What I know about women

I mostly employ women and find they are very different employees to men.

I mostly employ women and find they are very different employees to men. Photo: Wayne Taylor

PETER ALEXANDER, SLEEPWEAR DESIGNER, 51, SINGLE

My mother Julette was a stay-at-home mum. But the world didn't revolve around her kids - we had to fit in with my parents. That was typical of family life from that era. We were left to our own devices, in the sense that we had to keep ourselves busy and use our imaginations.

I have two older sisters, Kim and Mara. I learnt early on that women are very different and no two are the same. My sisters bonded and I was the outsider, being the boy and the youngest. I also had a learning disability - I couldn't spell or write easily - and my sisters used to tease me because I would stutter.

My mother, who is 79, taught me that you have to make life happen yourself. You have to create your own fun and stand on your own two feet. She got that from her mother.

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My maternal grandmother, Rose, was a socialite. She was always hosting dinner parties and loved having friends and strangers around. The cup was always half-full in her eyes. She died at 98 and was very present in my life. I can see how she instilled that drive in my mother and how it made its way to me.

Having strong women in my formative years taught me that there's no point in sitting around and grumbling, you just have to get on with it and live on through whatever comes your way.

I was sent to Geelong Grammar boarding school, against my mum's wishes, when I was 11. I wanted to follow my friends and my home life was hard - I was always fighting with my sisters. I was very sheltered and they were worried that I wouldn't cope with being away from home, but I loved it. After two years I came back home to Kew, in Melbourne, and changed school four times after that. I found making friends easy but my learning disability made life hard. My parents always supported me and never made me feel stupid.

I experienced my first kiss at 11 with a girl called Ruth. It was exciting and a rite of passage. I had a few girlfriends in my teenage years but I knew I was gay at 15. I didn't come out to my parents until I was 19. They were supportive when I told them.

My friend Fiona and I have been best friends since we were four years old. We are family friends and have been through much together - coming out, the death of a parent and other big life events and disasters. Humour is the key to our friendship. We always find a way to smile through the negativity.

My father passed away when I was 23. He was 53 and worked in real estate. I had to step up to be the man of the house when he died. Dad said to me when he was sick that I was going to have to keep Mum busy after he passed.

I hired Mum to work for me at Peter Alexander, which she did for 15 years. She has been a major contributor to the success of the brand. I worked with her every day and still see her every day. She also comes on holidays with me. She says one of the perks of having a gay son is that she misses out on the difficult daughter-in-law!

I mostly employ women and find they are very different employees to men. This might sound like a generalisation, but women tend to be a lot more emotional when you call them up on something. They will cry and get upset. I don't think that is a weakness. I think it's a great opportunity for men to say, "Let's talk and get to the bottom of it."

My favourite bosses have always been women, from Judy Coomber to Wai Tang. Women have influenced my business and how I approach it, and tend to be better managers. I take more notice of women and I click with them.

A lot of celebrity women have worn my brand, from Elle Macpherson to the Minogue sisters and Princess Mary of Denmark. While that sort of endorsement is great, I'm much more about being inclusive of all women.

I met Kylie Minogue on set when I was styling the Locomotion video clip. We became good friends. I met Dannii through her and we hung out once Kylie moved to London. They have an amazing mum who has managed to stay out of the limelight. Kylie and Dannii are both very down to earth, given the amount of fame they've had, and are very easy women to be around.

Marriage has never appealed to me.

I am pro-gay marriage for equality's sake, but it's not something I've ever felt I needed to do with a man or a woman. I am not in a relationship at the moment. I live with my best friend, Tony, and have done so for 15 years - we have a great companionship.

I am not very into relationships or sex - they're not important to me. Family, friends and work take up 95 per cent of my time and that suits me fine.

Through my 30s I was in two long-term relationships. The first was for seven years and the second for five years. I find I am not suited to the drama that comes with relationships.

I prefer nice friendships. When I get old, I imagine myself like the Golden Girls - living with three best male friends and enjoying a laugh.