MBFWA: Jennifer Kate

How does a homegrown designer crack the US market?

Photo: Lucas Dawson

Aussie designer Jennifer Kate has carved her own path in the fashion world, by making it big in the US first before returning home to show for the first time at Australian Fashion Week in 2015. Her collection of clean cuts, buttery leathers and touchable seudes was an instant buyer favourite.

We managed to steal five minutes with her backstage before her show.

What made you focus so heavily on the US market while you were starting out?
Really it’s just the size of the US market, it’s a return on investment situation for me. But although we’ve had big success in the US, we’re really excited to bring the collection back here locally – we’re showing a hybrid of spring/summer 2015, and also the US winter collection.

It seems like you went into business prepared for world domination.
Yeah, at the heart of Jennifer Kate is a structured business model. I think the success of the label can be attributed to the balance between marrying that respect of the nobility of the craft and the passion with an understanding of the consumer demand. With fashion, sometimes it can be tempting to just follow the trends, but that doesn’t mean something will fly off the rack.

The Kardashians are big fans of your work, how important are celebrity endorsements these days?
In the age of social media they’re so important. I was really lucky with Kardashians, when Kim came to Australia a few years ago – this was pre-Kanye – she put a call out to Australian designers. I sent her 10 pieces and she kept them all, and then she Tweeted me to thank me for them. I remember I was at dinner and my phone just started going crazy. I’d only been in business a year!

Did things just take off after that?
Well it was a big moment, but things still grew pretty organically. For the first two years of business I was actually working full time in PR, so I never got ahead of myself.

What are your ultimate tips to other entrepreneurs?
Understand the consumer. At the end of the day, remember it’s a business. Creativity is important, but if you don’t have the foundations in place, you can’t support the creativity. And make sure you understand every process within your business.

Who’s given you the best advice?
My biggest mentor is my father, he’s a farmer. It’s great to have advice from someone who’s removed from the industry.

Photo: Lucas Dawson

Photo: Lucas Dawson

Photo: Lucas Dawson

Photo: Lucas Dawson


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