The Australian fashion industry has had its fair share of negative media reports this year. The demise of several iconic and successful labels has rocked the sector to its core.
But the shining light breaking through this black cloud is TALULAH and designer Kelli Wharton is in the midst of celebrating the brand’s 10th anniversary year.
Since 2005, TALULAH has quickly grown to become one of Australia’s most loved and successful designer fashion and lifestyle brands boasting over 400 wholesale accounts globally including David Jones department stores, ASOS, Shop Bop, Neiman Marcus and specialty boutiques, and they also ship internationally through their luxury eBoutique talulah.com.au
The TALULAH signature design aesthetic of structured silk party dresses and floral prints has won over fashion fans both here and internationally including global buyers, bloggers and celebrities. In 2013 TALULAH premiered its youth fashion line ISLA, followed by the release of TALULAH swim and resort, showcased at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia.
“Our brand has something for everyone, and with five collections a year, TALULAH can also be worn all year round,” said Kelli. “I believe our brand resonates well with its customers due to the diversity of styles in each collection, our beautiful range of prints and colourways that are unique to our brand, our accessibility and each products high quality in design, fabric and production, making an investment pieces that women can hold on to.”
We took five with Kelli before her Fashion Exposed Business Case Study to chat about her career, the cheers and the challenges; how the industry has changed since she started; and her advice for young designers starting out in fashion today.
Since TALULAH launched in 2005, you’ve enjoyed a successful career in fashion that spans over 9 years, this is considered a long time in fashion today – what do you attribute to your success?
Hard work, creativity and a great team. I do what I love and I think through that you can achieve anything you apply yourself to.
There must have been many highlights, can you share a few with us?
Launching our TALULAH Swim & Resort collection at MBFWA last year was definitely a recent favourite of mine. The new collection resonated well with industry buyers – including ASOS, our fashion week guests, Ambassadors and retailers. The show was a successful combination of colour, talent, music, design and print which inspired not only our TALULAH team, but women nationally and across the globe.
With the highs there are always the lows too, can you share some of these moments and what you learned through this experience?
There are always challenges when you run your own business – but this is part of the experience that I love, as through these challenges and formulating their solutions my team and I grow.
I started the business when I was still young and one of the challenges I faced early on in the beginning of TALULAH – and still do to this day – is balancing family life as a new mum with a fast growing business, team and product. I am lucky to have a supporting husband and family, and a great team of talent around me to keep the business going when I take time out of designing and running the business to spend time with my children.
You are based in Byron Bay, how does this landscape inspire your designs and business philosophy?
Byron Bay is a great part of our lifestyle here at TALULAH, which builds into our designs and our brand philosophy. Byron Bay is a beautiful landscape to draw inspiration from. It also helps my team and I live our brand philosophies of a balanced and healthy lifestyle that holds strong elements of creativity that we demonstrate daily through our work, interests and personal time.
We believe in inspiring our customers to also live this lifestyle of creativity, confidence and elegantly spirited. And this lifestyle can be achieved by any woman, all around the world, not just in Byron Bay.
Talulah Romancing the Stone Spring 2014 Collection
TALULAH has made a corporate social responsibility to maintain ethical practice in production, sourcing, safety and labour – why was this so important to both you and your customers?
Our Corporate Social Responsibility is important to our team, our customers and the TALULAH Brand. We can produce beautiful collections, but need to ensure these are done in a fair and safe way to communicate to the industry and our customers that we can continue as successful business, by operating in the right way.
Many media reports highlight how challenging it is for retailers today, what are your thoughts on this? Having been through the ups and downs of retail over the years as a designer, does it feel different now than before? How? Why?
The fashion industry changes every day, even every hour. I think having the ability to move and adapt with changes is the best practice for any fashion business. At TALULAH we are open to new ways of doing things and adapt when challenges present themselves. I think being flexible to the new, while remaining true to yourself and the brand is the balance that works.
I am lucky enough to work with a team of people who also have this mindset and this work ethic has shown to be successful through TALULAH’s continued growth over the last ten years.
You are a both wholesaler and a retailer with your own online store – do you think this is the way of the future for designers? Is success in the mix, that being a combination of bricks-and-mortar and online?
We have found this mix to work for our business, brands and customers. I definitely believe today as a brand you need to be accessible through all channels; bricks-and-mortar, digital and social, as today’s customers shops across all of these platforms.
You will present your business case study at Fashion Exposed, what can visitors expect from your presentation?
I will share our TALULAH Heritage, my own career story, how we operate as a business and the new TALULAH Lifestyle campaign that we have launched to customers in line with our new Spring/Summer collection, to encourage women around the world to be creative, confident and free.
Your career in fashion kicked off in 2000, when you think back to that time, how much has changed? If you could go back, what advice would you give yourself?
I have enjoyed my career and journey and when I look back there is nothing that I would change as I have grown through all experiences as I built up the TALULAH brands. My advice to those wanting to start their career in fashion would be that you can do anything in life, as long as you apply yourself and work hard at it daily. Never give up and never take no for an answer.
I would suggest working for a fashion company you like so you can learn what actually happens within a fashion business day to day. Find out what area you enjoy, whether it be PR, marketing, designing, production, accounts. As there are many sides to the business of fashion you can be part of. When applying for jobs, have a can-do attitude so you can get involved in many parts of the business and have the opportunity to grow and explore.
TALULAH has quickly blossomed to become one of Australia’s most loved designer fashion and lifestyle brands, celebrating its tenth anniversary year. Kelli, Creative Director and Founder speaks candidly about Talulah’s inception and development.
Learn about how Talulah has expanded through difficult economic times and how other fashion businesses can start-up and build on their success.
For more information and to book for this session, visit fashionexposed.com