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I’ve always had a flair for fashion. I love the feeling of having my clothes be a part of my personal expression in the world. As business women and entrepreneurs who mostly work from home, it’s easy to lose the significance of looking and feeling beautiful. After years of working at my dining room table 5 days a week, sporting yoga clothes sans makeup, I’ve returned to allowing myself to feel fabulous and glamorous on a daily basis. It’s just what feels good to me.

gina-fleurI’ve accepted that style and beauty is part of who I am, and so I’ve found that playing with fashion is an enjoyable and creative part of my everyday. I had been so focused on business for so many years that my personal creativity ended up on the back burner in my life. Now more fully aligned with my purpose, I’m bringing it forward through my love of fashion.

So naturally as a style-minded entrepreneur I’ve always dreamed of having my own clothing line. When I first arrived in Sydney, I told my best Aussie girlfriend and celebrity coach Grace Gedeon that I was starting this magazine, and her immediate reaction was, “You must meet Fleur Wood—one of the biggest names in Australian fashion!” What a fabulous idea, I thought, so the three of us went out for the most delightful lunch at Otto.

I loved getting know Fleur, who is a woman with a vision. Much more than a fashion designer—she’s a full-on lifestyle brand. Her book, Food, Fashion & Friends, which gives readers an intimate peak into her chic dinner parties, has become an international bestseller, and in recent years she’s expanded her line to include intimates and housewares. Her delicate, feminine, yet easy-going aesthetic has earned her fans like Nicole Kidman, Cameron Diaz, and Kate Hudson to name a few, and we can only guess at what the fearless entrepreneur might do next.

Re-inspired to start my own clothing line, I thought it would be the perfect time to hop on the phone with Fleur for an industry insider download. In our Q&A below, Fleur shares her story and her advice for those looking to break into one of the world’s most challenging and alluring industries.

 

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Tell me about yourself. How did you first get started as a fashion designer?
Fleur: Well I always loved fashion—I used to dress my mum and my aunties. However, I never really had a clear vision that I wanted to be a fashion designer. I started out in retail sales, and then I worked in marketing. In my early twenties, still without a clear idea of what I really wanted to do, I went to India, for a kind of cliched search for myself. I lived there for two years, and it was a pretty transformative time. I ended up starting a company that imported textiles and shawls from India to Australia, right around the time when Pashminas were in style. From there, my love of fashion emerged, and I started designing a small collection. My first in 2000 was just four slip dresses in different colors. Year by year it grew organically into a full-fledged fashion label. I didn’t start with a five-year business plan or anything like that.

fleur-1

It is so refreshing to hear that! As an aspiring designer myself, I find that anytime I mention starting my own line to someone in the industry, they always try to persuade me against it. “It’s so hard! It’s so expensive! Clothing lines fail more often than restaurants do!” However, the way you just described it, it actually sounds simple and doable.
Fleur: Well, I think it depends where you are in your life. There’s a lot of truth in the things you’ve heard—it is a really tough industry, and I think it’s even harder now then when I started 15 years ago.

And, there’s a lot to be said for naïveté. I was 25, I didn’t have anything to lose. And when you don’t know what you don’t know—there’s a certain grace in that. I think that’s what carried me through.
I know what you mean. Though age aside, I think it’s important to continue to tap into that naïveté in any creative endeavor. Having gone through the process of growing organically over 15 years, do you wish you had grown faster or slower?
Fleur: I started small. I sketched four styles—and I’m a terrible sketcher—and I worked with factories to make them. As my business evolved, I brought on specialists. I have no technical background or formal training, so I always needed strong garment technicians. As my business grew, my team included illustrators and design assistants. Every company and every designer works differently, but without a doubt any collection you see on a
Fleur: Probably faster, to be honest. I was always self-funded, I started with $10,000 in my dad’s garage, so there were limits to how fast I could grow. I see how there can be a lot of benefit in having a big investor, but of course if the partnership doesn’t work out that can have terrible consequences for everyone involved.

Something I think people don’t realize about the fashion industry is how much of the process the designer is actually involved in.
When you first started your collection, how much were you able to do yourself, and what did you need to hire others to help with?

fleur-2

runway, or hanging in a store, was created by a team. The bigger the label, the bigger the team. In fashion there’s no one who works in isolation, that’s for sure.

fleur-3

What is your favorite part about working as a fashion designer? The biggest reward?
Fleur: There’s nothing quite like that feeling of seeing something in your mind and then seeing it come to life. That process is I think what
sustains us through the hard times. When I see my clothes in magazines, or better yet, on a great-looking girl walking down the street, that is such a thrill! That always makes my day—because that’s what it’s all about—making women feel good.

