Remember When Olivia Newton-John Had a Fashion Line?


Olivia Newton-John might be best known for the hip-skimming satin pants she wore as the rebellious Sandy in Grease (which, by the way, were so tight that she had to be sewn into them.) However, that’s not her most memorable fashion moment to-date.

It may have been forgotten among her many Grammy Awards and that iconic “Physical” music video, but the singer-turned-actress actually co-owned a fashion label and chain of boutiques in the ’80s.

“I love clothes. I don’t know a woman who doesn’t,” she once said. So, in a nod to her Australian roots, where the English-born Newton-John was raised, the range was called Koala Blue. By the way, the name is actually an acronym; Koala actually stands for Korner of Australia L.A.

The idea for the shop came to Newton-John during a bout of homesickness while touring for her album, Physical, in 1982. She was craving the candies, meat pies, and other treats that were native to Australia and wished there was a one-stop shop where she could find those items. Not long after, on her 34th birthday, Newton-John mentioned this idea to her friend, former singing partner, and fellow Aussie, Pat Farrar. At the time, Farrar was mulling over the idea of opening a boutique stocked with clothing from home, so the two decided to go into business together.

“We went back to Australia last Christmas, and we looked at the clothes and saw designs with kangaroos and koalas and wallabies; it was the perfect timing for us since these things were very different, very novel,” Newton-John explained in an interview.

The two business partners opened their first boutique on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood around 1983. While they did include kitschy Australian clothing at Koala Blue’s first L.A. location, they also recreated an Aussie milk bar, replete with an authentic menu. According to Newton-John, a milk bar is Australia’s answer to 7-Eleven. So, in addition to savory options, like meat pies and authentic Australian sandwiches, Koala Blue offered desserts including lamingtons, pavlovas, and candies.

Koala Blue went on to be known for their sportswear and quickly embraced global expansion; by 1987 they had plans to open 120 stores worldwide. They didn’t quite hit that number, but at their peak did operate 60 boutiques, including outposts in Australia, France, and Hong Kong. While Newton-John was known for favoring the clean lines of Armani and Calvin Klein, plus Karl Lagerfeld‘s work at Chloé for her many red carpet appearances, Koala Blue was a much more laid-back aesthetic. Think casual sweatshirts, miniskirts, t-shirts, and sweatpants all under 0.

Sadly, this chain of shops is no longer; Koala Blue shuttered in 1993, as it was unable to weather the ongoing recession at the time.


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