Sydney Retail Festival

Interview with our host Danielle Collis

First, tell us how you got into the fashion industry?

I got into the fashion industry by Modelling at the age of 18. I always loved fashion growing up so I couldn’t wait to start working with Australian labels. You have worked in the fashion industry for over eight years.

What changes have you seen over this time?

When I think back to my first experience, I remember the industry wasn’t as fast paced, there weren't as many independent labels or emerging designers. I was getting booked for you Iconic brands like Tigerlily, Target and Westfield. Instagram wasn’t a big thing yet and forget about Influencer Marketing!!! Brands were utilising traditional methods of Marketing. I also remember that Fashion campaigns weren’t anywhere near as creative as they are now!

What changes did you see in Social Media or Influencer Marketing?

My first experience with Influencer Marketing was at the age of 19, I modelling for Tigerlilly in Fiji and they gifted me bikinis, I took a picture and uploaded it to Instagram, all of sudden, Tigerlilly reposted my image, I started getting all these followers and thought WOW!!!, look how easily my following is increasing from one image!!! I then did it again for Frank BOD and Skinny Me Tea (Which at the time were making the way for Instagram and Influencer Marketing). I again got reposted, at the time I was so young, I didn’t realise how that benefited my own instagram page and the brands page, I had no idea about reach or impressions. Triangl swimwear was another brand at that time who was making waves in the social media world, they were reposting every girl around the world in their neoprene bikinis and slowly, models around me started becoming ‘insta famous’. The influencer world was being created!

Why are you passionate about supporting local Australian labels?

Having modelled both Nationally and Internationally, I’ve seen the talent of Australia, the passion that we hold and the impact we want to make. Unfortunately, we don’t have the population yet to even compete with other countries on the same fashion scale. However, I do believe Australia has come along way over the past 20 years, we are making are mark in the fashion world. But...the speed of fast fashion, social media, high cost of manufacturing, rise of e-commerce and the competition of major retailers impact our Australian Labels and Designers, without our support we may not even have a fashion culture in the future.

It’s up to us as individuals to understand the fashion industry, to spread awareness and to show our support to local labels so that they may have a chance to flourish in this competitive global industry.

As a model and presenter who has worked internationally, what do you think makes Australian design stand out from the rest of the world?

I think Australian designers are daring, pushing their creative boundaries and producing not based on trends, but they are creating the trends. Most importantly, they are rethinking the business of fashion, they are conscious creators, producing ethical and sustainable clothing. They are making an impact beyond clothing through social impact initiatives.

You have started using your social media accounts to help your audience discover actionable ways to make more sustainable fashion choices. Was there a particular story that made an impact on you to advocate for sustainable fashion more strongly?

Having worked in the fashion industry not only modelling but also in retail and public relations, I saw the amount of fashion waste. As my social media began to grow, I experienced an overwhelming about of brands wanting to send me free clothing. I saw other ‘Influencers’ be sent hundreds of garments to post a picture then throw it out. I saw the rise of fast fashion with brands like Nasty Gal mass producing and not considering their impact. However, what prompted me was through the Retail Festival, as the presenter I started gathering research and hearing personal stories. The Fashion Industry is one of the largest contributors to pollution, especially water wastage.

My generation and millenials are wearing a piece of clothing and never wear them again, they don’t ask where the garment came from, what’s it made of and who made it? This is when I realised that I needed to start raising awareness and advocating for mindful decision making when purchasing.

As a small business owner yourself, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing emerging fashion designers?

I think the biggest challenge facing emerging designers is being being sustainable whilst cost effective.

You have years of experience creating strong visual content for brands, including producing brand videos. Why do you think it is important for brands to invest in their digital presence?

Having a digital presence is a HUGE component in today’s evolving and changing retail landscape. It allows you to show your product, tell your story, create awareness and even SELL via social media. There is so much research that shows the return on investment from having a digital presence. It’s not just about selling your product but selling an experience, offering your customers more and most importantly being connected with them! By having a digital presence you are instantly expanding your reach.

You are hosting three discussion panels at the Seminar Series this year. Can you tell us a little bit about them and what attendees (brands and boutiques) can expect to hear?

Yes of course! So this year I’m hosting three panels, first, one of my favourites ‘What Buyers Want’, whilst working in the industry you have the opportunity to meet designers and buyers, and the biggest problem I was seeing is emerging designers struggling to get a moment with buyers, they weren’t aware of how to get noticed, how to communicate and some didn’t even know where to begin. So this panel allows for designers, boutiques, retailers and other buyers to hear first hand from successful head buyers the art of buying. They will be sharing their insights and providing advice. We will be covering everything from buying responsibilities to forecasting trends, factors affecting trends, consumer preferences, buying and range planning, and top tips for emerging designers/labels.

My next panel is Social Impact, I love this discussion panel because it’s much more than fashion, it’s about going beyond that and impacting the world around us. We will hear from 5 fantastic Guest Speakers, all of whom are making a huge impact. We will discuss what the priorities for the retail industry how, how can brands implement social impact initiatives, how to engage their audience, how their audience can feel their contribution and what’s next for the industry.

The third panel, WOW, I don’t even know where to begin. This is going to be HUGE. We had to cut back because we just don’t have enough time to cover everything!! For this panel we are going to be hearing from 6 amazing speakers from varying backgrounds. We will be delving into Social Media, tips and benefits of utilising social channels, moving onto Public Relations which goes hand and hand with Marketing and Social Media. We will be looking at the benefits of PR, how the industry has changed and how to gain attention. Next, it’s about Marketing, covering Influencer marketing, is this still relevant? Benefits of utilising influencers, tips to securing the right influencer and how to measure the ROI. From there we move onto Content Marketing, in today’s digital age it’s important to have consistent, engaging and creative content. But what content do we invest in? How do we produce content that is engaging or going to be successful? Lastly, we jump over to Brand to Brand Collaborations, What is this? Everyone is doing it? What are the benefits of Brand to Brand Collaborations?

There is so much we will be covering over these three panels and I know that they will be inspiring, insightful and engaging!

Why do you think events such as the Sydney Retail Festival are beneficial for both Australian brands and independent fashion boutiques?

Events like the Sydney Retail Festival are beneficial for both Australian brands because they allow for brands to showcase their range/products, see what’s trending, generate leads, meet with boutiques and buyers, network network and network!! Build relationships, check out what their competitors are doing, find creative ideas, meet other retailers and vendors, and learn from the free discussion panels! It’s great for fashion boutiques to attend as well as it gives them the opportunity to see what’s trending, look for new brands or build rapport with ongoing brands, learn from the discussion panel and network! We need events like the Sydney Retail Festival to support the Australian Retail Industry.