THE DRESS COLLECTIVE INDUSTRY INTERVIEW FEATURES IN WHIM ONLINE MAGAZINE
An interview with Claire from The Dress Collective - a must-read for anyone interested in joining the fashion industry!
Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
A: I started my own label almost 10 years ago with only Home Economics sewing skills straight out of school. I slowly built my brand by going to the markets every weekend, working two day-jobs, learning from internships and picking up sewing skills from my grandmother – so I learnt the hard way. I was styling under Di Cant at Dallys Models in Brisbane at the time too, working on fashion shows with Alex Perry, Camilla, Dog Star and numerous Australian labels, so I gained a lot of practical skills and experience when I was younger though. After a few years fumbling my way through it all with my own label, I worked out that I needed more when it came to the online world, business management, marketing and social media, so I ended up studying business management and I started a fashion degree, but learning everything the hard way taught me what to do and what not to do.
In 2013 in Brisbane, I started The Dress Collective, running monthly fashion shows for emerging designers because nothing existed for them in the local fashion scene at the time. I worked with over 40 designers that year, getting to know each one closely. In 2014, we ran the Teneriffe Festival Fashion Precinct with 42 designers across 7 runway events in one day, to a crowd of over 10,000 guests. It was huge!
In March 2014, I was awarded a Fashion Scholarship from the Queensland Overseas Foundation and was one of only 4 Queenslanders to be accepted into the program. I worked with labels in New York and Berlin, and I also assisted at Milan Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week, writing trend reports and collection reviews from the front row. I travelled though Spain, Italy, France, Germany, London… most of Europe! I returned to Melbourne in January 2015 and now I live, love and breathe Australian fashion every day, running The Dress Collective.
Q: When did you first begin The Dress Collective and what motivated you to do so?
A: Through countless conversations with designers and working on both large and small-scale fashion productions here and overseas, I worked out that new labels just needed a supportive and reliable platform for national exposure. So, in June 2015, I launched The Dress Collective with my boyfriend and business partner, Mitch, and we’re now a happy growing family of 25 designers!
We wanted to create a liberal and dynamic future for Australian fashion, by promoting slow fashion, Australian made fashion, and ethically and sustainably manufactured fashion. We want to create a market that our Australian fashion designers can thrive in, instead of struggle in. It’s incredibly important to support the local infrastructure and economy too, because the fashion industry employs one in six people and it’s not just about the designers. The fashion industry encompasses professionals in many areas – digital, retail, transport, events, primary industries – hundreds of thousands of people in Australia turn the cogs that keep it going.
We’re also on a mission to educate Australian consumers about ‘slow fashion’ and why it’s so important to shop local and make responsible fashion choices. 67.5 million tons of clothing is made and released into the world every single year, and Australia’s contribution to the world’s fast fashion problem is sending over $500 million dollars of fashion clothing to the tip annually. The Dress Collective promotes slow fashion, exclusive one-off pieces, and made to order pieces, so by doing this, we’re trying to change the way people recklessly consume and throw out fashion.
Q: We also understand that The Dress Collective supports emerging designers in the Australian fashion industry with public relations and marketing. What does this entail?
A: The Dress Collective also looks after marketing, public relations and events for our Australian labels. We work closely with our emerging labels and small businesses, through runway events, marketing and promotional activities, creative launches, innovative campaigns, public relations activities, blogger and ambassador management, digital and social media management and retail/wholesale solutions. A lot of designers study fashion but don’t know the first thing about PR, marketing or organising their own runway, so we work with them to achieve a brand presence and to connect to new audiences through The Dress Collective.
We’re really mindful of the costs involved with running a label too, because I’ve been there, so we tailor our services to the ‘emerging designer budget’. The Dress Collective covers all the bases within the online world, assisting designers with running their own events and working with bloggers and press, because there’s so much more to running a successful fashion label than just releasing a collection. It’s a complicated and complex industry, but because I’ve worked in almost every area from wholesale, retail, designing, manufacturing, digital, styling and event management, I understand the necessities in brand building, and we just help designers connect the dots.
The Dress Collective also offers ongoing support, which is really important. Our designers email in every week asking questions about pricing, ideas on different tools for their brands, and some even ask for advice on starting new lines or changing their logos; there’s never a dull week and it keeps us on our toes! We offer support and guidance because sometimes the simplest thing can make the biggest difference when you’re struggling as a designer, and because I know how hard it is in the early stages, I want to help wherever I can.
Q: What particular Australian fashion labels are you loving the most at the moment and why?
A: All of our designers on The Dress Collective of course! But even if I didn’t run The Dress Collective, I’d probably pick designers from there anyway – we have some incredibly talented and unique designers, and they’re all amazing people. I find I it so inspiring every time I see a new label and discover another way of designing or another way of expressing fashion. Fashion is such a personal thing, and it’s just so interesting to see how different people communicate fashion in different ways, and I love it. Sharing the journey with designers is really special to me as well, as I speak with all of our designers weekly, talking about their news and how they’re going. I meet a lot of truly creative and interesting people, it makes me appreciate what we have in Australia and that we live somewhere with the freedom to create fashion however we want to. If I had to pick though, I’d say Cameron and James, or Orocéo Castro. Melbourne guys run both labels and they’re both really, really hard workers who take every opportunity they can and just put 200% into their labels.
Q: As an online magazine targeted towards creatives, a portion of our wonderful audience are Australian fashion designers themselves. What advice would you give to these designers and how might they be able to get involved with The Dress Collective?
A: My first piece of advice would be to get in touch with us! When you’re new the online world or if you don’t know much about PR and marketing, it can sometimes be scary, but with us, it’s easy! It’s as simple as sending me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and asking about The Dress Collective. Selling your label online is an absolute must if you want to grow your brand and I can’t stress enough that effective PR, marketing and social media strategies are the key to longevity when it comes to fashion. It’s also OK if you don’t know anything about it, because that’s what we do! Realizing what you can and can’t do is really important, and understanding what you need help with is how you move forward in the fashion industry.
Q: Lastly, where can our readers find out more about your fantastic platforms?
A: Visit The Dress Collective at http://www.thedresscollective.com or email me at any time at email@example.com.
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