With Australian fashion lighting up international runways we listen to you, our fashionista readers, and are spending time with inspiring local designers to find out what's really involved in having your own Australian label and what's coming up. So come meet Lisa Barron, Melbourne based fashion designer with a real passion for creativity and originality.
Tell us a little about yourself, what’s the day to day life like for a small business owner of Lisa Barron?
Small business is certainly exciting, as with many SME’s you wear many hats often at the same time. I am a very hands on member of the team and on any day I could be cutting samples, meeting with factories, on the shop floor consulting with customers, measuring for special orders, brainstorming window displays, the list goes on.
What inspires you, that encourages you to reach out and make things happen?
Being creative, I love the fact that one minute there is nothing and six months later there is a beautiful collection created by a very talented team of fashion artisans. The process of fabric selection, the direction of a new collection, the trialing and sampling of a new idea that leads to more ideas is amazing to me.
You obviously have a passion for fashion, what inspires you about fashion? What makes your heart sing?
A little of the above but probably most rewarding is the time spent on the shop floor and the joy a beautiful, well cut outfit can give to a woman. Beautiful fabric is also a great inspiration. It takes a lot of sourcing and viewing 1000’s of headers to find the right mix. Fabric is the draw card and it needs to have longevity and quality and above all be the right fabric for the right garment.
What do you think fashion should do for a woman?
Fashion should enhance, never overtake. It should always flatter her and here lies the importance of the personalised service that is hard to find in many stores and impossible to find on-line. The choices she makes need to work for her lifestyle and needs. It should be one of those joys in life when you have made a decision to purchase a designer dress.
When did you decide to take the plunge and start your own business?
I hadn’t quite finished my fashion course in Perth when I decided I was ready to not only jump in the deep end but on the other side of the country. So in late 1982/83 I arrived with my portable sewing machine, $500 and a car. I set up a workroom in the garage at the back of the flat I was renting and so the label was born.
What industry or government resources have you found to be really supportive as a small business owner?
I have found the Victorian State Government to be very supportive of the fashion industry over the many years I have been established, such as the initiatives of LÓreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. I have been invited to participate in every festival since it began. This has been a great honour for me.
Fashion is a wonderful drawcard to a city for tourists and then they travel around to see our wonderful regional areas. The State Government understands this but also in funding these events they are supporting the industry very broadly from young emerging designers to established names. The City of Melbourne also supports the arts to a large extent and the growth of MSFW is also of huge benefit to the industry.
What do you enjoy most about the running Lisa Barron Label?
Teamwork and camaraderie are very important to me. Firstly Max, my husband and partner have worked together in the business for nearly 30 years, decisions and directions are done together. Our design room team is talented and passionate. Kerith Barnett is our production manager and RMIT graduate and has been in this role since graduating for five years. She has become an invaluable member of the team and extremely multi-skilled.
Our sample machinist Ippolita Raschilla has been with us for 15 years and has hands of magic. There would not be collections without her.
Our retail staff provide outstanding service and many have fashion backgrounds to enhance their product knowledge. It is this team with the goal of producing and selling the best collections we can that keeps us all inspired.
What’s been the hardest part or experience you’re had since starting the business?
As a proudly made in Australia label, which is not easy at the best of times, the hardest thing as business owner is to have decisions made that affect your industry by governments (current) and their sidekicks who have never had to run a business.
Decisions such as the new amendments to the clothing award which has restricted home based businesses being contracted and providing invoices has created huge problems for many law abiding small home based businesses.
This was done all in the name of “doing good” and stopping exploitation of workers but it has affected many non exploited workers also. With the current changes to the national clothing industry act, I am yet to see the good, I have only heard and seen confusion, disbelief, mountains of paperwork and our poor emerging designers’ who will never start in a garage like I did because of the bureaucratic complexities now involved on a national level, such as trying to grapple with the idea of employing staff from the get go.
What are the hopes and plans for Lisa Barron this year?
To rekindle that garage creativity. There are many pressures on small business these days and you can get caught up trying to do everything. Websites, online, Facebook, Twitter.
So many more tricks you need to stay in the focus and often the core of a fashion business can become less specific.
Yes, all the new technology has an important place but design, quality, originality and fit are paramount. So I plan to focus on delivering a beautiful and creative Australian made label worthy of 30 years of experience.
What would be your top 5 tips you’d give to someone starting out?
1. Love what you do enough to ride the good and bad times
2. Specialise, know your niche, don’t do everything
3. Surround yourself with great people
4. Be realistic, don’t do every show if you cant afford to
5. Look at your product thru your customers eyes