As an avid follower of all things business and fashion, I was thoroughly looking forward to hearing Collette speak about her success as a Fashion Designer in a very global industry. As the first Australian Designer to have been invited to show on the official schedule of Ready to Wear Paris Fashion Week in 1995, her legacy has always been about breaking boundaries, but at the same time, she’s managed to maintain consistency across her brand, and really hone into who her customer is and what they want.
Although there were numerous insights Collette shared about her journey as a Designer, it was her thoughts on the business side of things that were the most compelling. From a retail perspective, it was really interesting hearing her talk about her relationships with key retailers over the course of her time in business. Anyone with a good understanding of branding knows the value of the right associations, and it’s very clear that Collette’s pursuit of overseas opportunities with retailers like Barneys New York and Harvey Nichols was what really set her up for success. Later down the line, she has sought more mass market partnerships with UK department store M&S and Target Australia, in an effort to expand her business, and has now partnered with cult women’s clothing and accessories retailer Anthropologie, as she begins to re-surface her brand in the marketplace.
Putting her business model aside, Collette also had some amazing advice for emerging business leaders. I couldn’t help but jot down a particular quote as I sat there in the audience, and it’s one I feel that reflects greatly on her work ethic, and approach as a business leader; “When you’re passionate about something you want to keep going. Nothing’s ever good enough”.
As an aspiring business leader in this industry, I couldn’t help but feel a little awed after hearing her speak, and her unwavering passion for her brand was more than a little infectious. Whatever happens in my career, it’s good to know that hard work will get you somewhere, but at the same time, it’s being business savvy and having a clear understanding of your brand and industry that will set you apart.
Alumnus of the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School