As international retailers like H&M, Zara and Topshop continue to open up throughout Australia, there has been a lot of talk about the death of local fashion labels. But is it really true?
The domestic retail market is definitely a competitive and expensive space to play. A relatively small local market, the high cost of local labour and exorbitant commercial rents – which are among the most expensive in the world – have made it impossible for some brands to continue to play.
But the good news is that for designers with an entrepreneurial mindset, the big prize isn’t at home, it’s offshore.
Here are three Australian fashion companies which have broken through the startup phase and expanded their labels to international markets with great success. These labels have discovered that export markets are vital to their business, and online sales and marketing are critical in reaching a broad range of new customers.
Triangl Swimwear Co.
Triangl swimwear company is the success story of the decade, a rag to riches tale. Started by Craig Ellis and his fiance, Erin Deering, the Melbourne couple decided to risk everything to launch a swimwear label based out of Hong Kong. They packed their bags and headed to the manufacturing capital of the world and set up shop in their apartment. In the first year the couple aimed to sell one swimsuit a day that would be the equivalent of $30,000, to cover costs, but by the end of their first year the company had turned over $5 million. Sales reached $25 million in 2014 and $45 million in 2015.
The company’s sky-rocket success is in part owed to moving sales away from wholesaling and focusing on online sales. This meant that Triangl never had to chase a wholesaler for money again and selling direct online meant they were paid immediately. In the beginning Triangl had no marketing budget so instead they started using social media, in particular instagram, which proved to be very good at driving traffic to their site. Another important element to success has been endorsements by celebrities such as Beyonce and Miley Cyrus, but Kendall Jenner’s (Kim Kardashian’s half-sister) Tweets in particular have generated the biggest sales spike so far in the US.
With such newfound success in a short space of time what is Triangl set for next?
Ellis says, “We want to keep our offering really tight and maintain focus on our niche for now… We don’t want to offer too much up-front and dilute what the brand represents. The product needs to be the best it can be before we broaden into other products.”
Shoes of Prey
Jodie Fox, started her entrepreneurial journey in 2009 as she and her then husband were looking for viable business ideas to run with. An innovative idea came along as part of casual conversations with family on the beach one day. Jodie loved shoes but found that there was always something she wanted to change about them…enter Shoes of Prey, an online platform that allows users to create their own shoes. The platform provides a kaleidoscope of offers, building on pre-existing designs, that can be mixed and matched with a range of materials, colours and heels, amounting to 300,000 trillion alternative styles that can be created online and delivered within four weeks to anywhere on the planet.
After pursuing a multi channel approach (bricks and mortar and online) at the outset to establish the brand and boost the profile, Shoes of Prey were sold in large department stores, Nordstrom in the US and David Jones, Australia. The assumption was that customers would want to see and handle the product before committing to a purchase, however after looking at the sales breakdown between online (85%) and instore (15%), and with outgoing costs of the bricks and mortar channel at 25% it could be seen that future sales were online.
So what’s next for Jodie Fox?
“Ideally we would get to a point … where we are able to (deliver) overnight a pair of shoes to you that you designed the day before”, Fox said in a recent interview.
The reality is that this will only become possible as 3D printing technology develops, allowing the company the set up small-scale manufacturing hubs around the globe, as opposed to shipping from a sole manufacturing site in China. However Jodie Fox has bigger aspirations than this.
“My dream of the future is manufacturing in the home”.
She can see the day when consumers will be using technology to print out their designs in the home, whilst putting on their make-up.
Margot McKinney, artist, designer and jeweller, exists amongst a world of colour, creativity, travel and innovation. Hailing from Queensland, McKinney comes from an established tradition of jewellers and taking on her family’s business that has been running for 132 years.
She is a great example of a small Australian business that has taken the world by storm. Operating from Fortitude Valley, Queensland, McKinney launched into the US market a decade ago, and her designs are now sold across the country in Nieman Marcus stores and worn by Hollywood icons, including Dita von Teese and Paula Abdul.