Elizabeth Abegg, director of Spell and the Gypsy Collective, talks eCommerce and ethics. Catch her at Online Fashion Success in June.
What is your day to day role?
I am an owner and director of Spell. As a small business that can mean doing everything. But as we’ve grown and now have a very strong team, its more about overseeing every angle of the business.
This is everything from design decisions, to conceptualising our campaigns, to HR, social media and brand management.
Right now, I have been focusing a lot on ethics and sustainability in our business as it is very important to me and to our customers.
What do you see as the biggest change in the industry?
I think one of the biggest changes to the fashion industry is also one of the best changes. That is customer awareness around ethics and sustainability in an industry that has a lot to answer for.
Around 18 months ago, we started on our own ethics and sustainability journey and it’s been both humbling and very exciting.
When you’re a start up with no money, it’s often hard to put efforts in those areas when you’re struggling to survive.
But once you’re turning a profit, it becomes very apparent very quickly that you have to do every single thing you can to become part of the solution.
A year ago, we made a commitment that we wouldn’t be working with any factories which are not ethically accredited by a third party auditing body such as Sedex, WRAP, SAI or BSCI by July 2017.
We’ve worked closely with all our factories and we’re almost 100% there.
What do you see as the biggest change ahead?
This year we have turned our eye to building relationships with not-for- profit artisan groups who give back to the communities where our clothes are made. We are also striving for a more sustainable product through exploration of organics and natural dying techniques for our childrenswear category ’Spell and the Little Gypsies’.
It’s still early days but it feels very powerful when even small changes you make as a business can have a huge impact in the world we live in. This year one of our focuses is not only making beautiful things that people want to buy, but proudly sharing the story of where they came from.
What is the most rewarding aspect?
New ideas and implementing them. Sometimes, I feel like the maestro conductor in front of a really talented and passionate orchestra. Like waving my hands and just watching all this incredible stuff be created from nothing; from designs, photoshoots, marketing concepts, storytelling.
What about the most challenging?
Navigating rapid growth while still holding true to our core values of authenticity, family and community, generosity and responsibility.
Leading up to 2015, it felt like all the wheels were about to fall off so we actively slowed growth to put systems and management we needed in place.
But as we loosened the reigns and let the growth begin again in 2016, the speeding train just kind of took off again.
There have been some pretty monumental learning curves along the way – where do I even start?
Personally I’ve found that the best way to deal with them have been with fierce vulnerability and transparency to our customers.
What's your proudest moment at the company?
The proudest moments are watching the way my team come together as a family during challenges.
In those dark moments, when it feels like all hell is breaking loose, I see my team rise up like this incredibly beautiful phoenix and do the right thing for our customers and for our brand.
Those are the proud moments.
Winning the Telstra Business Awards last year was an amazing outward validation for all of us, but it’s those internal, private moments that get kind of etched in your memory as a business owner.