Kathryn Lee is a new kid on the boutique block – but she’s got the experience to back it up.
You’ve recently launched your own boutique. What was your previous experience in the industry before broaching out into physical retail?
I’ve been in fashion and beauty in various ways since leaving high school in Melbourne, where I was a hair and makeup artist for many years. I grew up in a horse racing family and was always involved in the racing community. I loved fashions on the field and made custom millinery for myself and friends. In 2008, I moved to Chicago, where I met my husband, and started an image consulting and personal styling business called CHIC Chicago Image Consultants from 2008 to 2014.
After that we moved to Sydney and started an online store called DBK Jewels featuring big, bold statement jewellery and accessories. I continued to make make my custom millinery headpieces and sold them on the website and through Etsy.
What was the most challenging process in setting up the boutique?
Starting any new business is challenging and very daunting, and this was definitely the most daunting thing I have ever done. But the most challenging process of setting up the boutique was actually the up-front work of figuring out what our demographic is, if the location would support a high fashion boutique, and all the numbers to make sure it makes money!
What was the most rewarding?
Certainly the most rewarding part of opening a boutique is the feedback and appreciation from my clients and the local community. It’s so nice to be part of a neighbourhood that supports you, encourages you to succeed, and loves what you bring to their community.
What are the key strategies that you’re finding successful in building sales?
There are so many details about building a business, but I find that focusing on my client and giving them what they need has been paying off. I have many lovely repeat customers that know I can find them the perfect outfit or gift, no matter the occasion.
With so much competition in the market, do you think customers are still hungry to find unique designer products?
I think people are shopping so much smarter these days. They can find almost anything online. Even though I have most of my stock online as well, it’s about more than the price or the product, but rather the experience. My boutique customers come in for the experience of a beautiful store, filled with amazing fashion and jewellery. It’s an escape into a fantasy boudoir, and they get to take a little bit a it home with them.
What are some of the brands you stock?
I have experimented with a few brands, but all my fashions are from Australian labels. I stock Bronx & Banco, Mossman, Prem the Label, Runaway, Ministry of Style, my own jewellery and accessories line, DBK Jewels, and my custom, handmade headwear, crowns, and headbands.
What do you look for when looking for labels?
I look for labels that align with our business vision. Beautiful, unique and affordable. I make sure they source quality fabrics and their collections suit all ages and women with all body types. I want to dress confident women and the labels need to reflect that.
What’s ahead for the boutique here?
We are in the very early stages, we’ve only been open five months! We are constantly learning and growing, and what we are doing today will not necessarily be what we are doing in three months time. I’m love being creative and pour myself into the millinery, crowns and headbands. I hope more women find and love what I do. Our model and vision will remain the same, but our content will always grow and evolve to suit our customer — we put them first! We want customers of Love Lee Boutique to know that style is attainable for everybody.