Though now endorsed by global fashion heavyweights, from Beyoncé to Style.com, ethereal women’s label Lover had humble beginnings as a stall at the Bondi Markets. However, creative director Nic Briand says he and founding partner Susien Chong paid close attention to detail from the start.
“Before we started, we designed the look and feel of the stall, to make sure it would complement the clothes and stand out amongst the crowd. We would pack up the car every Sunday morning with so much stuff, that I could barely fit in,” Briand recalls. “I will never forget the first weekend – it was out of control. It gave us a lot of confidence in the product. Looking back on it, we can see that it really set the foundation for how we run our business.”
Briand says starting at the markets allowed for a direct dialogue with the customer, which helped to shape the direction of Lover as a brand. “We sold our first lace blouse at the markets, the Miranda blouse, named after the main character from Picnic At Hanging Rock. It became one of our most in-demand items,” he says. “That direct feedback set us on a path of creating items that used lace fabrication. And now we are recognised around the world for our lace garments.”
A little way across town, Louise Olsen and business/life partner Stephen Ormandy spent two years setting the foundations for Dinosaur Designs at the Paddington Markets. Since then, the duo’s chunky, resin jewellery and homewares have become famous, and their work has been commissioned by everyone from The Metropolitan Opera House in New York, to Louis Vuitton.
Like Briand, Olsen says this was a highly informative time for their business. “It really gets you on track as far as interacting and dealing with the public,” she says. “All of a sudden you’ve put yourself right at the front of the retail realm. It’s a great sounding board.”
Olsen thinks the markets are still a great place for any creative endeavour to find its feet. “You’re constantly talking and discussing with other stallholders, but also the customers are generally creative. Whether it’s cookies, cupcakes, candles, jewelry or tees, you’re in amongst a group of creative people trying to pave their way.”
The key to success for Olsen is the fundamentally old-school set up of a marketplace. “I think that even with social media, people need to see, feel and touch,” she says. “As much as we’re all buying online and looking at Instagram to be inspired, we cant lose ourselves to the fact that we are humans and we need to immerse in our senses.”
Other brands that began at the markets
Founded in 2008 by Melanie Kamsler and Tamila Purvis, Mania Mania has secured the niche between cocktail and fine jewellery. The brand’s incorporation of crystals appeals not only to local free-spirits but global fashion heavyweights from US Vogue to V Magazine, with clients including Cara Delevingne and Chloë Sevigny. Mania Mania started at the Bondi Markets and can still be found around the corner at high-end boutique Tuchuzy.
Sass & Bide
Best friends Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton started Sass & Bide in 1999, beginning by selling denim at the Bondi Markets as well as London’s Portobello Road. Although they left the brand in 2014, the pair saw it become an international sensation, showing at London and New York fashion weeks and frequenting fashion pages with their bold, structured designs that covered street style and high-end looks.
They started selling dresses designed in their parents’ garage at Paddington Markets. Now, sisters Nicky and Simone Zimmerman run a fashion empire. Their feminine dresses and sculpted bikinis show at New York Fashion Week and are sold in iconic international department stores such as Harrods, Barney’s and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Samantha Wills may now be New York based with global offices from here to Korea, but she started her bohemian accessories line at the Bondi Markets when she was just 21. Her designs strike a balance between elegance and fun, fulfilling an under-catered-to demand for classy costume jewellery. This, coupled with a slew of celebrity endorsements saw the brand kick-off into cult status – the “as worn by” section of the website features everyone from Jessica Stein to Lady Gaga.