A Mother and Daughter’s Grassroots Journey with Blue Illusion
"Well, I must tell you, Indiana,” Halina Fader, a stylist at the Hampton and Chadstone boutiques, says to the daughter of Blue Illusion co-founders Donna Guest and her late husband, Danny. “My start with Blue Illusion, I would say it was not very conventional.” Although Halina will have officially been with Blue Illusion for ten years next year, her relationship with the brand started twenty years ago and gives us an inside look at how Blue Illusion grew to be the global company it is today—through a love of community.
But before we can share Halina’s story, we have to start with her daughter, Andrea Rowland, who joined our Ivanhoe boutique over twenty years ago. Then, Blue Illusion still had only five or six stores. Like the company itself, Andrea was young and looking for her next big step when she received a call from Lisa George in HR. “She phoned me, and I was on the beach, and she said, ‘Do you want to come today?’ And I said I’ll come, but I’ve still got sand on my feet, and I’m not dressed for an interview. She said, ‘That’s fine, come in!’ and that was really the start of it.” Andrea tells us, laughing.
She was in her thirties then, not yet married or settled, and still deciding which direction her life would take. For her, Danny was like a mentor. Although she had always worked in retail, Danny would send her to conferences and talks to gain a deeper understanding of the business and grow professionally. One area in which Andrea blossomed early on was in the charity events that Blue Illusion would sponsor.
“I remember I would sit around Danny’s office with five other managers at a round table, and we would have our meetings.” Andrea reminisces. “Danny would allocate different managers different roles in the company to write the system for each part, and I put my hand up for the events because I was always really passionate about them.”
At that time, Andrea formed an affiliation with The Royal Children’s Hospital, where Blue Illusion would sponsor events at the Starlight Room. Andrea spearheaded our community events program and designed the guidelines for running events that we still use today. She is also the top sales stylist and has remained so for several years. “I’ve married since I started at Blue Illusion, bought homes, and had a family.” Andrea shares.
The various charity events that Andrea organized are also how Halina got her start with Blue Illusion. When Andrea first organized the fashion parades—an in-store catwalk that draws in customers and raises funds for charity—she would ring Halina, “Mum, I’ve got a fashion parade going. Do you think you could come in and help?” And Halina would say, “Yes, love, I’ll come in and do that for you!” In those days, Halina would model and pass out sandwiches to the customers, always striking up conversations with her infectious personality. “I loved it!” Halina exclaims. “And I felt part of it all.”
From Ivanhoe to Port Melbourne to Williamstown, Halina accompanied her daughter to all the charity events, passing around platters and showing off the clothes. On Saturdays, Halina and three other models would act as live mannequins in the window at the old Williamstown store. “The customers, they loved it!” Halina laughs. “They would come in and say, ‘I love what you’re wearing, where is it?’ And they literally bought things that we had on our back. It was amazing!”
Halina shares her favourite story of one particular Saturday while in the window modelling. “All of a sudden, I hear vroom vroom vroom, and I look up, and there’s this Harley out front and Donna and Danny in their leathers.”
“He was never really a business suit kind of person.” Indiana recounts as they all laugh.
One day, the Mornington store manager saw Halina in her Blue Illusion black travel dress, polo-neck jumper, and belt and said, “I’m going to red carpet you.” A week later, Halina got an email saying, “Welcome to Blue Illusion.” That was her official start.
For Andrea and Halina, one of the best parts of working with Blue Illusion is their sense of community with the customers. “A lot of [clients] will know all of us by name,” Andrea shares, “and we’ll say, ‘How’s Bob, how’s Ben?’ and we’ll get to know all of their stories.”
These bonds last for years because of the depth of the relationships they build with shoppers and their mutual love for the clothes.
“I feel very privileged to work in the Hamptons store, the first store that opened up.” Halina beams. "The customers that come in came in 17 or 18 years ago when the first store opened, and they’re still coming today. And now, the daughters are even starting to come in!” Halina laughs, “And they tell us, ‘my mother, she had a wardrobe full of Blue Illusion!”
Halina shares a story about a woman who came in on a Sunday and said she hadn’t been inside a Blue Illusion store in six years since her mother passed. As she looked around, it was clear her mind was full of memories. Her father passed away a few weeks ago and she decided she finally wanted to come into the shop. She naturally drifted towards the scarves. “My mother loved Blue Illusion scarves.” She reminisced to Halina, who said, “Why don’t you buy one as a memento? And when you wear it, you can think of your mom.” And so she did. With moist eyes, Andrea, Halina, and Indiana mused on how clothing can carry such profound memories.
“I still have a load of my dad’s clothes.” Indiana shares. The three women agree that that is one of the great benefits of Blue Illusion’s clothes. They are made to last, so you can hold on to those memories and share them between generations. “But we really do get to hear all of their personal stories.” Andrea smiles. “Sometimes we’re doctors, we’re psychologists, and we also sell!” Halina adds, and all three laugh.
This link between mothers and daughters is an integral part of Andrea and Halina’s story with Blue Illusion and a foundational part of the brand. For this reason, it was beautiful to hear from Andrea that her daughter, Keira, has recently joined the Mornington store as her first job. Andrea and Halina’s story reminds us that at the core of Blue Illusion is family, community, and connection. Clothes should bring people together, and we’re so grateful to both of them for everything they have done to help build Blue Illusion into the growing family that it is today.
Andrea, Halina and Keira wear our ‘Eau de Parfum’ collection throughout the article. Available in-store and online now.