Radical Yes


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What inspired you to start your business? How did you go about it?

It actually began with my China-based maker offering to help support me with the release of my own range. I had been working with our manufacturer through a previous footwear design role and he followed up with me after I had left that business with an invitation to make a collection. At the time I was taking a one-year sabbatical from fashion and was very involved in teaching yoga and my own yoga practice. It was absolutely the furthest thing from my mind at the time but he really made an offer of help that was too good to pass up. As a result of where I was at personally, the inspiration for the range came from my yoga studies and was founded in the idea of creating an active wear inspired shoe that wasn’t a trainer and could be worn just as easily with leggings as they could on the hop to the gallery. I wanted to make a range that transcended trend and was first and foremost a useful product. This was a really important point and is the reason there are no heels in our collections.

Was there a turning point when you knew you were onto a good thing?

To be honest there has never been a huge flash of “this is it” kind of thinking. I think most people who have been building a business for any length of time will acknowledge that you are always growing and reaching beyond the place that you are – I always feel our best is coming. I love trying to one-up the team and myself each season, to the point that it has almost become a sport to see how big a dream I can come up with to achieve. Having said that, there have been moments along the way when we have felt that we are achieving our goals. In 2016 we won the Xero Cloud Street competition and had a glass cube pop-up shop in the Queen Street Mall in Brisbane for a week (including a news appearance on Channel 7 and Channel 9) – that was a definite moment. The collaboration we did with Kip & Co right at the start was also amazing because we basically sold out of that range in less than two weeks, which is always pretty affirming that you are onto something people are interested in. I think our customer feedback on our aesthetic and the radical places we go to with our design approach is always really affirming as well. I love it when people tell us they haven’t seen a product like ours before and that definitely inspires me to keep going.

What do you find to be the most rewarding part of your business?

The personal growth I have made since becoming an accidental entrepreneur has been one of the most rewarding aspects of running the business. I have had to be braver and work harder than I have ever had to before in order to bring the brand to the place that we have arrived in. I think running my own brand has made me a much better businessperson and a much better designer because you need to understand, in a very different way, the financial implications of your creative decisions. I do love the creative freedom of this business and of being able to come up with ideas and own them from inception to realisation. I also love that on a day to day level this can mean everything from coming up with marketing campaigns to the details on the product capsules themselves. But mostly I love being able to work with people every day who I really respect and enjoy being with – both creatively and personally. Our team is very small but they are each so passionate and really behind what I am trying to create, which is definitely one of the most rewarding aspects of what we are doing. Looking forward to work every day was always one of my goals, so I suppose in that sense we have made it.

What sort of person buys your products?

We have the most radical customers! We call them wonder women because these women are real doers. They are creative, they are conscious and they are super active. They are cool women who know what they want from life and how to style themselves. They are confident dressers and they are also practical dressers. Function and wearability is as high up the list as a good-looking product is because their day demands a lot from them – so they can’t be fussing too much with outfits. Having said that, our customers use their appearance as a statement about the creative life they are living. Generally speaking, our customers use their garments as an extension of their broader values, whether that be bold and artful, vegan and mindful or pragmatic and classic. We address these kinds of thoughts and concerns, and I think that is why people love it. We also find that our flat-shoe only offer has a broad appeal, which means our customers come from really diverse backgrounds. Many work for themselves or in the arts, education, medicine (we have a large community of customers through all the hospitals that surround North Melbourne), and also many who are doing the hardest job in the world – being a stay at home Mum. Our age range runs from 25 to 105 with the unifying values of being creative, active, joyful and intelligent running not just through the product, but also our customers themselves.

What makes your product different? Why do you think it has succeeded?

First of all our products are really comfortable. That is the feedback we get time and again on our shoes. They are also very well made in materials that we hand-selected ourselves, which very few off-shore manufacturers are really able to do in the small run quantities that we make. Because of the extremely close working relationship we have with our maker, we have a very in-depth knowledge of the manufacturing process and how the markets work in China, so we are able to create really unique products in the best quality materials. We are really big on product handle and it’s something we are constantly discussing during the manufacturing process of our products. We look for leathers that are extremely soft to touch, we use a lot of kid and sheep leathers to get the softness we want. We have also worked closely with our maker to replace the traditional inner structure of shoes – which are normally made from very thick chemical sheets and are the things that will give you blisters on a new pair of shoes – to replace these internal structures with heavy weight backing canvases instead. This means the uppers are stabilised without being torturous to wear. In a broader sense I also think our brand values of being community focused, transparent in our manufacturing process and ethically conscious has helped our brand connect with people in perhaps a more emotive way than other offers in the market. We are very authentic and extensive in our communications with our customers through things like our journal and the collaborations in photoshoots, writing projects and product that we put into market provide a highly personal explanation of why we do what we do. I think this resonates with people who are looking for more depth from the brands they buy from.

Have you identified any design and/or business trends you have had to address in the last year?

From a design point of view, the last 12 months has seen us shifting from the multi-layered print offers we were originally known for to more monochromatic solid palettes that are just as playful but perhaps more broadly wearable. We have really enjoyed challenging ourselves on this because sometimes as a designer and a brand you fall into a safe trap of playing out the same ideas in a range season after season, which soon becomes tired and lacking in creativity. Although we have a group of silhouettes on permanent repeat, we have been mindful to keep surprising both ourselves and our audience with the places we are willing to go, not just with product but also with our shoots and the way we present ourselves. I think fashion has arrived in a place where being unpredictable is essential to maintaining an authentic connection with customers and to demonstrating a level of creativity that sets you apart from the millions of other offers that exist in our fragmented market. A good example in response to this thinking was a decision we made to shoot our product images always with fresh eyes – never just in static flat-lay – and always fully styled with creative twists. From a business trend point of view, I think it is this willingness to be utterly flexible, to understand that nothing is ever fixed or set in stone, that will set apart an amazing brand from a mediocre brand. I think as a team this is one of the things we have really come to terms with, and that means on a daily basis we approach everything through a veil of creativity and possibility rather than predictability and sameness. It’s super radical and all the yes!