One year? Wow, where on earth did those last 12 months go? To be honest, there’s been a lot more than the usual going on here, and the launch of a new clothing label is just one of them.
We thought that our first birthday might be a great opportunity for us to share a little bit about us. Who we are, what our backgrounds are, and why we decided to launch a new clothing label.
We’re not sure if you’re aware or not, but neither Nicole or I have any formal training in fashion design, with varied backgrounds in retail management, business, teaching and sales management between us both. We have, however, over the last 10 years been dabbling in designing and screen-printing fabric, and some women’s clothing - all under the Mookah label, which is available in our two retail stores in Inverloch and Warragul, Mookah Studio.
In early 2018, we heard about a six month mentoring program for people who didn’t have a fashion background, but wanted to launch their own fashion label. While it was going to require a fair investment of our time and money, we decided to go ahead with the program. We looked at it as an investment in our future. We were hoping that it would give us the knowledge and skills to do what we were already doing, but do it a lot more effectively and efficiently.
Right from the start there were some ‘a-ha’ moments, highlighting key points that we weren’t taking into consideration or not putting enough thought into. Things such as who is our target market? What does she look like? How does she spend her time? What age group is she in? Where does she wear our clothes - to work? On holidays, or every day? What does she value?
We couldn’t answer all these questions - there was no consistency. In our hearts, we already knew this and something had to change. It was about here that our minds started swirling with ideas, options and considerations. Do we try and change what we’re already doing, or do we take our combined knowledge and experiences and start again? Create a whole new brand; one we’ve thought about, planned for, and purposely created from the start, and one we’re excited and passionate about?
It was almost a no brainer.
If we wanted to move forward, we knew what we had to do, and more importantly to us, what we ‘wanted’ to do. The financial considerations were definitely there; yes, it costs A LOT of money to launch a new fashion label, but we were already making, so already had the fabric, pattern development, pattern grading and production costs. The main extras were the costs for graphic design, website design and photography to launch the label. (Mind you, this still cost us tens of thousands of dollars.)
The mentoring program certainly covered some areas that weren’t new to us, but it really opened up a whole new world of possibilities in terms of fabric and accessory suppliers.
One of our biggest challenges had always been sourcing the fabrics that we were looking for; good quality fabrics, but at affordable prices. When you’re such a small fish in a big pond, this is really tricky. You’re purchasing wholesale, but in such small quantities. We had, in the past, hit wall after wall when trying to source fabrics that fit this criteria.
People were always happy to supply fabric to us, but we would have to purchase hundreds or even thousands of metres of fabric in just one colour. When a top may use approximately one metre, that’s a lot of garments! At MATTA we are lucky to make 30 or 40 pieces of one garment; therefore access to new suppliers of fabrics that we never knew existed before filled us with excitement.
In our business, we definitely use a lot of instinct and gut feelings in our decision making, and in this instance, we felt confident that our initial investment would be worth it. Once the decision was made, it was absolutely all systems go to get the brand and our first collection ready to launch for Summer 2018.
We were on such a tight timeline with our brand development that we only had about 10 days to think of a name for our new label. We’re not sure if you’ve ever had to do this yourself, but we went back to the old school approach of pen and paper. Writing lists of names and words that we either liked or reflected the feel of the brand. Ideally, we wanted it to be short, catchy, one word, and to have some genuine meaning. As you can imagine, we visited Google quite a bit during this phase!
We decided on MATTA. MATTA Clothing. MATTA is taken from the Yiddish word Schmatta, which means rag trade, as Melbourne had very vibrant Jewish rag trade in the early 1900s.
One of the biggest challenges that faces a small designer and maker is the cost of manufacturing in Australia, which is why so many labels have shifted their production offshore. Once we outsourced our production, it was always important to us to keep not just in Australia, but locally here in Melbourne.
Having our entire design and production process happening close by means we can develop a relationship with those in our design, development and manufacturing process, and oversee the process as it happens. This allows us to identify and fix any problems before they potentially become big problems, and also, be aware of the working conditions of the people making our clothes. This is important to us. A friend of ours who manufactures offshore once told us, that making offshore is like ‘driving down the Monash Freeway with your eyes closed’.
Our first collection launched when our new website went live at the end of October 2018, and the range was introduced into our two existing Mookah Studio retail outlets. This was closely followed by us traveling to a few interstate markets to debut the range.
To say we were happy with how it was received was an understatement. Those two first interstate markets we did as MATTA Clothing were the biggest markets we’d ever had in the 10 years we’d been attending markets. We had struck a chord with our target audience – thank goodness.
At the time, we were concerned that some of our very loyal Mookah followers would be disappointed that we were doing something else. I guess it doesn’t matter how positive or confident you are; there is always imposter syndrome lurking. That little thought in the back of your mind that keeps popping up - what if it doesn’t work? What if it fails? What will people think? What even is failing anyway? If you stop doing something, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. You’ve had a go. You’ve followed your heart.
It made our heart sing when we had loyal Mookah customers who loved our new range and have since become MATTA customers. To you we are grateful, and glad that you’ve joined us on our journey.
There are a few people in particular that we’d like to recognise and thank for their invaluable contribution in helping us to get to this point.
Nicky Cawood for being you. For bringing your amazing sense of colour, design and styling to everything MATTA, including photo shoots, website development, and our socials in the early days. The person we could go to when seeking another opinion.
Husband/Wife Production Team for staying with us through the transition to MATTA Clothing, and the impeccable quality of your sewing and production.
Lauren Russo and Rachel Russo – two amazing local souls (sister-in-laws) who both lead very busy lives with their young families and their own businesses and projects, but who happily stepped in to be models for MATTA Clothing and support other local women in business.
Christina from Chrisp Pictures has been photographing for us since pre-MATTA Clothing and we feel blessed to have her on the journey with us. Each photoshoot has captured exactly the mood, feel and atmosphere we were looking to create.
Our Customers - without you and your amazing ongoing support, we wouldn’t be here. It’s those little conversations or experiences with our customers where we feel a connection that puts a smile on our faces and gives us those tingly feelings; those ones where you feel proud of who you are and what you’re doing. To you, we thank you.
Mum and Dad - thank you for helping with everything and supporting us (your daughters) in our choice to do what we are doing. Being such a small business (just the two of us) our parents help with just about everything. From labelling, to playing courier, helping build display stands, coming to market with us, being our fit model (trying on samples for size and cut) and for all of your moral support!!! We love you both very much.
Here is to another successful 12 months of MATTA. We are currently launching our Summer 19 range, with a few more styles to arrive in the coming days/weeks – we hope you love it. Make sure you give us your feedback so we can keep tweaking and get it as perfect as we can for you.
Leisa and Nicole