In this series with speakers from Ragtrader Live 2019, Husk creative director Kirrily Johnston reveals the power of a design-led strategy. To hear more insights that could grow your business, grab your tickets here. 

When did you release your first collection for Husk?

My first full collection for the Husk brand was for autumn 2017. It was called Renaissance. The first thing I wanted to do was name it. I felt that the romance needed to come back into the brand.

I wanted to bring more relevance into the collections and talk more closely to what was happening in fashion at large. I analysed previous best sellers from past seasons and updated key pieces to maintain the signature of the brand.

Husk was 23 years old when I came on board, so I had to ensure I wasn’t going to freak the client out and get her on the journey with confidence.

The Husk leather program was at the core of the business.I had never known a brand to have a core item that was $1000, so it was exciting but daunting at the same time. I added in fresh colours and femmed up the hardware.

New styles were added in leather coats which pushed price points to places they had had never been, but the desirability was there and these styles were the best performers of the season.New silhouettes in soft dressing categories introduced colour and femininity and these programs were hugely successful for us.

What is the timeline/process from concept to store floor?

We work on two Critical Path’s. Long lead product is designed eleven months ahead and short lead 8-9 months ahead. I begin work on the colour palettes and mood inspiration around two months before that, so really it’s 12 months from inception to the shop floor.

What's the biggest achievement you've made there so far?

When I came into the business the Husk apparel was 30 % of the product mix. The brand buy dominated the stores and there was an overall perception that the client did not perceive the Husk brand as equal to the imports, it was more supplementary, with the exception of the leather jacket program.

What I wanted to do was to make Husk brand the heart beat of the business. To offer a well rounded, strong, desirable collection, that was beautifully shot, that our clients would covet, and that our import brands would compliment not dominate.

In two and a half years, Husk brand has now grown to over 60% of the product mix and is the absolute center of everything we do. This has been very exciting and obviously brings with it growth in margin and much greater control from a product perspective.

What are some of the changes you've instituted? 

Aesthetically there were changes made to the Husk branded collections and the branded collections needed a shift and a clean up to deliver a more concise offering. In order to support the vision I implemented alot of structure. New timelines, product sessions, buying strategies, Critical Path’s. The most important thing for me to was quality and timely deliveries, so I pushed hard to improve process.

What are some initiatives for Husk in the pipeline? 
Key online distribution and International expansion. I can’t say where yet, but it’s happening!

Moving forward, what do you see as the biggest change ahead for this industry?

I think that further developments in how we get the product to the client and how they pay for it will change and develop rapidly in years to come. Social media has had such an enormous affect on purchasing behaviour.

I do think there will always be a place for experiential bricks and mortar retail, especially with our stores as they are so unique and beautiful, but the online space is exploding.

Websites are the new Flagships, Instagram is changing quickly, Facebook is coming off the boil, We Chat is quickly gaining momentum, Afterpay is replacing traditional lay by’s, crypto currencies at some point will start becoming normal payment …who knows where it will lead. I think you just have to be super nimble and continually adapt.

I also believe that conscious product will become more and more powerful. It is the way our children are being educated. In an over saturated market people are hungry for things that are unique. I find that really exciting.

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