As iconic designer Collette Dinnigan celebrates a ten year partnership with Specsavers, she reveals major lessons from her successful career including managing international logistics and running in-house production teams.
I have learnt many things in my time running my own business and have leant on many people in the industry taking advice while also following my intuition. I think it is vital to keep your DNA, never stay still or stagnant, don't underestimate the value of the customer and their opinion. If you're working for the customer and not for yourself, you'll always be a winner.
Patience is also key, as well as being understanding and tolerant. It’s not necessarily a tip but more of my mantra to be fair. It’s important to be fair to everybody and treat everyone equally. You have to be passionate and prepared to work harder than you ever have before, because at times business can be extremely difficult and it can’t feel like a job or a business, more of a way of life.
Work has to feel like your dream and your love and your hobby - because it is 24/7.
One of my mantras is it's all about the detail, the finer points, exposing problems, not just sweeping them under the carpet, but rather look for solutions, and also trying to think positively every day.
I go into the office and ask what problems happened overnight so we can look for solutions. I think that’s the key thing about the business, to be flexible and to be open to changing its directional course if there is a problem.
One of the key problems faced throughout my time working in the industry is the shipping and logistics, particularly being an Australian company where a lot of our fabrics such as my laces are made and manufactured in France.
We'd hand cut everything in Australia then send it to India to have it hand beaded, then back to Australia to have it handmade and finished, and then shipped around the world. There were an enormous amount of problems, things would go wrong during that process, which made it tricky for us, but we always found solutions.
It was also a challenge finding people who understood the European Market in Australia because we’re so far away. Technology has made communication a lot better and things have changed. But our production lead time never did. The transport was always a difficulty in getting to market in Europe or America.
Another challenge I think for any fashion business, not just mine, is the amount of people you employ across different platforms. Different educational degrees, from the seamstress with no university degree to the accountant with multiple degrees, there were different levels of education in the business, different levels of experience and so many different processes for me to manage. From designing the print for the fabric designer to then having it printed, then to sampling, and then managing the press department, production department, sales department, communication department and retail stores.
So much can go wrong if communication isn’t good. So, communication is key.
I have been asked before how I switch hats when I go from fashion to interiors, but if I’m honest, I’m always wearing both. Whether it’s fashion or interiors I always start with colour and proportion for space. It’s just innate in me. I don’t need to switch hats, it’s kind of all around me. My advice would be just to work hard in whatever it is you wish to pursue.
One of the biggest opportunities I’ve had in my career is partnering with Specsavers over the last 10 years and I’m honoured to have the opportunity to mark the milestone with a special limited-edition collection. I have also learnt so much and have had a taste of what it’s like to be part of a global brand because, in a small business, you have to wear so many hats.
The partnership really has blossomed over the 10 years. A good friend of mine Alex Perry was the first Australian designer to partner with Specsavers, and then I was honoured to be offered the opportunity. I love how Specsavers has embraced the change of working with optical to make it a fashion and design accessory, rather than a necessity.
Eyewear can really elevate your look and I love that I can add a touch of luxury to any outfit with a good pair of optical or sunglass frames, and I believe that my limited-edition collection can do the same for many Australian women.