They started their label in 2002 – two sisters from fashion and magazines – and have since become known for their super-slick silhouettes and bold prints. Their brand is now sold in more than 60 Australian boutiques, with a fashion line, leather accessories, a spa collection and now a new diffusion line. We caught up with Alexandra and Genevieve Smart at their Place des Vosges, Paris, showroom courtesy of the Australian Fashion Chamber.
What have you learned over the past 14 years?
G: Having your own aesthetic and understanding what that means – not jumping around too much and really just finding the DNA of your brand.
How involved are you in the day-to-day business?
A: We are so hands-on in our business still. We’re very connected with our team – we’ve got about 40 people in our staff, that’s a lot of people to look after.
How do you stay inspired?
G: Fashion means change by definition, it’s always about the ‘new’ – the newness of it all and I think you have to love that. You have to be passionate about that; you have to be fluid and flexible.
What is your current business focus?
A: We are all about expanding globally right now, so the Australian Fashion Chamber brought us to Paris, which is great. This opportunity is really quite special. We would also like to expand into the US as well because it’s a really good fit for our brand; specifically New York and Los Angeles. We’ve been wanting to do that for a long time, but building a retail business in Australia has been a very important base for the business.
G: We have shown previously in London. In fact, we had a really great business in London until about 2008 when it became very difficult to do business internationally. The market seems to be coming back so this is a good time for us to go back.
Can you see your brand in Paris?
G: Yes, definitely. You’ve only got one chance if you go into the international market. We know we’re ready to go; we’ve got consistency in our collection and we have worked very hard to get it to this level. The preparation we do at home for so many people’s needs means that many stores can pick up what they need. Everyone’s got a different store and a different brand mix, so there’s plenty here for everybody.
What business advice do you have for newer designers?
A: Have a good cash flow – figure out how to do that and how to pay bills.
G: Also, the devil is in the detail, so you really have to stay on the details because that’s what a fashion business is about.
How do you practically work as a duo?
A: We come back to the contrasts because we’re quite different people with different perspectives so that’s amazing.
G: Alexandra [the managing director] has a really creative business sense and that’s great. She’s also got creative input, obviously on the collection as well but also in terms of running the market and the sales.
A: I would say the same about Genevieve [the creative director]. It’s funny because when we were at school, we were both doing maths and we were both doing art. We both had both sides of our brain working at that level, which is probably not so odd today, but back then, it wasn’t the norm.
Did you always dream about working together?
A: No, I think it’s life. We were at a stage of our lives where we both had really good careers. I worked in publishing and Genevieve had been designing in fashion. It was one of those moments that we felt the timing worked and we knew we both had so much to offer.
Why do shows?
G: The show is how the industry showcases what they do. So that sense of the collection on the runway defines three to six months of what’s going on in the store.
A: With every show, you have to push yourself to [be] the best of the best so this is the best version of ourselves. So what’s on the runway is the best version of where our brand is at. People are shopping and thinking of what they want. For us, it is a PR platform and a branding event.