The Carousel sat down with the fabulous and inspiring Colette Hayman, co-founder of the cult-jewellery brand, Diva and now a driving force behind accessories super-brand Colette by Colette Hayman.
Here, Colette reveals her insightful top tips to starting your own business, the things she most loves about Australia, her food weaknesses, pet peeves and shares some exciting news on what’s next for her brand.
Tell us where your love of fashion came from
Ever since I can remember I’ve loved beautiful clothes and dressing up, when I was 6 years old my mother had a pair of really high Bally Shoes that I teetered around in, I absolutely loved them! From an early age I realised the confidence that clothes gave me. As a teenager I designed a lot of my clothes which my mum would have made up for me so I guess I was destined to end up in fashion.
I’ve worked in all areas of the fashion industry and the creative direction part is what I love the most! I love the way it transforms my mood when I feel good in an outfit. People say “love the skin you’re in” I say “love the look you’re’ in”. Don’t take things too seriously, experiment and if it’s a fail, forget it and try again!
At what point in your career did you decide to start up Colette?
After we sold Diva, we tried to have a long break but found ourselves itching to do something new. I’m sure most people would dream of retiring early but if business is part of your DNA then you can never really stop striving!
We had spoken about the idea of colette by colette hayman for a while after recognising a gap in the market; there was nobody else in the standalone handbag and accessory market offering great prices with a cool sexy approach to fashion accessories, so we decided to open a bag and accessory chain for confident and fashionable women.
Opening colette by colette hayman has been a dream come true and I still cannot believe how far we have come in only 5 years. My aim has always been to create an exciting shopping experience in a cool, sexy environment. Bags and accessories tell a story of who you are and I try to inspire my customers to be adventurous and push the limits a bit, throw on some jewellery and a great handbag and make a statement. What woman doesn’t want to have a choice of several handbags and pieces of jewellery to brighten up her outfit, now with our affordable pieces she can indulge herself regularly.
You’re originally from Durban, South Africa and then you moved to the UK. What made you settle in Australia?
Before moving to Australia, we lived in the UK for 7 years where we ran French Connection stores but decided the climate was not for us. We particularly wanted our kids to have the experience of outdoor living that we did as kids in South Africa so we moved to Australia in 2000.
Has your South African heritage influenced your designs?
No, my designs are influenced by current and upcoming trends; we subscribe to a trend forecasting service and I keep my finger firmly on the pulse by travelling, researching online and just keeping my eyes peeled everywhere I go.
What are your five top tips for starting your own business?
- Know everything about your business. This can be all encompassing so you have to manage time really well. I visit my warehouse and stores regularly and my head office team are personally selected by me.
- Employ well. To a large extent the success of a business is determined by the people you employ.
- Have a 5 year plan, it’s not set in stone but it will give you focus and direction.
- Put in reporting systems early on, these are invaluable!
- Love it, breathe it, live it!
What are the main personality traits you need to succeed in starting up your own business?
When I’m working, I give it 100% effort. I am completely focused and very committed to my brand. Always remember that nothing successful comes without hard work.
You must be pretty happy that the brand has now expanded internationally! Congratulations. What would you tell women across the world that have the same dream you had?
Be your harshest critic and never rest on your laurels. I continuously challenge my team with “how can we do it better?” which ensures we’re always pushing the brand to the next level, whether it is design, communications or internal processes.
Now that your brand is international, do you see any major differences between markets in different countries? I.e. English versus Australian Women?
Colours that work internationally do not always translate to our market as our seasons are different. Primarily styles that work here will work internationally; it’s just the colours that need tweaking.
What do you love about living in Australia?
The sunshine of course! We are very lucky to have a balanced life with lots of family time by the sea on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, days out on the Harbour and regular breaks at our holiday home on Hamilton Island. I think it’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
Do you have any plans to expand into other markets?
We see emerging markets as a wonderful opportunity; we are currently in 4 other countries and are working with potential partners in many others. We take our inspiration from international fashion trends and our product would sit easily in any major city around the world.
What’s the next step for Colette?
We are now planning to extend our footprint to the USA, Canada, UK, Central Asia and Europe over the next 5 years. Our vision is to build colette by colette hayman into a global brand, offering trendy yet affordable fashion accessories from the best retail locations world-wide.
Your last purchase was?
A pair of Givenchy booties with star studs on the back of the heel, from my recent trip to Paris.
Music you listen to?
I listen to my store playlists; they are produced monthly by a great DJ.
Your favourite place in the world is?
Other than home, I love New York in summer, the energy and pace suits me perfectly. I want to live there for 6 months….it’s on my bucket list.
On a Sunday you love to?
I wake up, go for a walk to Manly, have breakfast and then either see my children or go out on my boat for the day. I read, do a bit of fishing and have a relaxing time before heading into another busy week.
Your career highlight was?
Starting this business. We own it ourselves and I love every minute of it.
You can’t leave the house without?
Perfume, a statement piece of jewellery, my iphone and my bag.
Your personal style is?
Modern classic but on trend, I wear what suits me, not what’s fashionable. I’m a shoe junkie, I have hundreds of pairs…I buy too many and wear too few of them!
The beauty product you can’t live without?
La Mer moisturiser and eye cream and my Lancôme star mascara.
Your travel essentials are?
I travel with a cashmere wrap and eye mask, my Louis Vuitton trolley bag, ipad (because Wifi is available on flights these days!), a notebook and pen and Clarins Hydra Quench intensive serum.
Your favourite snack is?
I have a terribly sweet tooth so I love any chocolate on a naughty day and mixed nuts when I’m trying to be good.
Your fitness/health philosophy is?
I go for a walk if I feel I need to clear my mind and I practice yoga twice a week.
Big chunks of fruit in my fruit salad, I like small delicate pieces!
Carbs, Carbs and Carbs! I love potatoes, pasta and bread in all shapes and forms!
Do you have any advice on starting up a successful business? Tell us in the comments section below!