Ricepaper the Label
Q&A WITH EVE WALTON-HEALEY
Tell us the story of your business – was there a particular moment, person, or need that inspired it?
Several reasons prompted the idea of Ricepaper the Label.
First, I struggled to find the appropriate styles to wear in the professional jobs I was working in at the time.
Second, I was extremely concerned by the growth of the fast fashion industry and the closure of Australian Labels, forced out of prime real estate in Melbourne CBD.
Third, I had first-hand experience travelling and working in businesses that used manufacturing practices I felt uncomfortable with. These experiences directed me to be totally transparent about the production of my own label.
How did you come up with your business name?
Ricepaper the Label has been built around transparency as a concept. The customer can see through all layers of the brand and its ethics – just like looking through the layers of rice paper.
What first steps did you take to turn your business idea into a reality? Was it difficult, or did everything come naturally?
It hasn't come easily, but it hasn't been impossible! For many years I worked another job on the side of running Ricepaper, some being other very creative retailers in the industry, including buying, retail, management and design. I have seen that as a blessing in disguise as I learnt the skills I need every day now to run Ricepaper. Running a small business can be scary at times. There is always the "Risk Factor", but you just have to keep going, growing and learning!
Tell us three things that make your product stand out.
Simplicity, elegance and ethical practices.
Describe how you felt when you started to get your first customers. How has your relationship with your customers changed since then?
My first customers were family or friends who supported me and gave me positive feedback on the styles, quality and fits. This enthused me to keep trialling new designs and materials. I then started running the online business, which grew dramatically from a Melbourne-based following to an interstate customer base. I now have customers who purchase regularly; they know their sizes and come back to buy multiple items. With the flagship store's opening, my customer base has grown yet again. Customers can enjoy trying on Ricepaper the Label within the airy, feminine space that has been created for them in-store.
Describe the kind of person who buys your products. Why do you think they love your business? How do they benefit from your products?
My customers included a variety of women in their mid-20s to mid-60s. The Ricepaper customer is interested in sustainable fashion, good quality garments made in Australia and supports local business. They appreciate well made, flattering cuts for the female form. There is also a large interstate following who frequently purchase as well as an established Melbourne community.
Tell us three things that excite you about doing what you do.
The fun never stops! Every day I get to get up and run my own business, and I feel extremely lucky to do so. A few stand-out points excite me all the time, like putting together a new collection. The process starts about eight to twelve months in advance – designing, toiling and then to final production arriving. It's always a joy to have something creative to work on, and it almost takes you away from all the everyday tasks you have to do.
Photoshoots are where I get to see the images in my head all out together seamlessly. It is a beautiful experience waiting to see my customers interact with the fabrics and designs of a new collection. Sometimes the designs have been running in my head for months!
Launching and maintaining the store has also become a core aspect of what I do and what excites me. I get a rush every day when I turn up to the business and plan what's arriving, mannequin changes and communicating the brand to our customers. It's really amazing that I get to do it every day!
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?
Every year I release two collections based on Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer seasons. I'm always working on expanding the types of garments we are releasing. What's becoming just as important for the label are categories like accessories, sleepwear and just recently an 'Essential' range.
I am currently in the final stages of producing my Spring/Summer collection – testing and sourcing the right sustainable fabrics before handing them on to my makers for final sampling. This process evolves with each season, and I am incredibly excited to get this one to the final stages of photography. It will be the most in-depth collection I have ever launched.
What energises and inspires you, generally?
There are a few things that energise and inspire me. With the opening of the shop, customer feedback has become more inspiring and energises me every week. Watching our customers interact with the space and seeing them enjoy the whole concept come alive is very rewarding. Seeing customers try on our fits and find something special and unique is also another aspect that inspires me. It's energising seeing customers interact with the garments and take an interest in where they're made. These are all conversations I am lucky enough to have every day.
In terms of inspiration, I have many sources that influence the brand and the styles I release. The fabrics are a massive part of my design process that only keeps developing every season. There's also my surroundings or places I have travelled. Japan is one of the major influences in the shapes and textures Ricepaper is known for.
Who is your biggest inspiration, and why?
During my studies at university, I was lucky enough to intern with Akira Isogawa in Sydney for a few weeks. This experience started my creative journey in the industry. One day, I remember it was 'slow' in production in the workroom. Akira sent me upstairs to file some magazines that had featured his garments. Upon walking up the stairs, I was blown away by the number of racks sitting in his office, filled with garments I had grown up seeing in vogue. It was truly one of the most inspirational moments of working in the industry (it brings goosebumps to my skin).
Where do you think your area of design is heading? Are there any business trends that you’ve identified? Have they affected the direction of your business?
I think two different types of customers have influenced the design direction for the label. The first is to refine our ‘stand out ‘ structured designs with various textures to expand our Melbourne and interstate wholesale and online business. The second customer base, which has been reformed with the shop's opening, is our local community. Post-covid, customers want to shop locally. Consequently, there has been an interest for an expanded range that includes occasion dresses, an essential range and sleepwear.
What kind of role has community and the support of retailers played in the success of your business?
While I was operating online and running the business from home, I had the support of a few mentors who are very experienced in the industry. These are people I still look to for some guidance and general feedback on the label and collections. Since opening the store, the local support of other retailers on the street and the local community through social media has been invaluable in helping to develop a local customer base.
What advice would you give to someone who has a creative business idea?
I have three pieces of advice; most importantly, stay true to yourself and your dreams/visions. Find yourself some suitable mentors (these do not need to be business mentors but can include someone who can guide you through the difficult times). Educate yourself and learn the ropes of social media, watch marketing videos, trial and error things on your platforms and determine your customer base!
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