Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On the hunt for suppliers?

As a small business, sourcing suppliers can be quite the time wasting affair, let alone the costly with trips back and forth to China to try and find the right quality supplier for your budget. Imagine if you could go to a trade fair where all the suppliers were at your fingertips and you get to look at their work, the quality, colour and material selection as well as ask about minimums, delivery schedules etc. Imagine if you could do this in MELBOURNE?

Excited yet? Well, Australian Exhibition & Conferences (the team behind Fashion Exposed) are offering local wholesalers the chance to source new suppliers at the Australian International Sourcing Fair for fashion, accessories and home. Held in conjunction with the China Clothing and Textiles Expo 2010, the AISF will provide a forum where international companies can establish and consolidate enduring business partnerships with Australian organisations.

So if you're looking for Bags, Beads, Buttons, Childrenswear, Eco Materials, Fabrics, Jewellery, and Leather goods, Menswear, Publications, Scarves/Shawls, Shipment, Trims, Womenswear and Workwear, don't forget to save the date.

Date: 17-19 November 2010
Where: Melbourne Exhibition Centre
Register: here

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pedestrian launches Jobs

Let's face it - finding a dream job is tricky. Often it takes ALOT of networking, good luck, serendipity and skill to be in the right place at the right time and know the right people to get a job that no-one's ever heard of before but everyone envies.

We get inundated with people asking iSpyStyle to help them find jobs, suggest internships etc and we've found the perfect solution to the problem - Pedestrian Jobs.

Regular members of iSpyStyle will be familiar with us referencing Pedestrian with links to articles of interest. We are most impressed with the easy to decipher search capability and the quality of jobs on offer. It's easily categorised into internships, freelance, part time and full time with industries we all want to work for like:
Music, Fashion, Publishing /Media/Writing, Film/TV/Radio, Arts & Culture, PR & Events, Advertising & Marketing, Digital / Online, Ethical / Non Profit, Retail, Hospitality / Tourism, Design/ Photography, Architecture, Management and Sports/ Recreation.

So go check out the site, get creative and start applying. What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chambord Shine Winner - Limedrop

For those of you who may remember, I was a Melbourne Judge for the Chambord Shine Awards at The Long Room a couple of months back where Anna Campbell, Jolet & Limedrop were the three Melbourne Winners from a great bevy of talent that showcased their latest collections for the night.

Each of the three finalists from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane had to create a Spring Racing worthy outfit suited to getting noticed and possibly worn by a celebrity as part of the prize. Finalists were judged by a variety of fashion media including Marie Claire fashion editor Kate Harrowsmith, Kate Mansour of Chambord and Gracie Otto.

Melbourne label, Limedrop were crowned the winner with their digital print "carousal style horse" offering a fashion forward, directional and kitsch version of Spring racing style. Limedrop's prize includes showing their collection at L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival in 2011 and Gracie Otto will be wearing the dress during the Spring Racing Carnival, bringing some serious media attention to the label.

It's a fantastic reward for the label, as both designers, Nathan and Clea have worked tirelessly in the past couple of years to grow their label and build brand awareness and The Chambord Shine awards have helped realise this next step for the duo.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fashion Exposed Business Seminars

Fashion Exposed is a trade industry event and I've had the pleasure of being involved with Fashion Exposed for some time. From judging the Debut winners for 2 years and then launching my Retail Workshop during the Sydney event earlier this year.

Due to popular demand, I'm hosting the same Retail Workshop (with a few updates) for the Melbourne event next week, however this year, I'm part of a larger business seminar program. With a fantastic round up of speakers, these seminars are aimed at the business makers behind fashion from emerging labels through to large business chains.

Discussing topics like the new season Trends, Sustainability, Mens retailing, global retail trends and of course my workshops "Trade Secrets" - a comprehensive workshop discussing branding, marketing, visual merchandising, customer engagement and social media aimed at the boutique retailer.

The seminars run over 2 days - Sunday 29 August and Tuesday 31st August. Tickets are available on the Fashion Exposed website.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Energise Enterprise

Energise Enterprise is a month long festival featuring events aimed to inspire, educate and help small business's in Victoria. LMFF held one such event titled "Event marketing: connecting with your customer" at one of the private screening rooms at Hoyts in Melbourne last week.

With so many markets, festivals, sponsorship opportunities and pop up exhibitions and events these days, brands are inundated with opportunities to showcase their product/service. Event marketing can be a costly exercise, however when maximised and executed well, the PR value and brand exposure can be priceless.

As L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival have been working with brands from a variety of industries for many years now, the team discussed how to really maximise your involvement with Event Marketing.

The event covered topics like:
1. Why would you consider an event as a marketing tool?
2. How do you prepare before you commit to an event?
3. How do you ensure the event is the right fit for your brand?
4. How can you ensure you are showcased effectively?
5. How do you engage?
6. How will you leverage your participation?

