Feature

Working the networking craze

With myPetsQuare and sQ spring summer 09/10 ranges set to land in stores any minute now, label founders Angelique May-Bennett and Vicki Lee are celebrating the brands’ standout growth and first time foray into the US market. Fashion Exposed Online talks retail, web-based social networking and tropical getaways with the dynamic duo.

Vicki_Lee_and_Angelique_May-Bennett Vicki Lee and Angelique May-Bennett

Contrasting backgrounds have created an invaluable balance in Vicki Lee and Angelique May-Bennett’s partnership. Lee, 28, an ex-lawyer, left being a legal eagle to follow her passion for fashion while May-Bennett, 37, boasts a background of modelling, styling and fashion management, between New York and Sydney.

Tell us about your labels

Formed in September 2007, myPetsQuare has found its home with the cool kids of Sydney’s Surry Hills and similar fashion addicts everywhere. Offbeat and quirky, with different and contradicting fabric choices and personalised prints, myPetsQuare styles often find themselves ahead of fashion movements.  The name is symbolic of a little square that is like a young adult, not quite sure where he or she is in the world but willing to experiment, travel and learn more in order to know itself better. The square is also symbolic of thinking outside the square, not conforming to stereotypes.

sQ, our second label, launched in August 2008, incorporates high end fabrics, including fine silks and organzas and extensive detailing. sQ’s first collection ‘Pyphoria, The Velvet Cherry and The Ectoplasmic manor’ for Winter 08, adopted as its themes Robert Browning poem Porphyria’s Lover, David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and a haunted mansion. Meanwhile, fancy hats and the glamour of an 80s pool party or a mansion in the Hamptons, New York, inspire the latest collection.

myPetsQuare_SS0910_w250What gap in the market do your labels fill?
Stores and customers buy from our labels because we create styles that are not mass market, they know that each season is limited and exclusive; once it’s sold, the item is never repeated. Our prints are all made in house, and the hand screen printing also maintains the unique quality of each garment.

What’s your approach to distribution?
We are very selective with our stores. We need to really like them and imagine that we’d shop there. They also need to be supportive of Australian designers. We have so much talent in Australia, it’s a really exciting and happening time right now for Australian fashion – we are creating a new identity that has moved away from king gees and thongs!

What role has web-based networking played in the business’ growth?
Our first label, myPetsQuare, got popular at the same time that Myspace in Australia got popular. The kids on Myspace are the same as us, so we got internet savvy together, meeting each other and creating our pages, sharing our ideas and showing each other the creative things we can all do.

sQ_SS0910_w250Where is your product manufactured?
We produce in Hong Kong and Bali. The Balinese are artisans of the highest calibre. Everything they do is offered in beauty as its integral in their culture. Plus we get to take time in the tropics!

How has the company weathered the downturn?
Our product is very competitive, so when buyers’ budgets were restricted, they offered us their biggest orders ever. We worked harder to make our product better as soon as we heard about the economic downturn. It was a good excuse for us to evolve and improve, like dusting off a diamond. It made us excel and grow even faster.

Going into summer 09/10 we have 69 stockists; last season – winter 09 – we had 45, the season before that about 32 and our first season about 23, so growth has remained strong and steady despite ups and downs

What are the company’s plans over three to five years?
We receive daily requests for products in the US, so we are opening our door to discussions with a few showrooms and stores there. We have our first US delivery within weeks.

Does the company plan to go into retail?
Vicki comes from a family in retail, so we are definitely planning to go into retail when the time is right.

myPetsQuare All The Way SS0910 collection is available today and sQ Meet Me At The Pool At Midnight SS0910 collection is available early September from selected boutiques nationally and in NZ, the US and online at www.mypetsquare.com

Images: top, myPetsQuare – bottom, sQ.

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