Most people who start a fashion label stop at one. Sydney’s Ana Piteira has founded three, so far. She’s the creative mind behind Reliquia Jewellery, accessories label Valet Studio and handbag label Respiro, which are all booming in Australia and overseas.
Between the three labels, Piteira’s body of work is now stocked across Net-a-Porter, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Shopbop. And it’s about to launch into Liberty London, Luisa Via Roma, Opening Ceremony and Galeries Lafayette, with a new line of headbands on the way.
Given the challenges of today’s saturated retail climate, Piteira’s success is astonishing. Speaking to Broadsheet over the phone, the designer reveals herself to be extremely down-to-earth and hardworking.
At 24, she founded her successful PR and sales agency, Omgfive, in Sydney. She hustled hard, leaving Omgfive to work evenings and weekends at a telemarketing gig. “I definitely cried to myself in the bathroom a number of times,” she says.
Piteira started her agency in 2013, when the social media boom had just given rise to influencers. Acutely attuned to the digital climate, she turned her attention to where the market was heading and focused on working with influencers.
It worked. As Omgfive grew, Piteira found herself in a unique position, privy to multiple sides of the Australian fashion market. She had an intuitive understanding of what stockists, consumers and media outlets were looking for – and her network was growing. It was around this time she noticed a gap in the market for vintage-style jewellery.
As a child, she would visit her grandmother in Portugal and they would “rummage” through her jewellery collection together. “There was a mix of costume and some more valuable pieces,” she says. “I really loved how she loved all of those pieces equally.”
Piteira realised similar retro styles were difficult to find on the market, even in her position as a sales agent. That’s how Reliquia started.
“It was definitely a hard slog to get it up and running,” she says. “When it first launched, I wouldn’t say that it exploded immediately.” But Piteira played to her strengths, and, using relationships she had forged through her years in PR, started sending Reliquia pieces out to her network.
“[Working with influencers helped to] develop a couple of pieces that really stood out, like our Spiral Hoops and our Mini Coin Necklace, and they became really easily identifiable. I don’t want to say cult pieces but people were definitely wearing them. I would see them everywhere, it was quite wild.”
After a few years, Piteira was ready to head in a different direction and introduce jewels that were more closely reminiscent of her grandmother’s costume jewellery. But she was concerned about sending mixed messages. “I wanted to play with colour and shape,” she says, but didn’t want to dilute the label’s “clear aesthetic”. So she launched Valet Studio with a series of resin necklaces and earrings. The necklaces were discontinued and later replaced by ’90s-style hair clips.
At first, Australian stockists didn't know how to respond to the accessories. “[They] were like ‘I don’t get them, are they for kids? Are they for adults? We don’t really know’,” says Piteira. “It’s only sort of now in the last three months that everyone’s like ‘The hair clips! We need the hair clips!’”
The international market, on the other hand, embraced the trend immediately. “I went overseas and sold [the hair clips] and everyone was going gangbusters for them.”
About a year ago, growing restless once again, Piteira added Respiro to her suite of labels. Like its jewellery counterpart, the hardback box clutches are made from hand-poured resin which is then cut into sheets. “I really like that method of doing things because it means the colour options are endless,” says Piteira.
Despite all her success, when asked what she considers her greatest achievement, Piteria says it’s the people she gets to work with each day.
“Now we have 13 in our team altogether and that’s really incredible for me to see,” she says. “Everyone is really committed and really involved. I actually think that’s what I’m most stoked about – to have a solid team and build my own little community in that way.”
The Omgfive and fashion teams are split between two offices located five minutes apart in Surry Hills. Piteira moves between them during the day. “I don’t have a nice morning routine like you hear people talk about; I always fail miserably,” she says. “I get up and start working straight away.”
In terms of work-life balance, she says she never checks her email past 10pm and will always try and reserve Sundays for herself. (We’re speaking on a Sunday morning). But it’s clear her hard work is paying off.
“I think in general, it’s just a really exciting time.”