As a family-owned and operated business born and bred in Melbourne, Australia, Wittner understands the importance of small business to the Australian economy. Using their platform, they’re shining a light on those who make up our unique retail landscape because after all, we’re all in this together.
I was asked to share my story as the Founder of The Fashion Advocate, and I took the opportunity to style Wittner’s Gianna Long Boot with our Valencia Skirt in my everyday environment inspiring the community to shop local, consume consciously and consider sustainability.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your business?
I launched The Fashion Advocate in 2014 in support of Australian and New Zealand fashion labels, and six years on, we’re one of the largest online stores for ethical and sustainable Australian and New Zealand labels. Our Hampton shop is home to a hand-picked range of ethical and sustainable fashion, jewellery, bags, beauty, homewares and furniture labels. As a community of locally-owned labels, we’re passionate about using our businesses as a force for good.
What’s been the hardest part of being a small business in this current climate?
The hardest part has been the distance between us and our community, and the restrictions on our events. Our business is fundamentally built on the concept of community; people coming together, supporting each other, and sharing in the joy of good fashion, together. Our shoppers love to enjoy a champagne or two surrounded by good fashion and good company, and we haven’t been able to host an in-store event to do that. We’re a community of avid fashion (and shoe!) lovers, and the joy of getting dressed up to catch up with each other in the store is a luxury I’ve really missed, and I know our customers have too. ‘Online’ is only so good – and I’m grateful we can still operate online – but I can’t wait until we can host a sustainable style night at our Hampton store again! I’m a people person and thrive on human connection, and one of my greatest joys is helping women find an outfit they feel beautiful and empowered in. Watching my customers walk out radiating and feeling great about themselves with their new ethical and sustainable outfit – it’s something I love being a part of, and I’m really missing that.
What’s been the most positive outcome/aspect?
The downtime has forced me to look at every aspect of our business that is unnecessary, and I’ve had the time to review and consider processes that can be improved, or become more personal, or offered in a better way. It’s easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of running a business, and chasing the new season without stopping to appreciate the last, but the change of pace with COVID has forced me to step back and take stock of a few things – all for the better of the business. On a personal front with a little more time in my personal life, I’ve also planted an entire vegetable garden, taken to podcasts, and experimented with new recipes in the kitchen which has been super enriching.
How have you adapted your business to meet changing needs?
We released a new product, our Positive Vibes gift box. Not everyone wants clothes in isolation, but everyone wants to feel positive in uncertain times. The idea came about as I watched many of my friends and family members lose their jobs or have their hours cut back, or really struggle with the isolation of working from home. It’s been a stressful time for a lot of people I know. I wanted to give people a little boost of happiness, and send them some positive vibes, so we put a little pack together and it’s filled with locally made goodies to bring a little joy and calmness to the day amidst the stress and worry. I also introduced virtual styling sessions, at-home fittings and free home delivery in the Melbourne Bayside, and our customers loved the new virtual take on traditional shopping. We had to think fast on our feet to survive, so it’s been a challenging time but, in many ways, – it’s been great for our new direction.
Where can we find you?
Our pop-up shop is open at 517 Hampton Street, Hampton, VIC 3188 and our online store is open 24/7 at thefashionadvocate.com.