“I have a strong social conscience—hence the need for the label to be ethical and sustainable, to source locally and use a Melbourne manufacturer. I also believe in myself—most of the time—although small business has a way of boosting your self-confidence one moment, then stripping it away the next.”
How do you describe your work?
I launched a small women’s clothing brand late last year, which I now run in conjunction with occasional contracting work. It’s an ethical, sustainable label. I manufacture in Melbourne and source from Australian and New Zealand suppliers. My aesthetic, which I call ‘modern modest’, is influenced by Japanese minimalism and French casual chic.
Who/What inspires your work?
My inspiration was born initially of personal frustration. I had a problem finding three quarter-length sleeve tops, t-shirts, and dresses with hems that also covered the top of my knee. Wanting well-constructed natural fibre garments for breathability and longevity further complicated the search. There wasn’t one label that ticked all the boxes. I had to shop in a variety of places, and it was taking me ages.
Now the label is up and running, my inspiration is broader. I want to run a successful, sustainable business so I don’t have to continue doing contract work. Customer feedback provides additional impetus; I can’t tell you how rewarding it is when someone you’ve never met expresses in their own words the aspirations you’ve put into a design!
I’m also inspired by a group of like-minded women I met through a fashion startup course. We catch up or call each other regularly and assist each other to succeed in the industry. We collate and share our resources, experiences and supply chains. I love these women! We all want to succeed and help each other succeed, and there’s no sense of rivalry or competition. These people are amazing.
What is most important to you, in your work?
Firstly, that Frske is known as a slow fashion label, with small production runs, premium quality eco-friendly fabrics and local ethical manufacturing. Integrity, authenticity and transparency matter greatly. Secondly, that the label’s ‘modern modest’ sensibility is understood. There was no category descriptor for what I was creating, so I’ve had to invent my own. Next, I want to evolve to a point where I can give back to the community consistently. The label is already zero waste—I keep some fabric remnants for free repair kits and give the rest to a local textile arts collective—but I have other social impact aspirations. The same is true for circularity. Watch this space!
What elements of your personality make you good at what you do?
I have a strong social conscience—hence the need for the label to be ethical and sustainable, to source locally and use a Melbourne manufacturer. I also believe in myself—most of the time—although small business has a way of boosting your self-confidence one moment, then stripping it away the next.
What is the most difficult thing about working in this creative field?
Cashflow, lack of control over timelines, supply chain reliability, long lead times, the cost of local production, finding manufacturers who are prepared to produce small runs, and finding ethically sourced fabrics and trims. Add to that coming up with ideas, sampling, tweaking and re-sampling until the design is right, and right on brand.
To be honest it’s harder than I imagined, and every day presents new challenges.
Do you experience self-doubt in your work? What happens?
Every. Single. Day.
Research is my go-to remedy; the more I do, the better I feel. I also receive support through my networking group of fashion startups and the online small business groups I’ve joined. Talking with others in the industry, asking questions, or reading about someone else going through the same feelings reassures me that I’m not the only one, and this really does help.
My self-doubt peaked when launching my first collection. I was so self-conscious, it was excruciating! But I went ahead and just did it anyway. It’s paying off. My product has been well received.
The bottom line: it’s a roller-coaster ride… but I have no intention of getting off.
What are you particularly proud of?
Starting a business! Getting through a particularly challenging first production run. Launching the brand. Selling at my first market and, in particular, selling to a complete stranger for the first time. Customers loving not only the product, but also the intention behind its design. Last but not least—and this may sound odd—I’m proud of advising some customers not to buy a Frske garment that doesn’t suit them, even though they want it, because I know it will end up sitting in their wardrobe unworn.
How are your family and friendships connected to your work?
I call on family and friends all the time for help and support. My partner, especially.
My network group is always there, too. Never more than a call or email away, these fabulous, talented women have assisted with photo shoots, picked up supplies for me, shared in large fabric purchases, carried my product to and from markets, the list goes on.
What are your joys and heartaches?
Heartaches: Sourcing fabrics locally, finding suitable and reliable manufacturers, changes to patterns and re-sampling, the constant demands on finances and times.
The network group of like-minded women I would never have met if I hadn’t
started this business. Selling product, road trips to major design markets
around Australia with my partner, and the tremendous camaraderie we experience
with other stallholders at these events.
Who or what are your supports?
Online support groups, such as ‘Like minded bitches drinking wine’ and creative online networks.
The small group of like-minded women with startup clothing labels that meets on a monthly, or as needed basis. We’re a constant support for each other. There really are networks of women out there in the world, supporting and encouraging each other and I find that heartening.
My partner, sisters and mum are also positive supporters, sounding boards and extra pairs of hands when needed.
Do you have a personal mantra?
Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy and exercise, make time for my partner, family and friends and of course ‘Edie’ our 5yo Westie.
How do you know when a piece/design/project is finished?
I don’t think you ever really finish a design; you’re always looking at how you can improve it, re-interpret or re-express it, learn from it, all while gauging what the customer likes and regards as appropriate pricing for the brand.
How do you juggle work, life, people and creative inspiration?
It’s challenging; to juggle everything is really hard and some things have to give. I don’t go out as much so that I can get valued sleep, and have sufficient energy to run around on my weekends, focus on the business and catch up with family.