I’ve been thinking a lot about whether or how to write about Edenstar. The highs were so high, and the lows so low. It’s been difficult to think about,and I have mentally put it away in a box and shut the lid tightly. Since it has been such an important and almost all consuming passion, and taken up 10 years of my life, I decided it would be good, even cathartic. I warn you, it’s a long story with lots of pictures. I may be a basket case (again) by the time it’s finished.
I started my kid’s fashion brand, Edenstar, in 2003 when my girls were just 2 years old. After working in the commercial fashion industry as a designer since 1987, I became driven to put my ideas into my own boutique brand for my own kids after doing it for others for so long. It also gave me the flexibility to work around my family’s needs, or so I thought. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
I survived on adrenalin in the early years, working from home and around the girls. Mr. B was on board and designed graphics, did the photography, the accounts and all the back end admin as well as working full time in a real job. Friends caught onto the excitement and gathered over tea and cake to help hand embroider skirts, sew buttons on shirts and pin tags onto garments. The girls were the cutest models, and the brand was fresh and new. Boutiques lapped it up. Our wholesale business grew quickly. It was hard work but so much fun.
Reality set in when I started showing at trade fairs and wholesaling interstate. Together with two other local brands, Purebaby and Mill & Mia, I travelled around Australia putting together mini trade shows from hotel rooms and having the best of times. We had such a laugh and supported one another through the chaos.
A few years on and things escalated when I became friendly with sisters running another local brand, Moppit, and we travelled to New York together to meet sales agents and show at trade fairs. This period was equal parts excitement and terror. Showing at an international trade fair was absolutely exhilarating, and Edenstar won the award for Best Newcomer. It was great to have the Moppit girls to share with. We are good friends still.
The business had outgrown our tiny home. There were rolls of fabric in every room, and you couldn’t see the lounge room floor for boxes when we were packing orders. I almost despatched our old cat to New Zealand once when he fell asleep in a box full of stock.
So we took on a small warehouse. It was too ambitious financially, and somewhat cold and unfriendly. We had no choice. Stress was at an all time high, and I felt as if on a hamster wheel, running at top speed, getting nowhere, and unable to get off. We were exporting internationally by now. We had sales agents on the East and West Coast’s of the US, the UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and locally Sydney and Brisbane, a distributor in Spain, and were the in-house brand at the gift shop of the Palm Jumeira Resort in Dubai (the one where Kylie sang at the opening!). I was travelling to trade fairs both here and in New York. I was exhausted, terrified, and guilt-ridden, but driven on by the promise of elusive financial success.
The high point was when Edenstar was included in a book – Kid’s Fashion Designers – published by Daab, an international distributor of design books. We were the only Australian brand included. It was good for the ego, but meant nothing in real terms. I just couldn’t give it up. Like a class A drug, so addictive and harmful. It looks pretty in the pictures, but it was ugly behind the scenes. Edenstar had become a monster.
At this point the Global Financial Crisis hit. Perfect timing. Stock for our international orders was in the warehouse ready to ship. Most were cancelled as global panic ensued. We were left with A LOT of cancelled stock we had to pay for. It was a disaster.
Mr. B put his foot down. As a director of the company he ordered a halving in expenditure, or he would close it down. He was right. I can see that clearly now. We moved to cheaper warehousing and I halved my assistant’s hours. I felt crushed and my designs suffered. I was pretty much on my own, trying to keep my head above the water, and diversified into women’s wear hoping that retail market might be better. The first signs were encouraging, and I really enjoyed the change, but that sunk too in the coming year.
We came to a cross roads when retailers stopped paying their bills and our warehouse lease ended. I felt trapped, but couldn’t see a future without Edenstar. It defined me.
Then fate stepped in and my Mum became gravely ill in the UK. It was sudden, and instantly things became clear. Edenstar was put on hold and there it stays. Mr.B was very kind. There could have been finger pointing and ‘I told you so’s’, and it would have been deserved, but Mr. B came through for me when I was at my lowest. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health . . . .
Things slowly returned to a new and better kind of normal. I’m happier than I’ve been for a decade. I hope never to put Mr. B and the girls through that again, or myself for that matter. I’d like to say I’ve been the victim of the world recession, but that’s not entirely true. Ambition played it’s part. I did it to myself, and it wasn’t pretty.
The highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I feel like a recovering drug addict. There, it’s on the page and I feel all the better for it. Now you know.
Originally published 17/02/2014