Building a brand is a pretty full-on undertaking. From the outside it can seem as simple as choosing a name, maybe a logo, getting some product, making a website and... that’s it? Not quite.
As a founder of any business there are so many things to consider, and one task always inevitably seems to lead to three more. You’ve got to love every aspect of the business, product and purpose, and find a way to wrap them together in a meaningful and effective way - particularly if success and longevity are something you’d like for the brand!
We’re coming up to Valkyrie’s second year, and it’s been an incredible ride so far. We’ve moved from Sydney to London, have an ever-growing community and there are some very exciting goals on the horizon.
The changes and evolutions have been wonderful, and found myself reflecting lately on the start of this brand, and the values that I chose to incorporate into it from day one. An important one being Connection to Local Industry.
Growing up on the east coast of Australia I was immersed in a healthy, bustling, beachside culture. Locals were almost designed for the rise of athleisure, constantly running between coffee dates, the gym, business meetings, school pickups and outdoor adventures.
There was always something exciting to do - the local artisanal markets to visit, a new brunch spot to try, that new gym with a whole new approach to training.... so much to weave us together in this colourful, connected lifestyle tapestry!
Leaving the house without running into someone you know was pretty much impossible, even in a busy tourist beach town.
The community raised us, and the desire to give back to it was naturally imbued from a young age.
It was therefore a very natural decision for me, when starting Valkyrie, to produce as much of my product as possible locally in Australia.
There’s an inherent sense of pride and connection when you buy something made in your home country, or from a local small business, but there’s many other reasons why ‘Made in Australia’ was the right choice for us.
As a consumer I always love the idea of supporting friends and the local community, to give back to, and encourage, the culture that raised me. As a producer I realised the impact goes deeper than that...
While studying fashion design at Billy Blue College of Design in Sydney, I gained access to an incredible network of local fashion producers and suppliers.
Many of these businesses and individuals could only be found through a hand scrawled telephone number passed on by a fashion industry friend, or by driving through the backstreets of Alexandria, hoping to find the factory address that was hidden on the third page of Google.
It’s a network that expands once you find it, and it’s full of talent and passion and generations of knowledge, but it’s not necessarily one that’s great at promoting itself.
I realised pretty quickly that while it might be easier and cheaper to work with mass production in China, or find quick results online, these local businesses (and the future of fashion production in Australia) relied on small business startups - like mine - to make the choice to stay local wherever possible.
Another reason I loved the idea of local production was the environmental and ethical benefits. These are areas of responsibility that every business now has no excuse to ignore. With all the options available to us, there’s not a single reason to allow unnecessary waste, pollution or unethical behaviour in the production and distribution of new products.
With local industry, the furthest my samples, fabrics and finished products would have to travel was one state away, no flying back and forth to Asia for the materials, products or myself.
It also meant less waste due to miscommunication. Having my factory thirty minutes away also meant that I could pop by to check samples, correct mistakes easily, oversee the use of raw materials and keep the projects on track. Timelines were sped up and quality was easy to ensure, plus I could actually get to know the people I was working with! (My Sydney factory had two little dogs keeping the workers company!)
Unfortunately because it’s a small industry in Aus, there were some areas where we had to find other alternatives to get the high end product we desired. Not every fabric, design, trim or finish is actually possible to produce onshore, but there were still ways to support local businesses without sacrificing the quality and design I wanted!
When I needed custom reflective logos from Japan, or high performance Italian fabrics, or a certain cut of shirt, I found local businesses to collaborate with. These locals worked closely with international suppliers to ensure the sustainable and ethical standards were met, who bulk imported to Aus to reduce the impact of transit and maintained the international relationships required.
Even when I couldn’t do it at home, there was always a way to bring in the locals.
Other ways we brought the local spirit into Valkyrie was to collaborate with small businesses in the community for pop-ups and workshops, to support the efforts of other creatives, entrepreneurs and wellness brands.
I’m so grateful I was able to bring this local love into Valkyrie. To boost the creative culture and industry economically and to keep sustainability and ethical practices front of mind.
This ethos is something we continue to embody in everything we do with Valkyrie. Moving to London has meant that we’ve had to step away from some of our Australian production (for now), in favour of finding UK and EU businesses to partner with - for example, our newest Chronos Sweatshirts were made and designed with a London based factory! Though of course we still ship orders globally!
Looking forward, we’re exploring production options across Europe for our technical training gear and fabric sourcing - there’s some amazing cutting-edge work being done not too far afield! (And about the same distance as Melbourne is to Brisbane!)
As London comes out of lockdown (again) we’ll also be looking for local gyms, wellness spaces and brands to collaborate with, so if you know any that are making waves, let us know!
With all the power of globalisation, we believe there’s still something very powerful to be said for producing and shopping locally, and supporting businesses that have special ties to your community and culture.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so sound off in the comments and share the local love message across your socials!