I love that. It’s wonderful to see how you’ve also been expressing that through your gorgeous books!
Fleur: Yes, creating the books has really been a career highlight for me. I love fashion, but it can be quite one-dimensional. It’s so exciting to work in a different medium, a different outlet, and the books encompassed food, writing, and styling—such a pleasure to work on.

So what advice do you have for an aspiring fashion designer, or for any woman entrepreneur?
Fleur: In any creative endeavor, first it’s important to make sure you develop a really strong brand. You have to find your niche, your perspective, and make sure that it’s really fresh and original to you. Then, to have a successful business, it becomes about finding the right team, trusting your team to execute your vision, knowing when to step in and knowing when to stand back. Team management is really what that the job becomes about.

Learn More about Fleur and her Fabulous style by visiting fleurwood.com

gina-shopping

Tell me about yourself. How did you first get started as a fashion designer?
Fleur: Well I always loved fashion—I used to dress my mum and my aunties. However, I never really had a clear vision that I wanted to be a fashion designer. I started out in retail sales, and then I worked in marketing. In my early twenties, still without a clear idea of what I really wanted to do, I went to India, for a kind of cliched search for myself. I lived there for two years, and it was a pretty transformative time. I ended up starting a company that imported textiles and shawls from India to Australia, right around the time when Pashminas were in style. From there, my love of fashion emerged, and I started designing a small collection. My first in 2000 was just four slip dresses in different colors. Year by year it grew organically into a full-fledged fashion label. I didn’t start with a five-year business plan or anything like that.

fleur-1

It is so refreshing to hear that! As an aspiring designer myself, I find that anytime I mention starting my own line to someone in the industry, they always try to persuade me against it. “It’s so hard! It’s so expensive! Clothing lines fail more often than restaurants do!” However, the way you just described it, it actually sounds simple and doable.
Fleur: Well, I think it depends where you are in your life. There’s a lot of truth in the things you’ve heard—it is a really tough industry, and I think it’s even harder now then when I started 15 years ago.

And, there’s a lot to be said for naïveté. I was 25, I didn’t have anything to lose. And when you don’t know what you don’t know—there’s a certain grace in that. I think that’s what carried me through.
I know what you mean. Though age aside, I think it’s important to continue to tap into that naïveté in any creative endeavor. Having gone through the process of growing organically over 15 years, do you wish you had grown faster or slower?

Fleur: Probably faster, to be honest. I was always self-funded, I started with $10,000 in my dad’s garage, so there were limits to how fast I could grow. I see how there can be a lot of benefit in having a big investor, but of course if the partnership doesn’t work out that can have terrible consequences for everyone involved.

Something I think people don’t realize about the fashion industry is how much of the process the designer is actually involved in. When you first started your collection, how much were you able to do yourself, and what did you need to hire others to help with?

fleur-2

Fleur: I started small. I sketched four styles—and I’m a terrible sketcher—and I worked with factories to make them. As my business evolved, I brought on specialists. I have no technical background or formal training, so I always needed strong garment technicians. As my business grew, my team included illustrators and design assistants. Every company and every designer works differently, but without a doubt any collection you see on a runway, or hanging in a store, was created by a team. The bigger the label, the bigger the team. In fashion there’s no one who works in isolation, that’s for sure.

fleur-3

What is your favorite part about working as a fashion designer? The biggest reward?
Fleur: There’s nothing quite like that feeling of seeing something in your mind and then seeing it come to life. That process is I think what sustains us through the hard times. When I see my clothes in magazines, or better yet, on a great-looking girl walking down the street, that is such a thrill! That always makes my day—because that’s what it’s all about—making women feel good.

I love that. It’s wonderful to see how you’ve also been expressing that through your gorgeous books!
Fleur: Yes, creating the books has really been a career highlight for me. I love fashion, but it can be quite one-dimensional. It’s so exciting to work in a different medium, a different outlet, and the books encompassed food, writing, and styling—such a pleasure to work on.

So what advice do you have for an aspiring fashion designer, or for any woman entrepreneur?
Fleur: In any creative endeavor, first it’s important to make sure you develop a really strong brand. You have to find your niche, your perspective, and make sure that it’s really fresh and original to you. Then, to have a successful business, it becomes about finding the right team, trusting your team to execute your vision, knowing when to step in and knowing when to stand back. Team management is really what that the job becomes about.

Learn More about Fleur and her Fabulous style by visiting fleurwood.com

gina-shopping

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