Some of the key points iSpyStyle picked up are listed below:

1. By associating yourself with a larger event, you will most likely have access to suppliers at a discounted price through the partnership.

2. For every $1 spent on sponsorship you need to spend $3 on making the event look amazing and executed to a high standard. e.g. If you spent $10,000 on sponsorship, you need to spend $30,000 on the actual event, marketing, promotional material, ambassadors, gift bags etc.

3. Before committing to an event, research which brands have long term relationships with that event and if they are a brand you'd like to network with or partner with, you can ask to be introduced as a result of being involved.

4. Be honest about how you will assess the success or failure of this event with the event team so they can try and help you achieve your goals as its in their best interests for you to continue to be involved with the event in the future.

5. Use the social media platforms of the event to your advantage. Offer prizes, gifts and special offers to the event's facebook or twitter followers in order to reach new audience and build awareness.

6. It's recommended to commit to a festival or event for a minimum of 3 years, so that you can build on your exposure, branding and association each year and really tap into that event's audience. Longevity helps reiterated your association.

7. Once you're involved, promote your association on your email signature, online, through you social media, in your retail store, in your newsletter etc. The more you leverage off the event, the more you'll get in return.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hanging around

It's always inspiring to hear of a simple idea marketed well. Exhibit A - The Green Hanger. An Australian invention from three entrepreneurial spirits, The Green Hanger is only a year old but has been causing quite the international stir. So what's the story?
1. Looking for a more eco-friendly solution when moving house, the concept was born.
2. It's 100% recycled and recyclable cardboard
3. Holds over 2Kg of weight
4. Raw & natural and quite designer looking (we think)
5. Inexpensive - a pack of 5 Adult hangers is only $5.95 with bulk buying being cheaper
6. Comes in kids and adult sizes
7. Easy to stack and store
8. No glues or inks are used
9. Used as the official invite for Tokyo Fashion Week
10.Used to hang all the clothes backstage at L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival in 2010
11.Bridget Marquardt is one of Hugh Hefner’s playboy's and she has endorsed the product in her search to "go green" (seriously)

So, the question remains, will fashion boutiques follow suit. It makes sense for smaller boutiques to embrace this (I remember my shop days and having to sort through a million wire hangers that always seemed to get tangled and it was my job to untangle them - ahhh the glamour of fashion!).

Check out their site to find out more.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Behind the Scenes of State of Design

So, its that time of year again.... July = Design, State of Design. A period of twelve days of non-stop creative stimulation, inspiration and networking is just what the doctor ordered in the middle of winter I say! Rather than talk about all the wonderful interactive experiences to enjoy and participate in, I've decided its time to shine a spotlight on the folk behind the scenes who make this festival happen. Meet Kate Rhodes, Curator of State of Design Festival.

Q1 Describe your role as curator of Design Made Trade and Design for Everyone? What does your role entail?
The Festival is brought into the world with a tiny team of incredible people – some of the best I’ve worked with, I’m happy to say. Each of our roles bump and connect into one another regularly so we find ourselves doing all kinds of things. As Festival Curator, it is my role to help form the public program side of the Festival – this is the part of the program that is that for everyone. Individuals, organisations and businesses have contributed exhibitions, workshops, screenings and activities that explore and communicate the importance of design. The resulting program is carefully assembled to pull and push our theme so that everyone who visits a Festival event can grow their own ideas for generating change by design.

Q2 Design Made Trade (now in its 3rd year) has gained quite the name for itself by supporting emerging talent and taking them to the next level. The mix and quality of brands across design's many platforms is always inspiring. How do you achieve this?
Design can be though of as an almost unheard of connection between needs and desires. The exhibitors at Design Made Trade make the event the place to uncover objects, ideas and systems developed and produced both here and away to make life better, and potentially greener. The idea behind Design Made Trade is to make it the place to meet the people, and the people who know the people, behind great design.

Q3 What kinds of trends are you seeing from Victorian designers? Obviously sustainability is the focus this year for State of Design, but aside from that, what other commonalities are you seeing?
This year there is a section of Design Made Trade dedicated to green design businesses and other sections include: furniture, fabrics, small objects and a section of the Fair dedicated to what might be described as the more crafted end of design. A great mix.

