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Australian Fashion Labels on growth path despite tough economic times


A South Australian fashion house is bucking a downward industry trend by not following the traditional seasonal buying cycle of the fashion industry.

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Instead of seasonal releases, each of the Australian Fashion Labels ’ three brands release eleven ranges annually each featuring 100 pieces.

According to Dean and Melanie Flintoft, the husband and wife team who started the Adelaide-based company in 2007 and took it international in 2011, the change is largely a response to how retailers like Zara have trained customers to expect new stock every time they go in store or online.

With such frequent collections Dean says the manufacturing processes have changed as they have grown.

“We now have a full time team in China and a fittings team in Adelaide, most of our product is made in China, a little in Adelaide, and some leather pieces are out of Indonesia,” he says.

They have more than 50 staff working in their 1,600 square-metres hub in Adelaide’s CBD. Staff work across design, fittings, logistics, PR, photography, set design and online retail departments, to supply 3,000 stores around the world.

Current labels Cameo, Finders Keepers and Keepsake bring in equal turnover for the business.  Cameo is being presented today at Sydney Fashion Week. They are also set to welcome Jaggar and The Fifth to their stable of brands.  All the brands service a different style and look but target the same young demographic.

New labels for the company spawn from conversations Melanie has with international retailers who she works with closely to identify gaps in the market.

Australian Fashion Labels' Cameo catwalk show

Australian Fashion Labels first bricks-and-mortar store, BNKR, opens in Rundle Mall in downtown Adelaide next week. The opening is the first of a series of stores to open in major cities around the world.

Sydney is next and there are stores planned for Los Angeles, New York, Berlin and London not far behind.

“The flagship stores will be rolled out gradually,” says Dean. “It is not a retail chain but is about branding and selling a lifestyle, and showing customers the vision of each brand rather than just a snapshot of what other people buy in department stores and boutiques.”

Their online offering, “Fashion Bunker”, was borne out of customers not paying their bills.

“We needed to clear stock and support cash flow,” says Dean. “It has now turned into a business of its own and it is going very well.”

Running a fashion business out of Adelaide has its advantages, according to Dean. He says being based in a regional city allows them to focus on their own business rather than looking over their shoulders at what everyone else is doing in the industry.

“The good thing about being one of the only fashion businesses in Adelaide is we get to retain our staff,” says Dean. “If we were in Sydney or Melbourne it would be easier for them to be poached.”

“We often do strange things like employ people without a lot of experience but lots of vision.” 

The company shares a tight relationship with the Adelaide Fashion TAFE, with 15 staff, including Melanie, having studied at the vocational school.

It is certainly no coincidence that their office backs onto the grounds of the school. All third-year fashion students also work in the Australian Fashion Labels business as part of their course syllabus.

“We often do strange things like employ people without a lot of experience but lots of vision,” Melanie says.

“Finding talented people is not that easy, you can of course train staff but you can not teach talent, we find talented people and put them in roles and teach them the rest of the business,” says Dean.

The Australian Fashion Labels’ business operates full in-house teams including design, fittings, logistics, PR, photography, set design and online retail departments, remaining major drivers of the state’s fashion industry. 

Australian Fashion Labels' Creative and Managing Directors Melanie and Dean Flintoft

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