IEFrancis Minimalist Goods
Can you tell us the story of a particularly gratifying sale or commission? How was that exchange enhanced by the personal quality of your work?
My favourite sales are actually to friends, as I get so much joy from seeing my products age. I'll make a wallet for a friend and then be able to check in over the years – watching it soften, watch the leather darken and develop a nice patina. In the real world, I make a sale and if I've done my job correctly I won't see that person for another 5-10 years (or hopefully until Christmas comes around and they come looking for gifts for their family).
Tell us the story of your business - was there a particular moment, person, or need that inspired it?
I have been inspired by so many people, and so many products over the course of this business getting off the ground. I began by studying the craft of boot-making for a few years when I lived in Brisbane, which eventually led me to Melbourne where I did an Industrial Design degree. It was through the study of both of these somewhat conflicting approaches to designing/making that IEFrancis sits – the confluence of modern minimalist design and traditional craft.
Describe how you felt when you started to get your first customers. How has your relationship with your customers grown/changed since then?
At that stage in the business, I was going to a little maker's market in Fitzroy every weekend, so I was very much engaged with my customers. At that scale you get to talk to everyone, really explain your products, and then get raw and honest feedback. I think it was a really important step, and I don't think my products would have the same soul as they do now if I didn't get out there and speak directly to people like that. Thankfully a lot has changed since then - I'm not out there selling my heart out to each customer, but I'm still there every step of the way when it comes to online orders or wholesale orders.
Describe the kind of person who buys your products. Why do you think they love your business? How do they benefit from your products?
The classic IEFrancis customer is someone that values beautifully designed products, which there is no shortage of in the Australian market, but usually wants something of higher quality than they've been previously optioned with. I think that people are aware of the problems with fast-fashion, both ethically and environmentally, and the way that our products are designed and manufactured to last is really running counter to that trend. The reason that leather is still a viable material, even with the inherent animal cost, is that it is incredibly long lasting. I have always had that front and centre when I design a new product – is this going to last long enough to justify the use of such precious material?
What kind of role has the support of retailers played in the success of your business?
I have had some great relationships with my retailers over the years! As a micro-scale designer/manufacturer, I'm able to be really flexible with what I can offer stockists - I've had so much fun collaborating on small runs of unique products, designed for a particular group of their customers that I would have never got to design for without that relationship.
Tell us three things that excite you about doing what you do.
Being a part of a community of super talented and creative makers – seeing fellow Australian creatives release products that kill it on an international stage is so inspiring. Getting to be apart of Australian manufacturing, seeing how designers and makers get creative in the face of a challenging and increasingly competitive global landscape. I love being so immersed in my label – watching things work, and other things not, but getting to see the vision that I have come together is a great feeling.
How do you keep your business fresh and exciting? Do you have any new, upcoming products in the works that you can tell us about?
I've always got a million ideas floating around, so there's always something to explore or work on. I have been drawing a range of bags for almost two years now, which are getting so close to being right. I have done a lot of work developing suitable leather with a local tannery, and am really excited to get the first few finished so that I can start testing and refining them!
Another way that I've kept things exciting is by making special edition or limited versions of products. During my visits to various Australian tanneries, I've found some really interesting and beautiful leathers that I'm able to bring back to the studio, reimagining my existing products in these new materials has been really fun!