Don’t be fooled by Dannii Minogue’s petite doll-like frame and size two-and-a-half feet. Vulnerability doesn’t belong here, she’s tough.
The resilience needed to make it and escape the label of Kylie’s sister is immeasurable. Minogue is a pop singer who was never really famous for being a pop singer. She was famous for having a famous sibling and then famous for kind of being famous. It wasn’t until she met Simon Cowell and became a judge on reality television show X Factor UK she really filled the shoes of her famous feet. Not that you’d know it now.
With flawless skin, manicured nails, she’s gorgeous, both inside and out, and politely ignores a member of her team trying to cut our interview short. Instead, an almost contrary 41-year-old sits and chats as if she has all the time in the world.
Flashing her pearly-white teeth she’s groomed to within an inch of her life, wearing a deep purple dress from her own collection Project D, a definite contributing factor to her confidence.
“It’s a natural progression from the UK. We’ve moved into Australia,” she said with a cute mid-sentence squeal. “And this was the next destination for us.”
The Project D dresses arrived in the UAE in October, stocked by Boutique 1 and also available at their online store.
“It’s so exciting,” she said. “The dresses really work out here too because we cover the arms and provide modest cuts. It’s just so fabulous to have had such a great response.”
Minogue was married briefly in her youth, to Australian actor Julian McMahon, and dated high-profile men including racing driver Jacques Villeneuve, before meeting Kris Smith, whom she spilt from earlier this year after the birth of their son Ethan.
Her life now is dominated by Project D, and by her “gorgeous” 20-month-old baby with the rugby-playing ex and every day, she is juggling the two. Minogue may be here to promote the classy new dress range, yet talk of Ethan creeps in.
“We did a launch in Aus pre-babies,” she says with a sideways glance at her business partner and co-designer Tabitha Somerset Webb, also sporting a Project D creation.
“Tabs has been designing handbags for a long time and I kind of stalked her to be honest,” she giggled. “I insisted I called in at her workshop and we just hit it off. Since then we’ve been friends,” she added before a bubbly Somerset Webb cut in.
“I’m like a creative sandstorm,” came her proper UK accent, a contrast to Minogue’s Aussie twang.
“My office and workshop was a total mess and I was told Dannii Minogue wanted to come up and see me,” she boomed. “I just remember flinging things in cupboards and under tables.
“You need a solid friendship to run something like this. Lots of late-night Skype calls after one of us has put the baby to bed on one side of the world.”
Minogue’s path could have been so different. For a start it was Minogue, not Kylie, who was a star first. Born Danielle Jane, the youngest of three, she was raised in Surrey Hills, Melbourne.
Australian television provided her first break, aged seven, with roles on Skyways and The Sullivans and before she was ten, she joined the prime-time variety show Young Talent Time, which made her a household name in Australia by her early teens.
But in 1987 Kylie, already a popular soap star in daytime show Neighbours, leapfrogged her younger sister with the release of her first single, The Locomotion. Even though Minogue notched up a respectable number of chart hits she remained in Kylie’s shadow.
But all that is history as Minogue has found her niche and does it extremely well. A classy range of pretty dresses in bright prints and beautiful cuts best describes Project D. Each is understated but noticeable.
“Our collection is about dresses — you wear the dress, it doesn’t wear you,” she said. “I love lady-like dresses. My style icon is Elizabeth Taylor.”
The ladies argue briefly, Somerset Webb is of the opinion Minogue’s skirts are getting a little “edgier”.
“Dannii always used to be the ladylike one,” she said. “I am still, that’s my comfort zone,” comes the retort.
Strength of character and a fight-to-the-death attitude is what the collaboration and collection rely on. Sensing my awkward expression Minogue was quick to reassure. “We fight over what we like,” she laughed. “I’m vertically challenged — I think is the nice way to put it — so I like things which elongate and are pretty feminine. And Tabs designs for her. And then we go head-to-head and fight it out.
“For me a dress isn’t trend driven. Our dresses are elegant, they skim the body, hug the curves and provide something that you feel comfortable in. They’re kind to women. We try to make it seem easy for women to look good and feel great. It all goes back to easy dressing. Something that will take you from day to night. Being busy mums we have super- tight schedules with all sorts of events. Sometimes you don’t make it home because you have another event and we thought if we can design things which work for us then they have to work for others too.
“I like a dress you can rely on that isn’t going to provide any mishaps. That’s where out client base has expanded.”
Wardrobe malfunctions was something Minogue was conscious of as a judge on UK television show X Factor and with 15 million people watching you on prime time television every Saturday night, the A-list beckons.
From October to December, the X Factor becomes an unmissable part of British popular culture. But despite launching the careers of Leona Lewis, JLS and more recently One Direction, it’s the style choices of the female judges that are often more talked about.
“People thought I hated being judged, but I kind of brought that into the show — before I joined that wasn’t really part of the show,” she said. “I think it’s really fun. It’s Saturday night, everyone is home and staying in to watch something special.”
One thing Minogue was introduced to was catch-up television. “The whole outfit would be critiqued from top to bottom and I couldn’t understand how people, especially the media got so much information when we only stood on stage for a brief second. I remember asking a journalist who said “we pause it at that second” and it all fell into place. It made it a bit of fun. I love girly dress-ups — have done ever since I was a kid — so for me it was perfect.”
So who would Minogue most like to play dress-up with? Her eyes light up at the prospect of dressing the rich and famous. “We have a list,” she said wasting no time. “SJP, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston. We’re off to Hollywood,” she laughs sarcastically. However part of her believes it and why shouldn’t she?
It’s all achievable, especially given the Duchess of Cambridge and her sis Pippa are already on board. One of Britain’s best ambassadors when it comes to style, Kate Middleton, who predominantly wears British designers, turned to Project D for inspiration on a nine-day tour of Asia and the South Pacific. Middleton chose a floral silk dress while Pippa opted for a beautiful swallow print dress for a day in the Royal Box at Wimbledon in June earlier this year.
Project D is currently very dress-centric but plans are afoot for a knitwear and leather collection for next winter. “We really want to expand the line but we wanted to get to know the dress first,” said Minogue, who says her and “Tabs” first “bonded over the frock”.
Project D recently launched a perfume line with watches to come (although only in London currently).”It’s going to be a big part of my future,” said Minogue with a smile.