We catch designer Rachel Gilbert nestled between her general and retail managers, deep in preparation for the opening of her third boutique. Since 2007, the work of the Australian fashion designer has graced high-end racks the world over (at Harrods, Saks Fifth Avenue and David Jones, to name but a few) and dazzled down wedding aisles and red carpets alike. But behind the glitz and glamour, she assures, there’s a tonne of tough slog.
“This is a very competitive industry, and to be successful, it is imperative to work extremely hard.” Briefly breaking from the madness of her day, Rachel talks challenges and her new creative direction with The Collective.
What are your earliest memories of fashion?
With my grandmother a seamstress and my mother an interior designer, I was destined to be in the creative arts. My time was always spent in the art room at school or sketching at home. The fashion industry was fate for me; I was blessed to have had such clarity at such a young age.
After a decade designing for others, how did you know it was time for your own label?
The day I began studying fashion at the Whitehouse Institute of Design, I knew I would establish my own brand. I knew I needed to gain as much as experience as I could to best prepare myself to create and maintain a successful fashion brand. I put a strategy in place to achieve this goal, and at 24, I was confident I had the necessary tools and skills to take that step. In hindsight, a few more years preparing in other departments would have been ideal.
What was the biggest challenge as a newbie business owner?
Designing is a completely different role to managing a business. I had to work extremely hard to establish each aspect of the business from accounting, sales, logistics [and] legal [to] production and operations. There were countless hours spent researching and eventually implementing policies and procedures to ensure the success of the day-to-day running of [a] well-structured business.
You’re known for intricate embellishments, so why the switch to less adornment and more modern fabrics in your latest offerings?
In the last year I have been directing the brand with a new aesthetic. Becoming a mother to my now 15-month-old daughter, Storm, has been a transformation for me personally and I wanted to reflect that through the business creatively also. There is a more relaxed approach to eveningwear in our latest collections. The addition of separates and evening pieces with subtle opulent embellishment create a balanced new look to the heritage of the brand, and speak to a new audience.
This story originally ran in Issue 22 of the Collective, on stands now.