Georgie (left) and Lizzie Renkert have founded a new fashion label.
Lizzie and Georgie Renkert found their shared love inside a childhood dress-up box.
“We've always loved fashion,” says Lizzie, the former editor of women's magazine Madison.
“Our dress-up box when we were growing up was pretty fabulous, as both of our grandmothers and our mum have style in spades and their hand-me-downs kept us entertained for hours.”
Jump forward 30-odd years and the Renkert sisters are again immersed in an all-consuming world. This time it's a start-up business.
They launched fashion label We Are Kindred in November, 2013. Fittingly, the business name is a nod to a beloved childhood icon.
“Georgie and I used to sit through many, many afternoons in my grandmother's cosy room watching Anne of Green Gables and the fictitious Anne Shirley's obsession with finding kindred spirits. We'd always say to each other, 'We are kindred.'”
The clothing label, which has a silent investor, is run from a leased building in Surry Hills, Sydney, in which Georgie lives upstairs. The bulk of sales is online.
Social media, primarily Instagram, is the feminine fashion label's biggest marketing tool.
“We shot the first collection and made it available online over pre-sale, which helped to get some much-needed cash flow into the business early on,” says Lizzie.
“Recently we decided to rent out a few chairs in our great studio to others to help cover costs, but our overheads are very low as we are building the business organically.”
We Are Kindred's first months undoubtedly benefited from Lizzie's media career contact book.
It is heavy, including a who's who of female celebrities compiled over almost 20 years of arranging cover shoots and interviews for women's magazines.
Orders have already arrived from A-list names including model Miranda Kerr, actresses Kate Bosworth and Rose Byrne, and singers Delta Goodrem and Jessica Mauboy.
“We have received most orders via Instagram and have nearly 2000 followers already, so while it is early days it seems to be working for us as Instagram is such a good visual means of communicating,'' Lizzie says. ''The other key part of our marketing strategy is definitely the celebrity following already creating a buzz.”
Nothing would exist if wasn't for little sister Georgie, who designed the label's high summer "13” range, and oversees production of print fabrics in Australia and the manufacture of garments in Shanghai.
Her career has focused on fashion buying, development and manufacturing, including almost a decade at Apparel Group. Lizzie says her sister's “love for floral prints and dreamy, boho-inspired pieces” and her own “eye for classic, timeless looks” is evident in the label, which includes tops, suits, pants, shorts, dresses, jackets and playsuits.
Online prices range from $129 for tops to $259 for a maxi dress.
“Our quantities are really small at this early stage, so we have been able to make sure quality control is there, and while our clothes are not chain store quality or prices, by manufacturing in China we are able to offer high-quality original Australian designs and fabrics yet keep the costs down.”
Lizzie says the siblings “have been talking about doing this for years” but it wasn't until she was made redundant when Madison ended in June, and Georgie resigned from her job, that they “felt like it was now or never”.
Start-up hitches have been “fewer than they expected”. The biggest commercial challenge has been the strong presence of international labels in the Aussie market such as Zara and Topshop, offering “affordable, fast, trend-driven fashion”.
“That said, we are not trying to compete with these large brands," says Lizzie. "We want to remain true to the essence of the brand, and that is feminine florals mixed with classic staples.”
Plans for next year include launching We Are Kindred's first winter collection, a bigger summer collection in 2014/2015, steadily growing the business by also distributing via select boutiques and launching in the US, probably Los Angeles.
Asked why their label will work when many others have failed – Lisa Ho recently went into liquidation after 30 years of trading – Lizzie says: “We have not gone in here with our eyes closed … we know the challenges in the market at the moment.”
Many labels are doing “more hard-edge” trends and shapes but Georgie has identified a market gap that is “boho-inspired feminine shapes and prints that are not too hippy”, Lizzie says.
“Georgie wasn't finding the clothes she wanted to wear in the Australian market and the feedback has been so far that many people felt the same.”