With a background in finance, My Chamelon founder Giselle Farhat is one brainy buyer.
What prompted you to start a designer shopping destination?
In 2007, I was working as a finance manager within the operations arm of a Telco. Although I enjoyed it and had a successful career, it really wasn’t what I could see myself doing for the next five to 10 years. Early on I was traveling to various countries at least twice a year and often brought back new brands for myself that weren’t available in Australia. The accessibility of these international brands in that contemporary, emerging space was non-existent. The online space was still relatively new and there were only a few pure online stores at the time and they were solely focused on Australian brands. For me it was quite obvious, that there was a lack of offering in Australia, when it came to these brands. I felt our market was somewhat missing out on other interpretations of fashion and style.
How did you gain the experience?
During my university days, I worked in a retail store in Double Bay, so I had this sense of how service to a customer could translate into the online space. My Chameleon was born out of this notion, combining premium service and fresh new brands in an online space and this continues to be our fundamental value. It took two years of business planning and once My Chameleon grew I left my finance job.
You support a lot of independent designer brands. What do you look for when buying?
There are clear elements we look for when buying. Brands with a clear point of view that structure on style and beautiful design. Pieces need to catch the eye of our customer and also have a place in their wardrobe for years to come. We look for items that are quintessential and modern, surpassing trends.
What has been the best business decision you ever made?
We have been operating online for almost eight years and choosing this digital platform to present our store was easily the best decision made. Our future strategy includes a physical space, but in a more conceptual way rather than traditional bricks-and-mortar
What are some of the best performing categories?
From a purely fashion view within clothing, tops and pants are strong performers as well as bags and shoes. Fine jewellery is also a great performer as our labels from New York, France and Sweden are sought after.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
Earlier on there were many brands, local and international, that had no online presence and didn’t actually understand the importance of it, often seeing the space as a risk rather than an opportunity. It took a lot of convincing and lengthy conversations to reassure brands that it would be a good decision. My Chameleon can offer a beautiful, clean space to present their brand and give greater market exposure. My Chameleon was the first to stock the likes of Christopher Esber, Gary Bigeni, Therese Rawsthorne and Arnsdorf online. It was a huge step forward for many brands. Now the space is a little different, where in bricks-and-mortar there are more territorial controls on brand placement, online it’s an almost limitless space.
It can be a tough trading climate out there for buyers, what’s your top tip for staying ahead?
Planning and forecasting is key. Reflect on the past but look to what is next, plan your cash-flow and try to keep your costs to a minimum with no wastage.