Friday, 22 July 2011

Interview - Benah Part 2

Brenda with her equally talented partner
Ben Briand 
In Part 1 of my interview with the lovely Brenda Harvey we learnt about her background and what inspired her to start her own label. In Part 2, Brenda tells us about some of the challenges of working in a competitive industry such as fashion.

6. You have chosen to produce your pieces in Australia. Why have you decided to do this, and what are some of the advantages and disadvantages of doing so?
All our leather pieces are 100% Australian Made. This has been a conscience decision from the beginning. Starting off as a small business it is important to set the standard you believe in and be consistent. I have a wonderful relationship with my craftsmen, who hand cut and hand make each bag, belt and so on. 

Having pieces produced in Australia allows me to control the quality, remain exclusive and produce smaller runs for my boutique clients. For me the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. The only thing being that 100% Australian made is reflected in the price, but you get what you pay for. I make it a priority that my pieces are accessible, and that you are getting timeless quality and great customer service. 

That said, I do have pieces that are produced off shore by specialist crafts people that specialize in their fields. All our cashmere is woven in Mongolia by a company that only deals in Cashmere yarn. The Scarves are made in a factory that only produce scarves. They are experts at what they do and this shows in the finished product. I am very quality focused and love seeing the finished product I am proud of.

7. Focusing on the business side of a label is essential to achieving success in a competitive industry such as fashion. What have been some of the major business challenges you have faced since starting your own label?
Everything is challenging when you first start out. But I have been lucky to work in the industry for a number of years so have learnt from others mistakes and gained from some amazing experience. 
Some of the biggest challenges have been stock standard business 101; managing cash flow, sustaining growth, meeting demand. Challenging but overwhelming, things that come hand in hand with being a small business owner. Also having a baby 11 month ago certainly came with its challenges but my little girl Milla makes every day more wonderful so I wouldn’t have it any other way.

8. You have decided to focus on expanding Benah into Europe and America. Why have you chosen to target these particular markets?
Exporting has always been a part of the bigger plan. I think it helps to build brand awareness here in Australia as well as opening you up to a much bigger market. As previously said, with the digital age well and truly here to stay, reaching a global audience is much easier than it use to be. The Benah atheistic seems to resonate with the European and American market so it seems like the logical step. We have also started exporting to Japan this coming season.

9. What do you believe are the major issues facing up-and-coming labels in the fashion industry today?
People have to remember that they are small business owners and that this will take up 90% of their time, the other 10% if you are lucky will be designing. Every business decision that you make in the formative years will impact on how creative you are able to be in the future. Sustaining growth and managing cash flow are basic business skills but can sometimes be overlooked in the creative fields. Believing in what you are doing and having faith in your decision making can be hard when starting out so it is important to have a great support network who believe in the project as much as you do. Australia has some of the best support systems for young designers so if you don’t know how to do something or are just unsure, get an expert into help.

Staying true to your vision and making sure you are customer focused is important. You can produce the most amazing collection in the world but if no one is buying it than you may not be able to produce the next.

If there is one piece of advice I continue to give, it is to always appreciate and respect your staff. Without them, the day to day running of your business would be very very hard. It is easy to lose sight of this when you are all working so hard. But remember, to them it is just a job so give them a reason to make it more than that.

10. What do you have planned for Benah over the next five years?
So many things! Benah has just been signed to an amazing PR agency in LA so the next 5 years should be action packed. Exciting collaborations, bigger collections and more of the same. It makes me excited just thinking about it!
Thank you Brenda for taking the time to give us an insight into the challenges of starting a label. It sounds like Benah has a lot of exciting projects in the works and I look forward to following your success over the coming years and seeing more of your beautiful designs! All the best!

Check out Benah's website here.
Follow Benah on Facebook here.
Follow Benah on Twitter here.
Check out Ben Briand's fantastic work here.

Images courtesy of

1 comment:

  1. Loving the beautiful bags! Looking forward to checking out the new collection!


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