“It’s a testament to the 20 years of work that’s gone into building this business and its passion and creativity,” explained Kerry Cusack, managing director of vertical brands at Alquemie Group, which invested in Ginger & Smart in 2019. “Saks is such a premium, iconic, fashion business and strategically, it is really important that we align with other like-minded brands that will represent Ginger & Smart the right way.”
Ginger & Smart co-founder and creative director Genevieve Smart said the team at Saks was particularly impressed by the “relaxed couture” featured at Ginger & Smart’s AAFW show, which presented a palette of soft, pastel hues and easy-to-wear silk separates, as well as voluminous skirts and the brand’s signature maxi wrap dresses and jumpsuits with pockets.
“It was really about a sense of movement and freedom; perhaps it was affected by the pandemic. When I was designing, I was thinking about how garments feel when you wear them, like how the wind catches the sleeve,” Smart told Inside Retail.
“After a fairly dark period, it was about discovering the lightness of fashion again, and texture was important. I wanted it to be about the texture of silk and the way it wraps around your body. I guess that was about celebrating the DNA of the brand.”
Beyond surf and swim
Saks is just the beginning of overseas expansion for Ginger & Smart. The company is focusing in particular on Europe, North America and New Zealand, and has recently appointed an overseas PR agency to help build brand awareness.
“Doing business internationally is not like just switching on a light. We have to get all of the fundamentals in place, like warehousing and logistics. I’m all about making sure our [retail partners] like Saks have the same amazing customer experience [as our consumers], even though it’s business-to-business. We still have to make sure we’re able to facilitate an international business,” Cusack told Inside Retail.
Meeting with international buyers has been a challenge for many brands since the pandemic hit and like other businesses, Ginger & Smart has relied on videoconferencing to showcase its collections.
“All of our showings are via Zoom and we have perfected it. We are the experts. Gen [Genevieve] is front-and-centre of the camera, we bring in the models and we hook up high-definition videography to the calls, so when we’re doing a showing, the cameraman can zoom right into the micro details. You can see high-resolution prints, the fabrication, the buttons,” Cusack explained. “It’s almost like a face-to-face showing, which is such an important part of the process, because again, it’s a representation of our brand and how we want to do business.”
In the past 18 months, the Australian fashion industry has worked hard to showcase its local designers and champion homegrown brands. For example, last year the Australian Fashion Council and Showroom-X launched the #WeWearAustralian campaign, which helped drive over $3 million in retail sales for participating brands. The initiative is back again this year.
While overseas fashion players may have once viewed Australia as the home of ‘surf and swim’, that sentiment seems to be changing, Smart observed.
“I think a lot of [local] brands have looked deeply into their own DNA and presented the best of themselves, focused on being original and having beautiful product,” she explained. “I think that has resonated. You could see it in Fashion Week. I feel like there were a lot of different aesthetics going on. It was exciting.
“There’s a real confidence in Australian fashion now and you saw it especially throughout Fashion Week. I think that, internationally, people look to us now for fashion and you could see that from how [Saks] has bought our collection – they bought the fashion pieces. That’s a real shift. They don’t just come and go, ‘Oh, that’s the land of the sun and the surf’. Now it’s fashion they’re looking for.”
Local manufacturing has also captured the spotlight in the industry since Covid hit and it’s something Ginger & Smart has adopted in its new sustainable denim range. The collection’s organic and cotton textiles are first developed in Turkey, then produced in Melbourne.
Ginger & Smart is known for its timeless, classic styles, an aesthetic that continues in its denim range, Smart said.
“The idea is to build a library of core denim shapes over time, so we’re not going in and out of different styles. With any new product category, that’s how you develop real trust with your customer – if they love a shape, we’re not going to jump out of it,” she said. “We’ll just give it to customers in various ways, in different washes and different denims. We’ll develop a core line [of denim] that will gently underpin our main collection.
“That’s how women dress at the end of the day. When they buy a beautiful print blouse, they want to wear jeans with it. They don’t always want to wear it with a matching skirt or high heel. That’s just how women dress in this country and all over the world.”