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12 Months in Millinery

As I write this post I’m rugged up in several layers of clothing – thermal top, woollen knit, puffer vest, ugg boots… you get the picture. It’s a few weeks into winter, but whenever anyone asks me how work is going, my response is ALL about spring. People look at me with surprise – “Oh really? You’re working on spring already?”. The truth is, spring for me is basically a year long affair. The planning for one season begins before the previous one has even finished, and the lead up to the Spring Carnival keeps me well and truly occupied all year long ;)


PLANNING


Let’s begin in mid-November, just after the Spring Carnival has concluded. I’m a little tired. Sales come to a screaming halt after Stakes Day, so I’ll try to take a week or so off and possibly get out of Melbourne. While I try to do minimal work during this time, I’ve still got some spring adrenaline in my system, and I have lots of ideas for the season ahead. I make sure to record all of my thoughts so that I can flesh them out properly when I get back to work. After I’ve rested up, I’ll draw up an option plan for the smaller range I’ll design for the Autumn Carnival. These new designs are largely based off inspiration I’ve had from my customers and stockists over the spring period. I order any additional materials I’ll need for this range, and make sure I’m ready to start producing the samples by December.


Work in progress

December and the first half of January are spent producing the Autumn range. I make sure I enjoy a break over Christmas and New Years, and I try not to work weekends, because I know that’s not something I’ll be able to do later in the year. In the last two weeks of January I’ll shoot all of the Autumn designs for the website and social media, and put together some marketing materials to send out to stylists and influencers to introduce the new range. The photoshoot for Autumn is very ‘DIY’ and cost-effective ;) I take some wholesale orders for Autumn, but nothing is at the same scale as spring!


In February the Autumn range is made available on the website. As the sales start to come through I monitor which designs are performing best – these designs will form the core of the spring range. Top performers will be reproduced in additional spring colours, and I will use the best selling trends to create totally new designs for spring. By mid-February I’ve finalised the spring designs, ordered all the materials I’ll need to begin production, and put together a detailed work schedule to make sure I have time to complete all of the samples.



PRODUCING


From mid-February to mid-April my days are consumed by spring sample production. I’m on a very tight schedule because I have photoshoots booked for the second half of April. I’m still trying to keep my weekends free, but I work fairly long days to get everything done. Custom orders also pop-up all year round, so I need to stay organised so that I can work them into my schedule!


BTS - Spring Campaign Shoot 2019

In the last two weeks of April I will have a couple of photoshoots. The biggest one is the Spring Campaign Shoot. This is a pretty big investment, but definitely worth it! I will select only a few of the designs to be featured in this shoot. I book a photographer and studio, models and hair and makeup, and I reach out to clothing labels to loan outfits for the day. The images from this shoot will be used for the Lookbook, social media and brand presenters, among lots of other things. The smaller shoot is the e-commerce shoot. These are essentially headshots against a plain background to clearly show each headpiece being worn from different angles for the website.


May is an exciting month for me because (aside from custom orders) I get to be totally laptop based. Normally I’m tied to my desk creating designs, but in May I can work from anywhere I like. I work on photo edits, the Lookbook, the wholesale catalogue, social media graphics, and my marketing strategy. I’ll also buy materials in bulk, and make sure everything is in place for me to be as organised and prepared as possible for spring. Towards the end of the month I will start to get in touch with my current stockists, and reach out to potential new ones.


The end of May / beginning of June is an ideal time to take a quick break. The spring range is complete, and the wholesale orders are just about to start coming in. Days off will start becoming a rarity pretty soon, so it’s actually pretty important to bank some R&R at this stage. In June the first of the wholesale orders will start to come through, so my time will be split between filling these orders, and working through some more marketing prep.


ALL GUNS BLAZING


July, August and September are all about filling wholesale orders. A lot of these come through at the last minute, so even if I think I have time for a day off, I don’t take it! I work MUCH better early in the morning rather than late at night, so I’m usually up around 5am during these months. Exercise tends to fall by the wayside, but I still try to eat well because I can’t afford to get sick.


2018 Pop-Up Store

October is The Big One. In October I open my pop-up store. This gets finalised at the last minute, because short-term rentals are tricky to lock down in advance! It can be quite stressful not knowing what kind of space you’ll get, if any! Without being too dramatic, missing out on a pop-up store at this time of year would seriously impede my ability to buy groceries for the next 12 months. In my mind, this just means that missing out is not an option, so I hustle until I get what I want! Opening a pop-up store means I need to fit it out, create signage and marketing, and probably organise an event for the opening. Having a shop space also means that I need to keep it well stocked! At this time of year, sales hit an all-time high. I have to be really careful with my stock management – every time a make a sale, I have to decide whether it will be worth my time to re-make the item. In addition to all of this, custom orders keep coming through, my stockists request re-stocks, and stylists and influencers get in touch with regards to loaning samples. Millinery is SUCH a seasonal business, so I say yes to as much as I possibly can to make the most of it. I work at the store 7 days a week, and I have all of my tools and materials on hand to keep producing stock when there aren’t customers around. Seeing how customers approach the pieces is one of the best things about having a store experience. It is beyond helpful for me to see how different people, with different looks, choose to style the different designs. It’s also so useful to see what people are comfortable with, and which designs push the boundaries. I basically design 50% of the new season range in my head while watching all of this happen in front of me. I don’t sleep very well in October – I’m not stressed, but I’m excited, running on adrenaline, and have so many thoughts running through my head!


November hits and we’re on the home stretch. Headpieces are a last minute purchase for a lot of people, so I extend the store opening hours as we get closer to the big four race days. After Derby Day (the first of the Melbourne Cup Carnival), I tend to hold back on re-making sold pieces. I have to find a balance between having a well-stocked store, and too much stock on hand after the carnival. Packing down the store is usually hard work – the past few months seem to have caught up with me by this stage. At this point I’m more than happy to let friends and family offer a helping hand!



It’s funny writing all this down and actually reviewing a year in my life in this kind of way. In past jobs I found it a little suffocating not being able to take annual leave at certain times of the year. These days there are huge chunks of my year where I’m extremely limited in what I’m able to do, and it honestly doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I love that every month of the year brings something different, and I love that even though I have to work really hard, every success of the business comes directly back to me. It’s rewarding, exhilarating, motivating, and just plain fun for me.


Thanks so much for taking the time to have a read of this – every time somebody takes some kind of interest in my work they are helping me to continue doing what I love. I am so appreciative.


In case you are interested – since beginning this post I’ve added a beanie to my already excessive outfit. Time to pop my heat-pack back in the microwave and get back to thinking springtime thoughts!


Em x

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