Here, Roberts shares her vision for the next chapter of One Teaspoon and how she expects the fashion industry to evolve in the coming years.
Inside Retail: How did this reshuffle come about and how are you feeling about being the sole owner of the business?
Liz Roberts: It was a crazy year last year; planning to celebrate our big 20-year milestone and then Covid hit and business as we knew it stopped. I think every business had to pause and recalibrate a new strategy forward, and it will be a mostly tough and hard path ahead, which is not for everyone. But for me, I’ve always been 150 per cent committed to the longevity and future of One Teaspoon and ready to roll my sleeves up and keep steering it forward. I’ve been running the business for well over a decade now and through that period, am well versed in the ups and downs of the industry and see many opportunities that will come out of this current Covid climate for brands that are ready and prepared. So, I’m excited.
IR: So, 20 years in business! What do you put that success and longevity down to?
LR: Number one, a great team. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by truly dedicated and savvy people at One Teaspoon, and have been so lucky to have worked with so many talented designers and creatives over the years – many of whom have gone on to start their own labels. It’s been truly a team effort and never about any one individual.
And number two, trust your instincts. I’ve always followed my gut on decisions. First and foremost is staying true to the brand. I’ve never chased quick wins, which sometimes has meant turning down a great revenue opportunity but if it’s not right for the brand, then the answer is no.
IR: Did the company ever feel pressure to give in to the pace and trends of the fast fashion world?
LR: Quite the opposite. We have never been a trend-based brand. And having a largely denim-based offering, our product is actually built for longevity. Our denim just gets better and better as it ages with each wash, and a lot of the time, it’s not something that ever gets thrown away, it’s a keeper in your cupboard.
IR: Can you explain when and how the brand really escalated into new overseas markets? What was the key to its success internationally?
LR: Funnily enough, it was during the GFC. That financial crisis really saw consumers’ spending habits change. Not many people could afford luxury pieces during that time but still wanted to wear a designer label. As we typically sit at an entry point of luxury, we had a much more accessible advantage and proposition. A lot of businesses were scaling back to ride it out, but I saw it as a chance to double down and open up new markets that needed a midpoint designer brand solution. It was a risk, but it paid off with us expanding rapidly and now offered in over 40 countries globally.
I think the key to success is to be able to recognise opportunities even in a challenging market. Exactly what is happening again now. From my experience, if you’re running a tight business and staying nimble then you can react and take advantage of the opportunities as they present.
IR: How has the last year been for the business? When you look back, are there any particular highlights or challenges that stand out?
LR: Being a global business, the biggest challenge has been the ever-changing circumstances in each territory. Some countries would see a brief recovery and then would be placing increased orders, and then they would face a backward step and go into lockdown again, unable to even ship stock into their region. We worked very closely with our partners and also our suppliers to keep as close to schedule as we could with new collection launches and to date, we fortunately haven’t really skipped a beat. Most of our partners have navigated the past year very well, and then others have actually powered. Many of our big online retailers have seen great growth during Covid and so that has flowed through to us.
Our own online platform is performing above expectation. Managing those daily changes in the Covid environment meant we were in much more close communication with all of our partners and suppliers which has really strengthened these relationships. It’s actually been a very positive experience to know that the business is surrounded by strong partnerships that come together during challenging times to support one another.
IR: Tell me about the next chapter of One Teaspoon? What will change and what will stay the same?
LR: The brand has constantly evolved over the course of the last 20 years and that evolution will continue. But we have and will always stay true to our heritage and roots, that is the “fantastically rebellious, old school, rock and roll glamour” One Teaspoon is best known for.
But now, we reflect on what this statement means in today’s world and 2021. Our head of design, originally from London, has been with us for four years now and has already expanded the collection into new categories. Our signature sophisticated, gritty style will always be the same, and our denim is iconic and the very foundation of the brand, but you will see some exciting new additions to the fashion elements of our collections as well as some exciting upcoming collaborations.
IR: What projects are you most passionate about driving as CEO?
LR: 2020 was a great time to stop and reflect on all elements of the business and this included our values and core principles. With so many people facing tough times around the world, we all have to stop and think about what we can do in our own way to support one another. One Teaspoon has a direct connection with a global audience of young women. And from my perspective, the brand has always been about how it makes you feel rather than focusing on how it makes you look. And that is different for everyone. For some people it’s about comfort and being casual, for others it’s an edge and attitude. But mostly we just want people to feel confident in their own skin. So we will be developing a series of workshops for young women to help them navigate those feelings of self-confidence and the challenges of the social media environment. We want to encourage all women to
feel good about themselves and also to embrace their own and others’ differences. Bullying has become a pandemic in itself and starts at such an early age. We’re hoping we can make some impact on this through these workshops and foster an environment for young girls to feel like they can celebrate their individuality and also be more supportive of one another.
IR: What’s coming up in 2021?
LR: As we continue to embrace our core values of diversity and inclusiveness, we have expanded our main collection to include an extended size range, so we can celebrate more diverse body shapes. We are also launching a new capsule of leisurewear that will stay true to our casual luxury aesthetic. Athleisure is a booming sector and we believe we can meaningfully participate. This does not mean we are going into high performance athleisure, but more of a lifestyle capsule. From a retail perspective, we recently renovated our Byron Bay store (located in The Habitat complex) and then early this year, we opened a new flagship on Manly Corso and have also just signed a wonderful new partner for a flagship store in Warsaw, Poland to open in 2022. We are also reviewing another opportunity for an additional store later this year.
IR: How do you see the industry changing in the next 10-20 years?
LR: My hope is that the collective industry embraces the calls to action of the next generation of consumers to be more mindful of its footprint through less waste and more sustainable initiatives. We are trying our best to do our small part, we are always looking to improve and there are some great new and innovative technologies being developed to help assist in this cause that we are investigating. I think the fashion industry is also becoming more mindful of its social impact, increasingly embracing individuality and diversity. So, I see a lot of good to come over the next 10 years.