Q4 This year Design Made Trade is incorporating workshops and talks as part of the mix. What was the motivation behind this initiative?
There is so much activity going on at the Royal Exhibition Building that it is a real hub for the first four days of the Festival. On both the trade days and the public days there are back-to-back talks, workshops and exhibitions. We really want these first days to be very dynamic, here are some of the events: Design Victoria Amphitheater for business talks; Lightsource – a commercial lighting exhibition; Materia – a hands-on materials library from the Netherlands; the Melbourne Design Embassy – a place for networking and blogging, Idealand – a community of hand-crafted hexagon spaces for professional design bodies and The Long Table – a table running the length of the Royal Exhibition Building for meetings, design speed dating with architects to green your home and a number of family-oriented making activities. We also have great exhibitions from the Australian Graphic Design Association, the Design Institute of Australia, Green Magazine and Monash University.

State of Design runs from Wednesday 14 - 25 July 2010. Click here for more info.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Designer Opportunities

So you're an up and coming designer and you want to get noticed, get some brand exposure and maybe a pat on the back at the same time? I have compiled a great list of opportunities for you to participate in (you can thank me later!)

1. Chambord Shine Awards
What: Enter for a chance to be a finalist in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane runway showcases to compete for a finalists position and then to be crowned overall winner. Past finalists include Dion Lee, Romance Was Born, Jessie Hill, Dhini, Carl Kapp and AJE.
Who: Aimed at emerging and semi-established Australian fashion designers
Conditions: Must be over 18
Details: After the runway shows, judges will select 3 finalists from each state to create a Spring Racing outfit inspired by Chambord which will go into the final held at Sydney's Strand Arcade on August 31st. The winning outfit will be worn by a celebrity at the Spring Racing Carnival and have their own collection showcase as part of LMFF in 2011.
Contact: If you think you have what it takes, email chambordshineawards@6dc.com.au
Deadline: Brisbane's showcase was 29th June, Melbourne's is 6th July and Sydney's is 7th July so get in quick!

2. Bloom at Magnolia Square
What: This is a dedicated space for showcasing new/emerging talent amongst the established design market stall holders. A great chance to get noticed on a budget.
Who: Listen up designers of craft, fashion, food, jewellery, illustration, paper, ceramics etc.
Conditions: To be eligible to apply you need to be a start up or newly commenced business, have a unique concept and be well executed and finished with a strong hand worked design aesthetic.
Details: You'll get a 1.5 sq metre space with no height restrictions for only $350 including insurance. Limited spaces available.
Contact: email applications to bloom@magnoliasquare.com.au
Deadline: 15th July 2010

3. Y-chic by Australian Academy of Design
What: Generation Y students are asked to express their point of view about what "chic" means for their Generation by submitting a mood board.
Who: Fashion and creative Students
Conditions: You'll have to email an image of your moodboard in jpg or pdf format, a completed entry form with artists release form, an artists statement and a model release form (if you've used a model).
Details: Prizes for 1st, 2nd & 3rd plus Top 10 finalists for both Tertiary and Secondary categories. Prizes vary from a sewing & design kit to a gift voucher valued at $500 from Carmel's Fabric Store.
Contact: awards@designacademy.edu.au
Deadline: 14 July 2010

For more great competitions for creatives to enter click here
Stay tuned for a Soya feature of which I am the fashion category producer.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fashion that Fits - LMFF Body Image Forum

There is a never ending cycle of the influences fashion can have on society and one of them is body image. Whilst there are elements of fantasy and aspiration with fashion (who doesn't love a stunning perfume campaign or an amazing 12 page spread in Vogue Italia?) there is also a major responsibility that comes with pumping out these types of aspirational images.

LMFF hosted a forum for the fashion industry on Monday 31 May at ACMI called "Fashion that Fits" attempting to tackle an issue that is so intrinsically linked to the fashion world. On hand to discuss the various commercial, mental, physical and moral issues surrounding this were:
Gorgi Coghlan from The Circle on Channel 10 as MC
Honorable James Merlino - Minister of Sport, Recreation & Youth Affairs
Sarah Oakes - Editor of Cleo Magazine
Matthew Anderson - Director Chadwicks Modelling Agency
Dr Naomi Carfti - Community development / Education officer of Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria
Prue Thomas - Strategic Brand Manager of Sportsgirl
Karen Webster - Outgoing LMFF Festival Director

