Carly Brown On Building A Sell Out Brand Before You Launch
We talk swimwear, motherhood, summer in europe and how to build a successful fashion business with Aussie entrepreneur Carly Brown...
Sunshine Coast girl turned global business Entrepenuer, Carly Brown knows what women want, which is why she created fashion label, UNE PIECE. Here we talk swimwear, motherhood, summer in europe and how to build a successful business.
How was UNE PIECE born? Do you remember the moment you decided to design a swimwear range? How did it go down?
The idea of a ‘One Piece’ (i.e. UNE PIECE) swimwear label came from my time living in Europe. I spent most of my twenties living and working in the UK. In Europe women don’t just exclusively wear bikinis - they have a ‘repertoire’ of swimwear they take on holidays - which almost always includes at least one staple one piece. It often takes them from day into night.
When I started designing the range I talked to so many Australian women about what they wanted in a One Piece. One theme that kept coming up was the issue of the Australian sun and how so many women are wearing rash vests which they thought were daggy and unflattering. So I took that as a challenge to see if I could created something truly beautiful in a one piece - and voila - the Original Sexie Rashie was born.
You have worked with some massive companies during your career – how did this background help you make the leap into launching your own fashion label?
I have had 14 years experience working with brands such as UBER, Revlon and Coca Cola. My background in marketing means that I don’t rest until we give the consumer the absolute best product possible.
I also think my marketing background means, that from the very start of the journey, I defined a very clear vision for the brand and also knew exactly ‘why’ I started UNE PIECE. Remaining true to that vision has helped it gather the affection and momentum it has.
I’ve got a strong background in product development and innovation, so I’m always looking for the next thing to push the brand forward and remain relevant.
You literally had a waitlist of 500 people for your first collection and sold out within your first week of going on sale – how did you create that momentum? What are your tips for making a big splash when launching a product?
I did extensive consumer research with lots and lots of women when developing the range. As I was researching people kept asking me when they could buy it. So I started a waitlist, and when it hit 30 people I thought - I’m going to put this online. More people heard about it and more signed up. When we hit live on the online store there was a bit of a frenzy to buy as people had been waiting for it!
You recently had a baby boy – how do you find the motherhood / business owner juggle?
I think the beauty of being your own boss is that it affords you a level of flexiblity which is difficult to find in the workplace. While it is a juggle, all women face the challenge of figuring out how to achieve a level of balance between work, family and staying healthy.
But the saying - ‘do what you love and you will never work another day of your life’ is the truth. I love what I do.
The rag trade is a notoriously tough business - what are some of the challenges you have faced to date and how have you overcome them?
Navigating the ins-and-outs of a new industry is always going to have its challenges. I have sought out and surrounded myself with great mentors who have skills that I don’t and that can help when I hit any challenges.
The one piece is really enjoying a fashion moment – but when you launched did you have second thoughts how it would fare to its sexier sister the bikini?
Interestingly it wasn’t just Mums that wanted a sunsmart but sexy option - young fair women, active women and older women all told me there was a gap in the market. The most exciting feedback on our Original Sexie Rashie was from millennials. I was blown away with their positive reaction! They are so much more sun-aware and careful with their skin than I was at that age!
How do you feel when you see “sexy” and “UNE PIECE” in the same sentence?
When talking to women, one theme that kept coming up was that they wanted to feel confident and empowered at the beach, and in turn, feel beautiful and sexy. So when testing the product with women and we receive emails with this feedback, I’m absolutely thrilled.
What do you think has been the key to your brand’s success?
Firstly - the product makes women feel confident and empowered. They feel beautiful when they wear it. The Original Sexie Rashie was created with 28 pieces to be fully contoured and the best Italian UPF 50+ fabric on the market. I also researched and researched and researched until I got the perfect fit. I didn’t compromise.
Secondly - the brand resonates with women. We are a brand that celebrates women and their passions. We have a beautiful, clean and chic aesthetic, but we are inclusive and we are actively supporting diversity of beauty at every touchpoint. We sell size 6-16 and for a start up brand this is a wide size range. I was encouraged not to do such a broad size spectrum but I was determined to make our products accessible to as many women as I could. It’s not fair just because you aren’t a size 8 or 10, you can’t get access to beautiful products. We just launched our #unepiecewomen campaign on Instagram which celebrates women from all around the world. We saw an amazing reaction to this and some of our #unepiecewomen have the highest engagement across our social platforms whenever we share them.
Building a business takes hard work – especially the fashion business – what are your top three tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?
The three big learnings for me have been:
1 - When stuff goes wrong (which it will) don’t react immediately. I’ve learnt it is all happening for a reason and more often than not takes you to a stronger place. Whether it makes us
more prepared, find a new way of doing something or learn an important lesson - it makes us stronger as a business and also personally.
2 - Create an incredible team and culture first. My team is so incredibly important to the business and me personally. They are an incredible group of individuals who are both talented but also have great energy to be around all day long. The saying ‘hang with the radiators and not the drains’
was made for my team!
3 - Building a real community… our customers are central to everything we do. We are passionate about creating a community of women and facilitating meaningful dialogue with them. From customer service, to social media, to new product development - everything is done in close consultation with our customer. Our core campaign #unepiecewomen (check it out on Instagram!) is centred around celebrating women from all around the world who proudly wear our product and support our brand ethos of empowering women.
What are some if your fave pieces across all the UNE PIECE collections?
Ohhh…. in the latest collection probably the Botanical Floral Twist Sexie Rashie - however I can’t go past a classic black in the Original Sexie Rashie!
Right now, in this moment what are you most proud of?
The things I am most proud of and grateful right now are my family, my team and the ability to go to work every day and love what I do.
Tell us your top three beauty must-haves?
Diptyque fragrance ‘Olene’, a regular facial, and a daily green-juice.
How would you describe your style?
I love the saying ‘elegance is an attitude’ when it comes to style. I love classic styles with clean lines and with choiceful accessories.
Who is your style icon / icons?
French women, particularly Parisians. They focus on healthy glowing skin, beautiful and minimally styled outfits with a natural, clean beauty aesthetic.
Are you a bag or shoe girl?
What’s your favourite travel destination?
Anywhere in Italy, the South of France or Greece. I’m also a regular on the Sunshine Coast where I grew up.
Given UNE PIECE is inspired by Italy, tell us your top three places to eat, shop and play in Italy?
UNE PIECE is inspired by a European lifestyle and state of mind. My top three places in Europe to eat, shop and play are Positano in Italy, Cap d’Ail in the South of France and Carla Mondrago for a complete relaxing beach escape.
What’s next for the brand?
We have so much exciting stuff to come….. beautiful new products and amazing prints, stunning campaigns and lifestyle imagery on our journal, Life is Beautiful by UNE PIECE.