Lois Hazel on how the NDA changed her business
The Festival's National Designer Award (NDA) is held annually in March, encouraging excellence within the Australian fashion industry, acknowledging designers in their first five years of business who excel in creative design, fashion innovation, high quality manufacturing standards, unique style and the potential to contribute to the future growth of Australian fashion.
We chatted to Designer Lois Hazel, eight months after being selected as one of the NDA finalist in March 2017 to see how the experience has changed her business and why she is reapplying in 2018.
After being selected as a finalist for the NDA, what has changed for you?
So much. My business has switched from being the creative project to business.
Being in front of Graeme (Lewsey, the Festival’s CEO), David (Collins, Managing Director, David Jones Clothing and General Merchandise) and Kellie (Hush, Editor Harper's BAZAAR Australia) I learnt I needed to look at my margins, budgets, what are my goals. That opportunity has taken my brand to a completely different level.
For example – my price structure – now we have a solid range from $90-$600 where previously there was a real gap. I learnt that I needed to offer a decent range. Also having a stronger story – this year is the first time I’ve ever done two drops; I now have an Autumn and a Winter collection.
You mentioned having a strong story. Who is the Lois Hazel consumer; what is her story?
She’s interested in honest fashion. She’s accountable for what she does, she’s willing to invest and understands what goes into the creative process. From those learning, my new tag line for the brand is ‘Honest Womenswear’.
It’s great – I have a young audience who buys one or two pieces. Then I have an older audience; their children have moved out of home and they invest in the higher priced pieces.
It’s been really exciting being a finalist for the Award. I have a few stores and I know, ‘ok, this Hawthorne store will order this and that Northcote store stores are going to pick these pieces’.
It’s an ongoing relationship, it doesn’t end when they (retailers) pay the bill. It’s a continuous relationship through the whole season. I love checking in to see how it’s going, what’s selling, and feedback, feedback, feedback.
When I was a finalist in March, I still had a part-time job. Now I’m working fulltime as a designer which has completely changed my mind set.
What advice would you get to designer applying this year?
Really look at your business. Try and understand your strengths and weaknesses. It’s often hard but be critical of it. I feel like I didn’t do that enough. The Award is scary, but so much fun!
Being a finalist was such a confidence boost. Everyday I’m in the studio, and now people can see the brand. It’s so much more than just my little passion project, it’s a business now.
I’m glad I didn’t win this year, I wasn’t ready for it. I wouldn’t have been able to use the Award, I wasn’t ready to get pushed into the spotlight. That’s why it’s was great someone like Kacey won. She taught me a lot just listening to her talk about her business and hearing how she had grown in the last year.
I never thought I’d make it to a finalist, but now this year I really want it. If I get the opportunity again, I’m excited to show the judges how much I’ve grown as a business owner and now I can talk the talk. Each collection I do is stronger than the last, the range is bigger, and the brand story is clearer.
I’m submitting my Autumn Winter 18 collection – Transverse. It’s about moving across, lines moving along the body.
Now I’m ready. It a privilege to win the Award and you must do it justices.
Applications for the 2018 the National Designer Award close Nov 23.
For more information and to apply visit here