Indeed this panel was a well curated and diverse bunch who could discuss from their own point of view the various implications of body image in their pocket of the industry. Some of issues raised were:
1. Language & Labels - ensuring communication around Small, Medium & Large rather than Skinny, Size Zero, Plus Size and Big. "We never talk minus size, we just talk plus size and its wrong" says Karen Webster.
2. Healthy Vs UnHealthy - overweight and underweight individuals can still be considered "healthy", even if they are overweight or underweight. So the term healthy and unhealthy were more relevant terms to be using. However, how does a person looking at a photoshoot or catwalk know if the model is healthy or unhealthy based only on their appearance?
3. Cover models for Magazines - Sarah spoke of her boredom at seeing another American celebrity on a Cleo cover, however the Kate Hudson's and Gwyneth Paltrow's of the world were more popular issues that sold better than when local talents like Isabel Lucas and Jen Hawkins were featured on the cover. So inadvertently, the consumer is dictating which women we see over and over again on our covers pushing this impossible idea of perfection.
4. Education - Dr Crafti spoke about how education surrounding what and who is attractive needs to start younger so that teenagers can differentiate between a photoshopped image on a magazine and the reality of their own images and lives.
5. Fantasy Vs Reality - Matthew from Chadwicks explained that he felt there was a need and a place for "fantasy" and "aspiration" with the fashion industry and that "People don't buy magazines to see average".
6. Sizing - Prue from Sportsgirl talked about their role with introducing a full size range (size 6-16) in order to cater for petite and curveaous girls and how they encourage their sales staff to find the most appropriate size to suit and flatter for the best overall look, rather than being size-ist!
7. Casting healthy models - Karen explained they had used a nutrionist for the recent LMFF 2010 catwalk shows during casting so that they ensured they were being responsible with their choices.

From my point of view as a girl who has grown into a woman and all whilst firmly entrenched in the fashion industry, this is an incredibly complex issue that won't be solved overnight. There is a certain amount of brainwashing with media images (magazines, catwalks, online, billboards, TV etc) that do deliver elements of fantasy that have been years in the making. The rise in popularity of reality TV and social media where our photo's are constantly posted on the web, mean we are all so much more conscious of our image and critical as well. Then there is the increase in the "Search for a Supermodel" "Australia's next top model" and so forth where the girls are often asked to lose weight to compete internationally. All of these shows are top rating winners and contribute to the cycle of putting "unrealistic" models on a pedestal and it is only as a woman gets older that she can really discriminate that 95% of society are not in this category. Jump on public transport any day of the week and you'll see 95% of commuters are normal and trying to look the best they can for their size, culture, body shape, health and budget.

So where does that leave us? Do we throw our hands in the air in despair? Quite the contrary - everything starts with a small step. Suggestions made on the night include:
1. A state wide or nation wide "I love my body" day where we encourage positivity with our bodies.
2. kikki.K were talking about putting a "Gratitude" Journal out specifically for this in relation to being thankful you can use your body from a functional point of view when so many suffer from health issues and to be thankful for small compliments.
3. Encouraging more magazine articles about self love, image vs reality and body size in the real world.
4. Depicting what is Healthy weight Vs Under and Overweight from a fashion point of view
5. Developing a new language
6. Casting models for catwalk that truly represent diversity from cultural, shape and size points of view moving forward
7. Reducing the amount of photoshopped images that hit our advertising overloaded society

Some examples I can think of from commercial Australian retail brands supporting this theory are:
* Supre (who up until very recently) used shop girls and "normal" looking girls to model in their campaigns. It's a shame they've just switched to using models as this really differentiated them from the masses and sent out positive body messages.
* Sportsgirl who use healthy looking models in their campaigns that aren't waifs
* Jeanswest who cater for all body shapes with their "Speciality denim range" featuring petites, maternity, tummy trimmer, buttlifter, curve embracer and tall

I'd love to hear of suggestions from the iSpyStyle readers who have thoughts or ideas about what we could do from an industry point of view to decrease the amount of body image issues. There's some fantastic feedback, information and help on the Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria website of which Dr Naomi Crafti came to represent during the forum.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Visual Merchandising Competition

Fashion Exposed is a fashion industry trade fair and this year for their Melbourne showcase in August, are offering a new Visual Merchandising Competition called Spirit of the Season. This is aimed at fashion and merchandising students and retail professionals keen to try out their visual merchandising skills in a commercial environment.

Selected finalists will be invited to create window displays live at the event - that's right, a kind of "Project Runway" for Visual merchandising (except with the voting off!).

Need to know details:
1. Entry concept is for Autumn Winter 2011 (so a bit of trend forecasting is required). You can choose between menswear or womenswear.
2. Submit your entries through the website - www.fashionexposed.com
3. Applications close Wednesday 16 June 2010
4. Each application has a processing fee of $50 inc GST
5. Participation for selected finalists is free
6. Conditions apply - read through the Application Document

What are you waiting for? Get creative people!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Stitch up the copycats & protect your IP

Design Victoria run a lot of great seminars and events based on education and understanding the implications of being involved in the design industry. Most of the events are free and many involve industry icons. I was thrilled when approached to be a panelist in an area that I come across regularly in the fashion industry: Fashion Copyrighting and IP.

Even when lecturing with my fashion design and branding students, I am often at a loss to understand the financial costs and legalities behind copyright. So the seminar I am speaking at addresses the role of registering designs, trademarking, copyright infringement and the reality for small designers and what rights they have. I will be posing case studies and asking Trevor to explain the implications of these cases so that we as an audience can clarify the legalities around this hot issue.

