9 Australian designers who defied being told 'you can’t do that' to become successful

Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning. Photo: Getty Images

The countdown to Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival is officially on. With 50 runways, and over 100 designers participating, VAMFF is Australia’s largest fashion event. However, this year, it’s even more exciting. Who What Wear is presenting a runway show with some of the country’s coolest labels—a perfect mix of high-low dressing with a street-style edge, for the very first time.

Who What Wear Publisher Alison Rice, will also be taking part in two of the festival’s seminars. An Evening With: Women in Media, and will be bringing our Career Code series offline, with Who What Wear | Career Code, a conversation about how to build a strategic and stylish career in digital media.

Fitting with the times, this year’s festival aims to focus on innovation and change with a focus on the future of fashion and technology. As recent events have exemplified, breaking through old barriers can be a great catalyst for change. More than that, it’s necessary to challenge the status quo, when it isn’t representative of how we operate—or at least aspire to—in society today.

This year, VAMFF is co-presenting an exhibition at Melbourne Museum titled, “You Can’t Do That“, celebrating moments in the careers of Melbourne fashion figures who proved their mettle. While it may seem condemning at first, it is this mentality that leads us to challenge, question, and eventually overcome the things that stop us from reaching a point where innovation is possible.

Inspired by this idea of taking the concept of turning “can’t” into not only “can” but also “must”, Who What Wear reached out to each of the designers taking part in their show to talk about a time where they were told “you can’t do that”—and how that allowed them to get to where they are today.

Keep reading to feel inspired by their resilience, passion, and drive.

Isabelle Quinn — Creative director, Isabelle Quinn

Photo: Isabelle Quinn

Starting a business at the age of 23 years old with no experience in fashion design, I had a lot of people question me. ‘But you studied a bachelor of business and not fashion? How will you do that with no experience? Shouldn’t you do something more practical?’ At a time I should have had support, I was told ‘you can’t do that’. My mum taught me to believe that anything is possible, true determination and not taking no for an answer. Two years in, I have a fully functional online business which I wholesale to stores around the world, four staff working for me, great digital influencer partnerships and press coverage. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to show at both Virgin Melbourne Australia Fashion Festival and Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia. Although I was told I couldn’t do it, I did. I accomplished what I set out to start and can’t wait to keep growing my business.

Pip Edwards & Claire Tregoning — Co-founders and creative directors, P.E Nation

Photo: P.E Nation

Pip Edwards:

Throughout my entire career there has been an element of feeling a little incompetent—be it from peers or bosses—there was just an underlying voice that I didn’t know what I was doing. I knew that to get past that, I needed to learn more. To understand systems and processes and to work within different companies to fully get a grasp on the industry. In every role I’ve had, I learnt everything I could and when we launched P.E Nation I not only felt I knew the market but I understood business and the fashion industry and I was able to approach it in my own way.

Claire Tregoning:

I was once asked by a recruiter what my dream role would be and when I told her creative director, she laughed at me. At the time, I was working as a fashion designer but as I was specialising in specific areas, she decided I’d never be able to do anything else. It’s incredible to think how others can really affect you. That response could have really changed things for me, instead, it made me want it even more. I hope that recruiter knows I am now the Co-Founder and Creative Director of a global fashion brand.

Bec Cooper & Bridget Yorston — Co-founders, Bec & Bridge

Photo: Bec & Bridge

When Bridge and I first started out and we were trying to find manufacturers in Sydney we met one lady who sat us down and told us to quit now and that we would never make it. She said we were two young girls and we had no idea how tough the fashion industry is.

It’s so important to have resilience and make sure you keep self-motivated when you face criticism and negativity.

Lois Mcgruer-Fraser — Founder and designer, Lois Hazel

Photo: Lois Hazel

When starting out the brand, I knew I wanted to run an honest, real, and transparent business. I wanted to keep all production on shore, offer an honest price and provide my consumers with a product that was well designed, detailed and unique. One of the ways in which I can achieve this is through producing my pieces right here in Australia. I have been told multiple times that when I grow, or if I want to make a profit I have to go off-shore, that the fashion industry is dying here in Australia and there is no point trying to keep in alive. To that I say ‘no’. I am going to keep producing here in Australia, I have been for the last two years and in that time I have seem my business grow, I have seen factories getting busier and busier, and have to book some makers in months in advance or they won’t have the time to get my pieces done.

Roni Cross — Founder and designer, Kaliver

Photo: Kaliver

One of the most memorable times I have been told, ‘you can’t do that’, since starting Kaliver was when I first started operations, and no sales agency’s would represent Kaliver because we weren’t an established brand yet, so we took it upon ourselves and opened our own flagship store.

Jody Feldhofer and Jess Cadby — Co-founders, Nice Martin

Photo: Nice MartinPlease note: This is a campaign image, not an image of Feldhofer and Cadby.

We both have never felt external pressure of people saying “you can’t do that”. For both of us, the times we have felt we couldn’t do something came from our own self doubt. When we met each other, it was a time in both of our lives where we wanted to do something but didn’t feel like we could. Meeting each other and creating Nice Martin has brought out the best in both of us and really created a sense of achievement and ongoing self belief.

If you’re interested in attending VAMFF, and seeing these designers’ creations on our runway, click here to buy tickets to our show.

This article first appeared at WhoWhatWear Australia. See the original here.


Editor’s Note: Who What Wear and Business Insider are published by Allure Media, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fairfax Media.


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