If you’re hoping to read here that launching a fashion label in today’s retail climate is easy, you should probably stop now.
Owning my own business is not something I ever thought I would do. My sister, best friend and now business partner, Georgie, and I had been joking about launching our own label since we were little girls playing dress-ups, but I don’t think either of us thought we would ever have the courage to leave the security of our jobs to enter the world of start-ups. But two years ago, after I was made redundant from a high profile job in magazine publishing, that’s exactly what we did – and it’s been an exhilarating, anxiety-inducing, humbling and rewarding ride thus far.
It’s really important to understand here that Georgie and I didn’t just decide to go into this because we thought it would be something fun to do. There had to be a business case for it. In my job as a magazine editor, the fashion team used to present me with what they wanted to shoot for upcoming features. We’d edit stories in what we called the ‘fashion cupboard’, with dozens of beautiful looks to choose from, but I had become increasingly disheartened with the price points of many Australian designers. I honestly didn’t know how readers were going to spend AU$800 on a sundress with all of life’s other expenses. I wanted to give value for money, without forsaking beauty and quality.
The idea for starting something new was there, but what really made it possible was Georgie’s experience in fashion design and production. Georgie studied design at the University of Technology, Sydney, and has over a decade’s experience working in buying and production for labels such as Sportsgirl.
We are best friends and kindred spirits. We have beautiful childhood memories of watching Anne of Green Gables with our beloved grandma, and the namesake of the film was obsessed with kindred spirits. Having a connection like that has always resonated with us, so it felt right to call our label We Are Kindred.
The incredible thing about working with your sister is that we know each other through and through and we agree on most things. If we don’t agree, we can have a frank conversation and there are never any residual bad feelings. Your relationship needs to be rock solid. I wouldn’t want to go through this with anyone where the relationship could ever be in jeopardy.
When we first started the business we had clearly defined roles based on our previous experience, but we’ve changed this recently and we’re both working across all aspects of the business together. We find this is what works better for us – we’re both involved in design and we’re both involved in all of the decisions regarding wholesalers, agents, customer feedback and digital direction. This also means that when we’re in a position to expand our team further, we’ll know exactly who and what we’re looking for.
We started the business as an online store and this will always be a substantial part of the business. But to grow our brand, wholesale needed to become a big part of our strategy. We’ve been chipping away at the wholesale business for the past 18 months and we’re starting to see some real results now.
Not only is wholesale important to us from a financial perspective, but it’s also a way for us to reach customers who might not shop online. Metro areas are of course where most of our customers reside, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the interest from women in rural areas and we love the fact that one of our biggest accounts is a gorgeous store in Mudgee, Cherry Red.
When The Iconic picked us up a couple of seasons in, it was incredibly gratifying. We receive weekly reports detailing how the collection is selling and it’s amazing for us to add this information to the data we receive from our own site.
We’re in a period of expansion at the moment and have just picked up wholesale agents in every Australian state and territory, as well as the US. It took a few seasons for the NSW agent we really wanted to represent us, Launch, to come on board, and it was only after founder and CEO Amy Fosdike gave glowing introductions to like-minded agencies in the rest of the country that the other states and territories took notice.
We joke that if we’d known how hard it would be, we probably never would have gone into this, but we both love it and have learnt that every challenge or roadblock teaches us something and we’re getting much better at navigating our way through. In our previous careers we’d plateaued a little when it came to learning, so the challenge of running our own business and being responsible for building a brand from scratch is pretty amazing.
This story was originally published in Issue 34 of Collective Hub, on sale now