My co-panelists are:

Trevor Choy of Choy Lawyers is an Intellectual property specialist
Eddie Zammit, Founder of T Magazine and Creative Director/Principle of Grin Creative
Ivan Gomez, Managing Director of Department of the Future

Thursday 13 May 6-8.30pm at ACMI Cinemas, Federation Square Melbourne

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Joining the Dots

I love a good play on words and I love a progressive social media integrated website, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear about Dotti's new campaign "Dotti Nation".

They've re-launched their website to incorporate web 2.0 with social media and allow more user generated content with a catchy tag line of "Join the dots". Features include:
1. Wardrobe - It's a virtual wardrobe with styling tips via video and showcases what's in store right now
2. Dotti Nation - Members can upload their outfits and win prizes for sharing
3. Design-A-Bits - If you're a designer in the making, you could share your ideas with Dotti for instant fame and prizes
4. Connections to facebook

Its interesting that Dotti have chosen this expensive financial set-up and ongoing management of their site, when you compare other retailers in the market like Bardot, Forever New, Supre, Glassons and Portmans. Sportsgirl obviously launched their interactive site last year and were one of the first in Australia to do so.

I am curious to see the audience reaction to this kind of site, given Australians (whilst spending so much time online) are not the most interactive when it comes to retailers sites, we tend to support forums and blogs that are neutral and not brand driven (case in point - Vogue's notoriously popular forum).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The changing face of Fashion Online

As many of you would have read, I was privileged to meet with Piera and Philippe from Refinery 29 to have lunch with them on Monday and then listened to them speak at the Portable presentation held at Penthouse Mouse. They are two of the most humble and genuinely nice people I’ve met from New York to have achieved such success and yet still be so grounded and driven about what they want to do next.

* They began (in 2005) at a time when there was a trend away from mass towards grass roots designers. Individualism was important and there was a big gap in the online publishing space for a niche fashion magazine.

* Their first version of Refinery 29 was like a department store map to the best shops in New York and offered an insiders guide to what was cool and happening at the time.

* They launched by supporting emerging talent like Alexander Wang, Opening Ceremony, Vera Cava, Rag & Bone and Erin Featherson.

* They believed and still believe that Risk is more important than experience and being flexible, organic and dynamic with their choices in both content and business strategies is what makes them successful.

* They currently have 1 million unique visitors per month with 100,000 email subscribers.

* They feel fashion has become a conversation and not a monologue and this ability to react to their subscriber’s comments has helped shape the business.

* Their top 5 inspirational sites they reference are:
Garance Dore
The Selby
The Cut

* They believe there are 3 main ingredients to their content; entertainment, inspiration and information.

* They try to offer a real “mixture” of content, styling tips and information that appeals to a broad database but is still cutting edge so that they satisfy their growing database but also push their readers to try or adopt new trends.

* They monitor results closely; each team member (4 full time staff and 4 interns) gets an email from Piera each morning with stats from Google Analytics about what sections of the site were most popular, had the most click throughs and were commented on the most.

* They believe that Fashion is really just one big conversation and technology affords huge opportunity to communicate with others.

* The next 4 interesting trends in technology are:
1. Content – being true to your signature
2. Mobile – apps, e-commerce and entertainment
3. Crowd sourcing – the website Quirky
4. Location based services – FourSquare

I've got Refinery-itis!

I have a confession! I’m got a severe case of Refinery-itis! I need my daily fix and I seem to die a little inside without it! This online fashion site just begs to be bookmarked with its distinct edge and point of view and has gathered some major momentum of late. I was fortunate enough to interview Phillipe von Borries (one of the co-founders) who is visiting Australia as part of the Portable Content presents Refinery 29 east coast tour. The Melbourne seminar is part of LMFF and held at Penthouse Mouse.

1. Refinery 29 has really hit a niche in the saturated fashion online market. What do you owe the popularity too? Luck, timing, specific strategies?
We’re just breaking through a 1,000,000 visitors a month and the site is among the leading fashion/shopping/style sites in the US. It’s bigger than Lucky Mag, Barneys and a range of other power players in this space. The success of it is due to a number of factors. Adaptability has been very important. We’ve tried out different things again and again to see what our audience responds to. Innovation online is key and it’s critical to challenge yourself and your audience over and over. We also got into the space at a critical juncture four years ago when there were very few players, which allowed us to foster very unique relationships with fashion most exciting new designers. Lastly, we engage our audience. We know fashion is not a one-way street and we make sure every day to build a relationship with our readers. That is the most important part of digital fashion media today.

