two things it all adds up and makes a difference. Also obviously drinking straight alcohol with no straw. That’s probably my main contribution.
What’s your superpower?
That's easy. It would have to be not giving a fuck. About what other people say or caring what people think. I don’t mean it in an asshole way, but I think women in particular spend so much time thinking about what other people think of us … it’s a burden. For the most part, people are mostly thinking about themselves, not you. So not being attached to what other people think about you, it’s an extremely empowering and liberating thing. For me that’s freedom.
Interview: Nedahl Stelio
Photos: Chris Mohen
Alison wears First Base throughout.