MW: Our boutiques have reopened with real positivity. We are experiencing strong sales on both core and seasonal collections and a much faster sell through than anticipated. The month has finished ahead of forecast and we expect this trend to continue into 2022. People are starting to head back into the office. Many have changed jobs and are looking to update their work wardrobes. With travel, weddings and other celebrations also resuming, we expect this will continue to influence an increase in spend across apparel. However, we do expect this will start to normalise towards the end of 2022.
IR: How has the pandemic impacted the long-term way you operate your business? Has it changed the way that you approach your collections?
MW: Viktoria & Woods is a designer lifestyle brand. We focus on modern, timeless and transitional designs that take you from one situation to the next with ease.
This positioning has served us well through the pandemic. Focusing on quality staples that are timeless, modern and adaptable has allowed our customers to confidently invest in our designs. Being predominantly Australian made has also helped us, with customers more inclined to support local.
We have always tried to have an agile approach with collections but we have an even greater focus on this now. For example, we will repurpose fabrics into new designs, or rephase collections to manage stock flow through tougher seasons. From a design perspective, we take a seasonless approach so that short trends don’t impact us as much.
IR: How would you describe the Australian fashion landscape at the moment?
MW: The fashion landscape has always been competitive and never easy to predict. Over the last seven years, there has been a strong trend towards a minimalist wardrobe and one that is highly considered, encouraging shoppers to ‘buy less, buy better’. This might cut out the middle a little more, or business models that are purely trend focused, with no real position on who they are and what they stand for.
Ultimately however, fashion really is about how it makes you feel. It’s about confidence, personality, empowerment, enjoyment, and even escapism. People will always want to feel good and that won’t change. And they will mostly always want to present the best version of themselves.
At the moment, V&W is focused almost purely on our customer. How we engage with her. Her instore and online experience. The newness in the product and the ability for her to find infinite styling options out of each design she buys from us. I don’t think the fundamentals ever really change. It is more about how we engage and remain relevant to our customers’ lives that matters.
At the moment, our customer feels good about supporting an Australian-made and owned brand. She wants to be part of a community that values creativity, inclusivity, and sustainability. She is happy to pay more to be a part of that. We are proud that these have been founding values for Viktoria & Woods.
IR: Tell me about the work you’re doing in sustainable manufacturing and design.
MW: Sustainable design and manufacturing is a founding and ongoing commitment of ours. V&W has always tried to work predominantly with natural textiles. Merino wool, organic cotton, bamboo, and linens make up a large proportion of our core fabrications. Our design philosophy centres around quality, and timeless and seasonless design. Our designs remain modern, without being trend driven. We believe this to be one of the strongest commitments we can make to sustainability. I am very proud that my teenage daughter shares my clothes and I am able to pass on my clothes to friends and family.
All of our V&W Australian makers are ECA [Ethical Clothing Australia] accredited and the majority have partnered with us since the brand was founded in 2004. These long-term relationships with our local makers ensure we are supporting growth within our industry, as well as maintaining transparency throughout our supply chain.
We encourage our customers to visit our sustainability page on the website regularly. We continuously update this page with new initiatives and milestones reached. It’s an ongoing journey for us and we are very proud of what we have achieved so far. We also accept that there are always improvements we can make across every area of our business and processes.
I would like to acknowledge that our employees are very passionate about our sustainability values and commitment. Most have consciously chosen to work with us because of this. This is a legacy that will continue largely because of the support of our employees and customers.
IR: What are some of the major challenges that retailers face when it comes to local manufacturing? What would your advice be to other businesses looking to keep it local?
MW: Apart from the cost of labour, there is a big skills shortage here in Australia that really needs to be addressed if local production is to be encouraged and continue to grow. There is also a shortage of machinery and, therefore, scale is hard to achieve here. We have recently purchased a knitting machine that will allow us to produce about 4,000 more garments here in Australia per year. This is the first time we have ever had to assist our manufacturers with additional machinery to support our production needs. But it also shows the lengths we will go to help keep as much of our production local for as long as possible.
IR: What do you think needs to be done in the industry to help support local manufacturing?
MW: It has been so inspiring and positive to see the industry come together and see great success in the momentum of the #WeWearAustralian campaign. We are so appreciative of Richard Poulson and Kelly Atkinson from Showroom X for their amazing support for Australian designers and bringing us together over the last two years. However, I do think from a government level, there is much more that can be done to support designers who are working hard to keep local manufacturing alive. Whether that be a subsidy that allows us to improve our margins and or be more price competitive, sponsoring more skilled workers from overseas, or perhaps assisting with the cost of machinery. These are tangible things that can really help sustain and support home grown, made, and owned labels.
IR: Tell me about your new kidswear line and the thinking behind it.
MW: We wanted to capture the universal essence of the V&W brand. My 12-year-old son, Harper, wears our unisex sweats and T-shirts and with so many friends and staff with young kids, it felt quite organic to cater to the next generation of our Woods community.
IR: How would you describe the childrenswear category at the moment and what do you think is behind its growing popularity?
MW: I believe there has been a gap for childrenswear in the designer space. Not necessarily high-end, but definitely a more considered offer. I think teenagers, adults, and most generations dress to fit in, or be part of a community. Younger children are no different, except that the parents are the ones making these choices, until they are old enough to make their own. Income, schools, peers, and lifestyle all have an impact on the decisions of any generation. The generation having children now has grown up very aware of this and the power of clothes.
IR: What are some of your plans for the next 12 months at Viktoria & Woods?
MW: We have plans to increase our store network nationally and we have also seen really positive signs from expanding further internationally. Our footwear and leather bag collection is continuing to grow. We have also recently launched our very first V&W clearance outlet in Cremorne, which will also be used to test some new initiatives, such as using offcuts and excess sample rolls of fabric in new limited-edition or one-off designs.
Last year, we launched our first edition of V&W HOME, which allowed us to collaborate with artists and designers such as Sophie Nolan of Sophie Ceramics, Lucy Montgomery, and artist Clare Dubina. All have been very well received and we look forward to expanding this category and these collaborations.
IR: How would you describe your new store in Karrinyup? What does it look like and what was the inspiration behind it?
MW: Our Karrinyup store celebrates its location with a soft, clean palette that takes inspiration from Perth’s beach lifestyle. It is immediately approachable and inviting, whilst evoking a strong sense of luxury through materiality. This balance of simplicity and luxury is a juxtaposition that we try to instil this into every retail space we design – embracing characteristics of the location and balancing that against characteristics of the brand. This allows our customers to have unique store experiences across each location they visit.
We try to incorporate unique furniture or pieces of art that give our customers a glimpse into our world and what inspires us. Some are bespoke commissioned pieces that are made to measure. Others are objects we love by designers we admire. Our Karrinyup store has the Faye Toogood Roly-Poly chair, which we felt brought a sense of playfulness and unexpected character to the space.