2.We are currently experiencing a significant shift in the fashion media industry with the power of the consumer, social networking and street style blogs etc. What do you think will happen next in the online space in fashion?
I think consumers will own the space more and more. Fashion used to be about limits and restrictions. Today it’s about access, transparency and immediacy. Readers/consumers etc want to be part of the creative process. Look at sites such as polyvore.com which allow readers to collect tidbits from around the web and build scrapbooks that you can share and even shop from! It’s all about personal expression these days.

3. Your “How to get snapped by the Sartorialist” diagram was a viral hit. It’s a great case study of how viral communication operates in the current landscape. Did it inadvertently bring you new subscribers, new traffic and a new kind of notoriety?
Yes and yes. That story was the most successful we ever published and our editorial team is incredibly proud of it. It’s a great example of the creative power of our staff as well as our ability to always innovate. The format of the feature was an infographic, which is very engaging and entertaining. We know the importance of our readers simply wanting to be entertained. Fashion is about having fun. It’s not serious and that’s an important part of our editorial standpoint every day. The Sartorialist feature received over 100,000 unique views, it was republished in GQ South Africa, Italy and Russia and picked up by dozens of blogs.

4. What do you think of the Australian fashion industry? Who has caught your attention and what do you think makes up the Australian style?
We love Australian fashion. We are HUGE fans of Australian designers. Australian fashion is kind of a cross between LA and London. It’s casual but still accessibly glamorous. These are women who love fashion but they’re down to earth too.

5. What are some of your favourite Australian and international blogs/sites?
Lover, Sass & Bide, Karen Walker and Chronicles of Never

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

LMFF Paris Runway 1 presented by Grazia

L’OrĂ©al Paris Runway 1 – Central Pier Monday 15th March 6.30pm
I had the pleasure of sitting next to stylist Kate Gaskin and stylist / TV reporter Dhav Naidu at Runway 1 to watch Alice McCall, Camilla & Marc, Collette Dinnigan, Fleur Wood, LIFEwithBIRD, Nicola Finetti, Sass & Bide and Toni Maticevski show their Autumn Winter Collections as presented by Grazia.

Film integration with runway IS the next big thing! A moody film shot for Grazia starring Louise Van De Vorst played on the screens as the models took to the new long stage. 
• The heels were most certainly teetering as the models took to the stage. When will stylists learn, yes heels are great, but let these girls walk in something sturdy so they can walk confidently?
• Where were the happy, smiling models? Given this year’s campaign is all about getting happy, I was expecting more fun and frivolity on the catwalk.
• Cassie Van Dungen, Samantha Harris (who is simply stunning in the flesh) Laura Scaife (New Zealand’s Next Top Model runner up) and Vanessa Milde (The next Elle McPherson according Dhav Naidu) all featured on the catwalk.
• The styling for the whole parade was a bit ‘blinged’ up for my liking. With such talented designers like this group, not much adornment is required to make their designs shine.
Key trends – black, metallic armour detailing, layers of black textures, fringing, grey marle, lace and brocade florals, military detailing and ankle boots.

LMFF Designer Forum

Designer Forum – Sketch at Central Pier Monday 15th March 2010 3pm

A great initiative by LMFF to support the designers participating in the festival by having international and expat industry icons like Linlee Allen (LA), Tony Glenville (TG), Michael Angel (MA) and Gabrielle Hackworthy (GH) talk about their careers and their perception of the fashion industry.  Whilst more tips and advice for Australian designers looking to break the international market would have been welcomed, the careers and unique paths each speaker had taken to arrive at their current destination was inspirational and thought provoking. 

My highlights were;
• LA- Her irreverent, down to earth attitude (complete with Aussie accent still intact despite many years living abroad).
• LA – The shout out to Jenny Bannister (apparently Jenny’s designs adorned a teenage Linlee’s wall) 
• LA – Her controversial comment about working with Ellen Von Unwerth “Just because someone’s famous doesn’t mean that makes them cool”
• TG – Loved his infectious pearls of wisdom, British sense of humour and passion for the industry and sheer entertainment as a speaker!
• TG – He urged us to stop talking for a second… and  “Listen” to the experts, the globe, the new and the established.
• TG – A fabulous and valid comment about the role of technology and catwalks and how “It’s still important to see clothes on real people, look at the movement and experience the atmosphere of fashion, despite technology offering live streaming catwalks”.
• TG – Good quality pieces designed with integrity that are timeless and made with love will always be in style!
• TG – We are living in a time where seasons don’t seem to impact like they used to (whether consumer buying changes or climate change) the role of transeasonal collections are very important.
• MA – How Joseph Saba believed in Michael Angel as a 17 year old and offered him the role of Visual Merchandiser at Saba.
• MA – It seems Michael Angel has learned some lessons living in New York during the GFC about budgeting, getting back to basics and re-affirming your signature style and growing in confidence as a result.
• MA – Of his current business revenue, 70% is from his online store!

