My collections are in an annual cycle.
In January I start designing next years collection at the same time that this years collection is just arriving in the warehouse.
From February to May the design process is ongoing. At first I am slow and overwhelmed. I call some of my most honest retailers and speak to them. What worked? What didn't work? What are their customers buying?
I love this photo I found on my phone of myself.... I was taking this photo of myself in the mirror to send to someone for their opinion, the conversation was "what do you think of this dress, in this print? Should I make the shells small or big?"
You get the idea?
I do a lot of social media posts asking you guys for suggestions and a wish list of what you would like next. My tribe of island friends have been with me long time now and they are always eager to email me with suggestions. I love that.
Sometimes I feel that because I live DOWN UNDER on the other side of the planet to most of my customers, I feel like I am perhaps a little outa-touch, but actually I think its an advantage because I am not exposed to what my competitors are doing. I am on my own little planet over here, designing things for the tropics from my little stone cottage surrounded by the palm tree's I planted myself. Regular beach walks with the kids to keep myself grounded.
So while I am gathering thoughts and ideas from island friends afar, the collection slowly starts to take shape in my head.
In February the designs start to trickle out of my head onto paper, but then I start to gain momentum, and by the time it's April/May they are coming in a torrid and I start counting how many tunics do I have, how many dresses do I have now, oh my goodness.... slow down.... too much.... STOP.
I start to calculate warehouse space.... oh my goodness the line is too big. What can I cancel? But I love it all.
Then I start to calculate cash flow... if the line is too big, I won't have enough $$ to produce it. Remember this is not Corporate America here, this is just little old me... a mother of 3, with a mortgage to pay. Because I am Australian with a US business, no US Banks will loan a foreigner money, and no Australian banks will loan me money for a foreign business.... I gotta actually physically find the $$, and "save up" to go into production every year.
So if I design it, I gotta make sure I got enough money to make it, ship it, and pay up to 16% duty on it.
The bigger the line gets, the less sleep. You get the picture.
June rolls around and the samples & swatches start to arrive. I am opening box after box and unfolding samples of styles I first dreamed up 3 or 4 months ago. YES, the design process is slow going, but at last they are taken from a print on my computer screen to real actual fabric.
I clean off a rack in my studio and start to hang the line up. Little by little it all comes together. Stories emerge, this tee looks cute with those pants, and then add the matching dress & bag to the story.
The colors are bright and at first it all seems kinda random, but once you see it all on the rail it all works together.
The last week of June, the studio is in chaos. It is RANGE WEEK. I am ironing, photographing, doing costings, sketches, line sheets, order forms. Checking the fit of the garments and making instructions for pattern alterations. All the final touches before SHOW DAY.
I start to pack the line into my luggage. Each style comes in 2 different color options, so I pack one of each color into each suitcase. I am thinking, if the airline loses one of my bags on the way to Miami, I will at least still have one of each item. Can you imagine travelling all that way and the luggage is lost and you have no samples to show??? I don't even want to think about that!
So July rolls around, and I fly out of Australia to Miami USA for Swim Week. A 30 hour journey, with sporadic jet lagged sleep and then off to the convention centre to climb a ladder, hang banners, build a booth.
I love this sneaky photo I took of a couple of guys wheeling racks into "W South Beach" during Swim Week.
The show days are a blur. Boutique buyers pop in. Some new, some old friends who have bought WIW for many years. I love the shows mostly because I get to catch up with old friends, but I also love showing the new line. The results of my last 6 months labour.
I find it really interesting to gauge the buyers responses. Some buyers give me honest opinions (I love that - SO helpful) and some of them smile and nod at everything. I like to think I am pretty good at reading their responses. Of course some buyers have a boutique that is geared to younger beach goers, so they like completely different things to the Coastal boutique that is geared towards older ladies.
After the show I might make a few changes if there is something that most of the buyers don't like, sometimes I cancel styles, sometimes I change the colorways... their feedback is invaluable.
Next I place the orders with the factory in early August, and then I wait. It takes them 2 months to get the fabric made, printed and dyed.
It takes 30-60 days to have all the garments cut & sewn.
November means the garments should be shipping and if all goes well we will have it in the Tennessee warehouse in December. That shipping stage is a little outa my control. Ships get delayed by storms, sometimes they can't offload on arrival because of dock disputes, sometimes my garments are in the last container to be offloaded, or perhaps it is our container which is randomly selected by US customs to be inspected. Anything can happen, and I have no control. It's very hard to be able to say to you guys "this style will be available to ship by 1st December" PRECISELY. All I can do is try to build in some extra time and hope for the best.
DECEMBER: The new collection finally arrives and we are ready to ship to our Caribbean stores who are getting ready for their high season. Stocking up their boutiques, re-doing their displays, getting ready for the millions of snow-birds who fly south in the middle of winter for some sunshine & island love.
And so it's January again, time to think of another new collection.... oh dear, that initial overwhelming feeling all over again. My design assistant Gypsy is a little lazy too, all she does is lie around the studio all day, waiting for her kids to get home from school to play with her!
Thank goodness for my tribe of loyal island friends, who inspire me all over again. Thank you guys x
Right now it is RANGE WEEK, my design studio is messy and bustling. My daughter and I created a new video of us in the studio this week, trying to get organized for my trip. Click here to watch it. The styles shown in this video will be available to ship to you guys from December 2019. Exciting !