Growing up at Melbourne airport
In my early primary school years, mum and dad won a tender to run a hairdressing salon inside Melbourne Airport. It was 1976 and I was six years old. They had previously run a salon at the Astrojet, a shopping precinct on commonwealth land near the airport and were now thrilled to take on the challenge of hard work and long hours within Melbourne Airport.
Like most migrants, they relished the opportunities before them, which may never have been possible in the small southern Italian villages that they came from.
Along with a formidable work ethic, they also brought with them style and elegance, evident in the salon decor and gift shop. Lina and Domenic’s hairdressing salon was beautifully furnished with European equipment, tools and chairs. They also had a tobacconist and gift shop stocking hard-to-find Cuban cigars, clove cigarettes, expensive Dunhill lighters, porcelain dolls, belts, ties and imported silk scarves.
I loved spending my weekends at the airport, not only because it was a way to spend more time with them but also because of the extraordinary people I would encounter. I studied the attire of each and every airhostess that graced the salon. The shapes, colours and fabrics, the way they wore their hair and of course the way they tied their scarves.
I was about nine when salon clients would invite me to give them a manicure. I removed nail polish and soaked their hands in little stainless steel bowls of warm soapy water. Bowls that sat in a steel ring attached to the timber armrest of the creamy vinyl bucket chairs. After reapplying multiple coats of nail varnish, I received a stack of coins to spend on the space invaders machines situated at rest areas throughout Melbourne Airport… or I would buy some chocolates.
The salon attracted plenty of wonderful characters, from senators to celebrities and the local community. Some came for a haircut or shave, some to buy tobacco and some for last minute gifts for a loved one before catching a plane or returning home from a flight interstate or overseas. Scarves which didn’t sell, or which mum loved too much, made their way into our home.
Mum’s cupboards were a playground for a young girl – boxes and boxes of scarves, some bought and others hand made by my grandmother, who was a skilled seamstress. I spent my time matching hats and gloves and uncoiling all of mum’s scarves, which were neatly and tightly rolled or folded and fitted into shoeboxes. I could be entertained for a long time, simply unpacking scarves, dressing up and admiring the colours and textures of the fabric, and then with equal care, I’d replace them and stack the boxes away behind the beautiful handmade burled, silky oak and walnut wardrobe doors.
After school, my brothers and I would walk to my grandparents’ house where a delicious slice of continental bread with melted cheese and Vegemite, a Scotch Finger biscuit and glass of milk awaited us. The boys were drawn to the TV while I sat silently beside Nonna and watched her sew. Stunned by her speed and skill, I observed how a flat object could be almost miraculously formed into something three-dimensional and beautiful. And this is how colour, shape and form began its journey into my imagination.
These memories inform my creative process today, designing silk scarves. I am inspired by observations of Australian native flora and the built environment, commingling the exotic and the local, a European ancestry with a strong sense of an Australian identity. These designs are edgy, yet elegant.
Daniella is an accomplished designer and artist with a breadth and depth of experience in the design industry that spans over 20 years. With an Honours Degree in Fine Arts, Daniella is also a photographer, an illustrator, sculptor and cultural dancer.
See her range of luxurious textile designs at: www.daniellatigani.com