LMFF opening party

It seems that the fashion world has gone gaga for Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton must be so proud)! The mix of fairytale whimsy, fantasy and over the top costumes has captured many a fashionista heart, including Harpers Bazaar it seems!

So when this little Alice turned up to the Government house yesterday on a fine and sunny Sunday afternoon it truly felt like I had fallen down the rabbit hole into a world of decadence, whimsy and fantasy fashion blurred into one!
The parade curated by Harpers Bazaar featured Colette Dinnigan, Akira Isagowa, Dion Lee and Sass & Bide (to name a few of the fabulous Australian designers involved).  Each designer took fairytale heroines as muses for their creations from Ali Baba, Snow White, Minnie Mouse and of course Alice in Wonderland!

The fashions were (as you would expect) a mix of sophistication (Emma Van Handaal, Rebecca Twigley) high glamour (Lindy Klim’s gold brocade ensemble) and costume fun (Richard Nylon, Gail Sorronda and Romance was Born).  Black was the order of the day (although held in Melbourne, I was surprised to see so much of it) with cream textured layers a close second and many a stylish ankle boot was chosen avoiding a stiletto sinking into the government house lawn!

On a sentimental note, the acknowledgement and significant contribution of Karen Webster as Festival Director (who is finishing up her role with LMFF after this festival) was moving and heartfelt and she will be sorely missed!

Fashioning Melbourne

On Thursday 4th March, I attended the Fashioning Melbourne forum which is part of the LMFF 2010 Cultural Program. It was held at the State Library and a sell out event. Robert Buckingham was the moderator and the panel featured The Age fashion editor Jan Breen-Burns, Bec Cole (stylist and co-creator of Madame Virtue & Co), Sener Besim (GM of Scanlan & Theodore) and Debra Mar of Blacklisted. The forum was a discussion about retailing in Melbourne and what makes Melbourne unique. Here are some edited highlights discussed throughout the night:

Melbourne’s Patchwork of Retail
Melbourne is a ‘gorgeous soup of retail’ according to Jan Breen Burns; from Bourke Street’s home of the flagship/mega stores (Sportsgirl, Forever New, Supre and General Pants) to the many twisting historical arcades, to the destination designer boutiques found hidden away up flights of stairs to the mix of cluster villages in inner city suburbs to the mega retail shopping centres of Westfield and Chadstone.

Exciting Retail Experiences
* Captain of Industry – offering a modern day version of the tailored bespoke service of yesteryear.
* Le Louvre – the new home in South Yarra offers the ultimate retail experience of surprise, delight and prestige mixing exclusivity with accessibility.
* Sportsgirl – for a hit of fun, fast fashion with a fresh, must see approach.
* Thousand Shop – honest, genuine retailing with a lifestyle approach and strong personality.
* Shag – for an injection of vintage storytelling and nostalgia.

Role of Customer Service
• Creating a calm but stimulating environment for customers to feel a sense of belonging (in Scanlan’s case up to 3 hours in the Armadale store at times!)
• Having knowledgeable staff that understands the difference between pouncing, educating and allowing some good quality browsing time, but also offering genuine advice.
• Involving the customer in the process – showing them how, where and why the product is made locally by creating a retail experience that shares the creative process (having a store front in the actual workroom like Blacklisted in Easy St Collingwood)

Pioneering Retail
• Le Louvre have always been the first to start a trend with their retailing – first in Collins Street before it was the Paris end of Collins St and now with their new store in South Yarra where there is no other fashion retailing.
• High Street Armadale – When Scanlan & Theodore moved there it was largely an art gallery community, however it’s become a mix of fashion, food and art now and this leads to a great overall experience.
• Madame Virtue & Co is in Crossley Street and one of the few fashion retailers inhabiting this area, instead preferring to be amongst the melting pot of food and art mixed with history.
• Blacklisted moved its premises from South Yarra to Easy St Collingwood as all their suppliers were located there and it made the experience for customers an all encompassing one.

Interesting bits & pieces
• Robert Buckingham is working with The Future Laboratory on a retail strategy for the City of Melbourne about evolving Melbourne as a city.  Can’t wait to see what comes of this association and props to City of Melbourne for engaging a trend intelligence agency to help their plans!
• Sener Besim is waiting for the dust to settle with DJ’s and Myer’s new department store re-births in Bourke Street before reviewing their next Scanlan & Theodore business development move within the CBD.
• Jan Breen Burns is curious to see how the new Department stores will change the consumer buying behaviour outlook in the CBD, given the success they are experiencing with “The house of brands” philosophy.
• Online retailing is a must do if you have a bricks and mortar store, but you need to be clever about the approach and mimic the real time experience as best as you can online to have any sort of longevity or business success!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rebecca Thompson & August

Rebecca Thompson (like many great designers) makes gorgeous clothes and (also like many designers) doesn't have a retail presence, so when she decided to create an online boutique, she had lots of ideas but not much experience in understanding the e-commerce world. I interviewed Rebecca and then Zoe Warne of August (the team behind her new online boutique called "The Parlour").
Rebecca Thompson
1. How long have you worked with Zoe from August?
The first site was built in 2006 and achieved its aims of establishing the online presence for RT, however by 2009, RT was ready to embrace eCommerce and together we developed the RT online shopping boutique called The Parlour. The Parlour is a large eCommerce site; a full service online store with a secure shopping cart function.

