Prue Acton was born in Benalla, Victoria, in 1943. After attending Firbank Grammar in Brighton, she completed a Diploma of Art (majoring in Textiles) at RMIT in 1962. The following year she started her own business in Flinders Lane, with a loan from her parents.
She soon found a ready market in the new wave of independent young women, earning their own money, who wanted to find their own style, far removed from that of their mothers. Her clothes were inexpensive and on trend with what was being modelled in the overseas fashion and pop magazines which were readily available in Melbourne. Her love of bold and colourful textiles made her clothing stand out from the rest, utilising both natural and the new synthetic fibres.
She was the first Australian designer to break into the American market, after a successful visit to New York. By 1967 Prue Acton was featuring in full page ads in the New York Times, and starring in the window displays of prominent department store Lord and Taylor. She was soon having her clothes made under licence in the USA, Japan and Germany.
Back home, her clothing was featured in the trendiest of boutiques, including The House of Merivale in Sydney, and the new Bigi Boutique at the Sportsgirl’s flagship Collins Street store in Melbourne. She then decided to branch out from clothing, and added a range of cosmetics and perfumes to her label, which gave her the freedom to co-ordinate their colours and packaging with her clothes.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s she continued designing for her loyal clientele, her clothing becoming more sophisticated and exclusive as their careers and their incomes grew. From 1979 till 1989, she attended the Melbourne Cup dressed in an eye catching outfit celebrating her upcoming collection; something that was sure to grab the attention of the nation’s television and press photographers.
Prue received a number of awards during her career, including five Australian Wool Board Awards, three David Jones Awards for Fashion Excellence and four Fashion Industry of Australia Lyrebird Awards, as well as receiving an OBE in 1982.
After closing her business in the late 1980s, she now works as a professional artist. In 1994, she donated her archives jointly to Museum Victoria and the Frances Burke Textile Resource Centre (now the Design Archive) at RMIT University.