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Supporting slow fashion and female empowerment

27 September 2017

Alexia Spalding in Puci for Dress for Success Sydney

Alexia Spalding (centre at Dress for Success Sydney fundraising event) and business partner Sophie Toohey have a long history in fashion. Both designers worked in shirting: Sophie with Mr. Rose, and Alexia with Eclettica. When a friend introduced the two women, and they came to understand over a “night of rocking bad dance moves” and “subsequent coffee-fuelled catch-ups” that they had more in common than not, the one-time competitors combined their pins to begin Good Day Girl.

Good Day Girl is a business dedicated to what Alexia and Sophie term, “slow fashion”. Now four years old, GDG has reinvented the shopping and styling experience for its customers.

The two designers have also been involved with Dress for Success Sydney (DfSS) since they began their business together.

DfSS is a not-for-profit providing free-of-charge professional clothing, a network of support and the career development tools women need to achieve self-sufficiency.

The organisation recently received a Westpac Foundation Community Grant for $10,000 which it will use to part fund its ‘Get Smart’ workshops.

Get Smart aims to address the disproportionate representation of young women from disadvantaged backgrounds in the unemployment statistics by building self-esteem and confidence. In DfSS’s experience, lack of confidence and self-worth is the most prevalent barrier clients’ face when attempting to secure employment or furthering their studies.  DfSS aims to hold at least 20 youth workshops (200 participants) in the next 12 months and the grant will help kick start them.  

The workshops have two components: dressing and styling in interview appropriate clothing that can be kept for meetings and interviews, and education on effective communication, presentation and resume writing tips and advice.

DfSS is also conducting financial literacy workshops using bespoke content provided through Ruby, Westpac’s open, free, online site for networking and information for women and women in business.

For the past four years DfSS’s annual fundraising event has celebrated the empowerment of women through fashion with a runway show. Curated by Charlotte Smith who owns the Darnell Collection, the largest private vintage clothing collection in the Southern Hemisphere, the runway extravaganza uses volunteers to model various fashion eras. Alexia takes part each year.

Ruby spoke to Alexia and Sophie about their involvement in DfSS and their fashion business.

“I give Charlotte [owner of the Darnell Collection] carte blanche when it comes to dressing me for the fundraising event. In previous years she’s dressed me in 70s pieces but this year it was the 60s and Pucci. Charlotte also uses our work space to fit the other volunteer ‘models’ in the show. She brings in racks of collection pieces and matches them to the participants.

Good Day Girl customers donate handbags to the organisation as well. We received 63 handbags in our last drive.

Dress for Success is such a positive organisation. It really fits with our values.

Because of the way we’ve chosen to work in fashion we know our customers really well. It is a very intimate business.

Good Day Girl designs two collections a year: Spring Summer and Autumn Winter. Customers can order from our Trunk shows or online.

At a Trunk Show appointment we'll show you the collection and style you into looks to suit your shape and style of life. Then if you'd like to order any pieces, we work out your perfect size and length to suit.

For online orders we cross-check measurements with you via phone or email.

To work with customers this closely means you need to know them really well.

At our core is a passion for sustainability. For our made to order business model to succeed, we had to rethink how our supply chain could work. We had to source fabrics, trims and find manufacturers to work with our non-mass system. We also had to invite clients into a slower world.

Good Day Girl is a very traditional way of getting “wardrobed”. It’s all about fit:  the right fit with minimal or no waste.”

Alexia’s tips for dressing for success:

Make sure whatever you buy fits.

Sophie and I love shirts – a good shirt can take you anywhere.

Pants, well they have to fit in length, shape, hips, and at the waist.

Finally, there’s the jacket. Jackets can bring everything together but I don’t like them too structured and the fabric needs to be light for Australia. You need to be able to accommodate a jumper underneath if it gets cold.

Business tips:

Success in business comes down to being nimble and passionate about what you’re doing. If you aren’t passionate you won’t be able to sustain the momentum and you have to sustain that because small business is hard work.