Dawn Harris is a shoe-loving neuroscientist who recently embarked on a complete career change and opened up her own online show boutique. The self confessed `shoentrepreneur’ has faced, and continues to face, an ‘upheel’ battle finding suppliers, cracking the market and getting herself up and running.
Instead of wallowing in her own self-pity, she has decided this is all part of the fun and shares all her trials and tribulations on a personal blog.
We took five with Dawn after her first trade show experience at the recent Australian Shoe Fair in Melbourne.
Tell us about the history behind the brand? When it was first started? Why? and how?
I started the brand in April 2011 but only coming to launch my designs this coming October 2012. I faced many “upheel” battles trying to find suppliers and get myself up and running while also managing a full-time job as a neuroscientist, and getting through rehabilitation for a sprained back which happened late last year. I set-up the company because I realised Australian women didn’t have the same access to reasonably priced, quality fashion shoes as women in the US and Europe.
I have been blogging about my journey since the first “bumps” last year and you can read the tricky, funny and sometimes ridiculous challenges I faced. The first thing I did when I decided to do when I knew I had to pursue my dream of designing shoes and owning a shoe store was to go into Borders Bookstore (which was still open then) and buy a book called “How to Start an Online Business for Dummys”.
That’s literally where it all began and after countless networking and professional development events, courses etc I got to where I am today which is with uniquely designed, quality products, made from European leather, about to arrive into the country in early October. It’s all very exciting (and scary) for me.
Inspired by my long-term love affair with all things French, the collection is inspired by French feminine chic style. I connect closely with the statement “Fashion appeals to many – but style is individual”, French author Véronique Vienne. Each AGLS style is named after a French city, like St Etienne or province, the Bordeaux. I like to think that when an Aussie girl buys a pair of my shoes, they are kind of buying an overseas experience, without the price tag!
How do you transfer these inspirations into design? Talk us through your design process from drawing board to in-store/online?
I sketch my designs simply with a sketch pad and pencils, using colour and textile swatches provided to me by the manufacturers. They can source accessories for me and I am provided guidance by them on the “engineering” of the shoes, in that, if a design feature I’m after will not translate into a quality, long-lasting shoe they very kindly advise on better modifications to my get close to my desired features.
Can you tell us the story behind the name?
The name is a bit of a play on the “I HEART New York”. It was the first business decision I made and it was made without hesitation, it just felt right!
You showcased the brand at the Melbourne Australian Shoe Fair recently – what was the response to your debut shoe line? And how successful was this trade event for the launch of your brand/exposure/orders etc?
The Trade Fair was an excellent opportunity to meet potential stockists and network with more experienced footwear wholesalers and retailers. I was like a kid in a candy store when I secured my first sale with a boutique in Melbourne.
I’ve made great connections with several companies interested in retailing my collection. It was a really nice validation after a long 18months of hard work getting it to this point.
Initially I had intended to only sell online but I was pleasantly surprised at the level of retailer interest in my debut shoe line so I am adding active sales to boutiques to my business plan.
All AGLS shoes will be available via my online boutique www.aussiegirlsloveshoes.com.aufrom early October 2012. Ladies are invited to visit the website and sign up for the official newsletter, to stay up to date with launch dates and special offers.
My personal blog detailing my journey on becoming a “shoentrepreneur” can be found atwww.shoemusings.wordpress.com