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The Brisbane fashion scene is evolving. Five years ago, it was a city that fashion students moved away from to hunt for their careers in Melbourne or Sydney, but now, it’s home to some of the country’s best labels and innovative fashion start-ups. The New Garde is one of the latter, and it’s the latest name to grace the pages of Brisbane’s growing brag book.

Despite launching less than twelve months ago, The New Garde is now the epicentre of Brisbane’s fashion-forward ecosystem, and Jodie Hilton is the driving force behind it all. Her career has spanned the four corners of the globe, and she’s versed in every area of fashion, from design and PR to production and manufacturing, visual merchandising, graphic design and marketing. She’s worked with the likes of Vogue, Kitx, Marcs and Sacha Drake, she’s earned a degree in Branded Fashion, and she’s even won the BT Runway for Success. It’s safe to say that The New Garde is built on in-depth industry understanding at the hands of Jodie.

“The New Garde came from an idea I had while studying a social enterprise class at university; my task was to identify a problem with the fashion industry and design a solution in the form of a business plan and execution. After graduating, I spent some time in the industry, and my own work experiences revealed to me how damn hard it is starting out in fashion. I was watching more and more fashion graduates move to Sydney or Melbourne in search of a career, only to see them return a year later, and I wanted to change that. I couldn’t ignore my research, so I did something about it.”

Now a go-to destination for Brisbane’s emerging fashion labels, The New Garde offers a vibrant network of industry specialists including pattern makers, illustrators and machinists, as well as fashion-specific marketing partners, graphic designers and accountants. As the fast fashion industry churns away in secrecy and segregation around her, Jodie advocates for collaboration and openness at The New Garde, offering support, encouragement and guidance for the budding labels that fill its spaces.

“We cater for those who have a headful of designs but don’t know what to do with them; designers who need help marketing their brand, or who can’t find a reliable fabric supplier. We help designers who are struggling with tech packs and cost sheets, and we facilitate new industry connections with other local designers and creatives. It’s an ecosystem structured for success, and we simplify what is usually a complicated process; skilled designers and fashion graduates bring their creativity and their designs, and we provide the support, collaboration and innovation they need to help their brand grow.”

As exciting as the process may sound for the designers who take up residency at The New Garde, behind the scenes, it’s been a meticulous journey for Jodie to ensure her co-working space is innovative and welcoming while balancing rigidity and direction. Commonly, fashion designers lack the business skills they need to launch their labels, and while creativity and freethinking flows, forming a business structure and meeting deadlines is often a battle. The fashion industry is notorious for its lack of graduate programs and practical placement too, and Jodie knows that this lack of systemic entry into one of the most competitive industries can cripple a designer’s dreams. The New Garde combats this issue by offering integrated business services, support and ‘forced’ collaboration.

“The New Garde goes beyond air-conditioned offices, free Wi-Fi and free coffee; we’re an instant network and co-working team that practically (but gently) forces collaboration. It’s impossible not to innovate and learn from the expertise of fellow designers, and where one designer might have stunning illustration skills, another can share their skills on tech packs, or how to take the perfect Instagram shot. When you work collaboratively in a creative space with other businesses and talented individuals outside of your specialisation, you grow and develop in a way that you otherwise would not, if you were working alone in your home office. The New Garde offers an environment that will draw out your inner ‘bad-assery’ too! Be prepared to meet people that will instantly want to work with you and support your business, and expect to learn fast and discover better ways of doing business to save you time and money. Most of all, we offer access to resources that are not typically available to small independent labels, and that’s the difference.”

The lack of this in the wider industry – Jodie’s willingness to help and support – can make or break a label. For those determined enough to start their own label and brave the fashion industry and its complex web, it’s a difficult journey, to say the least. The struggles are mundane, the setbacks are often, and managing finances can be particularly challenging, but in the right environment and space surrounded by the right people, stress is more manageable, and success is attainable.

“My mission is to provide a place of escapism. Great workspaces need to be the ‘happy place’. When you’re launching a label or starting your own business, you spend so much time away from friends and family, and with little time on your hands, you stop doing the things that bring you fulfilment. If you’re spending time away from things you love to work, you should be in a place that you love. At The New Garde, we laugh… a lot! We learn new things every day and we stay inspired. I work hard to ensure that every person that walks through our doors feels appreciated and confident in their skills so that they can produce really amazing work. A little support goes a long way.”

If you’re launching a label and find yourself chasing your own threads, head to thenewgarde.com for more information on Jodie’s available space and business guidance. The secret to success in the fashion industry is no secret; it’s not what you know, but who you know, and collaborative co-working spaces are the best place to start.

The Fashion Advocate x

The Fashion Advocate Melbourne fashion blog The New Garde Brisbane

The Fashion Advocate Melbourne fashion blog The New Garde Brisbane

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