Beyond web development, RT worked with August to create a social media strategy to harness the growing loyalty and passion of RT fans and devotees, which includes a Facebook and Twitter presence to stay connected to our ‘fans’ and update them with new collections, related fashion events, previews and personal behind the scenes tid-bits from RT.

2. How do you find the role of online in terms of changing your business model, particularly with the nature of your designs being so tactile, detailed and fit orientated pieces?
This is a great question and was a major concern for me initially. I find that women are becoming more confident with online shopping, and are increasingly comfortable with the concept of making a purchase prior to touching and feeling the garments.

Good photography helps in providing a stronger and more accurate visual representation of the piece, and of course we offer a full refund return policy making it easy and risk free to purchase online from RT. A detailed size chart also is available, providing the standard RT measurements used and this is a very helpful guide for choosing the correct sizing for our online customers. So in paying attention to these details, you can certainly address the various aspects of a customer’s reluctance to buy online.

3. How have you found tackling the CMS and uploading your product, media etc?
My tech skills are limited, however they provide clear direction and training in using their CMS, Minotaur, which is very simple to use. I am gaining confidence in using the system (it’s always great to learn a new skill), however I know they are always there, in case my staff or I ever need back up.

Zoe Warne of August
1. What kinds of tech solutions did you suggest for Rebecca when she decided to go e-commerce?
As with all clients seeking eCommerce solutions, we went through our process of evaluating both the creative and technical requirements of the new website for the RT label. Their internal staff and resourcing needs are also taken into account when recommending a solution.

We created Minotaur an easy to use system, which empowers site owners to manage and maintain their own content, and securely transact and manage inventory online. It presents all website content, both text, images and products very cleanly, and is a cinch to use – even for the lest technically-proficient users. It also allows us the creative flexibility to be able to design a site that is unique, to the clients brand and creative requirements, and not just have an “off the shelf” feel.

2. How do you think the Australian e-commerce landscape in regards to fashion has changed?
Emerging web technologies, improvements in online safety and of course the rise of social media have resulted in more fashion labels and retailers embracing digital in a big way. We’re now to the point where it would be inconceivable to launch a fashion brand without considering an online aspect to your strategy.

3. What kind of analytics do you have to track The Parlour section?
We install Google Analytics on every site August builds – it’s free and yet it’s a very powerful too. We use the data the analytics provide to gain deeper insights into online customer behaviour, and identify any possible issues. From there we work on improvements to help increase conversion rates.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sportsgirl embraces Bloggers

On Monday 8th February I was invited to attend the Sportsgirl Roadshow parade for Autumn Winter 2010. Primarily, this is put on for the Sportsgirl retail team, however this year, they invited a few Melbourne Bloggers to attend to take a sneak peak at the action. It’s an interesting strategy on Sportsgirl’s behalf. The bloggers feature their own reviews and photo’s from the parade, and share this with their communities.

Jade Roberts (PR Manager) said she has been working with bloggers for 2 years and finds they are effective for reaching out to potential/existing Sportsgirl customers because of their strong community followings and unique perspectives on fashion. It’s also helpful due to the fact that online is immediate and Sportsgirl is all about fast fashion.

Whilst at the parade I chatted with Kate Elton, Online and Events Manager whose position was created to cater to the new Sportsgirl community website some 8 months ago. Kate's role varies from updating the website daily with product, blog posts and articles to managing the social networking community (twitter, facebook etc). Kate has found Twitter has been incredibly popular in the last year and uses it to offer sneak peek's to their twitter followers. She finds the website sections that are most popular are to do with 'style advice' i.e. Style Snaps and Style Me.

The parade was a high-energy event with a Circus/ Moulin Rouge/ Vaudeville theme and featured smiling models (a refreshing change that epitomised the perfect Sports-girl)! The audience gasps, laughs, claps and general buzz was a combination of lust (for the pieces they have yet to own) and $$ signs clicking over in their heads (as they saw what would sell in their respective Sportsgirl stores)! This roadshow was a great way of inspiring the Sportsgirl staff about what's coming in store as well as offering the wider Sportsgirl community the opportunity to share the night through the bloggers attending.