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To celebrate the Twentieth Anniversary of Farage; we put our Directors Joe & Katy in the Hot Seat where they share their adventures along the way, their secrets to making it work & what’s on the horizon for the next chapter of this much-loved brand…
Twenty years, what an achievement!! Take us back to the beginning – how did this all start?
It all started when I met Katy. I was 19 at the time and Katy was just finishing fashion school in Brisbane with a plan to move to Sydney for work experience. We soon realised we had a shared passion for the fashion industry… The truth is - the brand itself was born from the fact that I couldn’t find a slim fit tailored shirt that I wanted to wear, it was when we pondered this that we really identified there was a gap in the market that yet, no other local brand had attempted to fill… We noticed a shop available in The Strand Arcade, decided to take a gamble & then I guess, the rest as they say is history… On reflection, I can’t believe how crazy we were! With no real business plan – just a gut feel and a genuine desire to succeed. I’m glad we were only young at the time as I’m not sure we would be so bold now…
And in 2003 Farage Women’s was born – What impact did that have on the business & how did you embrace these changes?
The launch of womenswear to the business really changed everything. Womenswear is a lot more faced paced with respect to product & pattern development than menswear… Our focus shifted from primarily fabric sourcing and perfecting details to more intense & frequent pattern work – It was a learning curve to say the least… It was a bonus for us that Womenswear was an instant success; with the first women’s store also opening in The Strand Arcade it felt as though the foundations were naturally forming.
What keeps you up at night?
Haha… I’m a father of 3 daughters!! Actually, from a business perspective I’d say simply being in business keeps me up at night. Whether it’s thinking about the finishing touches on a collection, or strategic planning on what’s next in retail… Sometimes it’s pretty hard to completely switch off.
What was the best piece of advice you have ever received?
A great mentor of mine said once 'When you’re really caught up on a something, follow your gut' – I’ve followed that to this day & I can honestly say it’s helped me achieve all I have…..I’m not sure if it’s advice that I’ve received or just a general approach to life but one testament that I stand by is that failure is not an option… this passion has kept me going through some of the most challenging times over the years.
As a couple, your lives have also changed and evolved over the years – what do you think is the key to maintaining that balance between business owners & importantly parents?
I think it would be fair to say that Farage was our first baby; I can’t believe it’s twenty!! On top of that, together we’ve been blessed with 3 beautiful girls, so it’s become increasingly important for Katy & I to ensure that our time is utilised well. Whilst it’s always very busy both at home and work, we’ve both realised how increasingly important it is to find some time to yourself. We’ve found that keeping fit has been an effective way to find balance, Exercise has given us the extra energy needed to keep up with our girls and to go the extra mile at work. It’s really been about maintaining a positive attitude, staying focused & having immense gratitude for our many blessings, we might slip up every now & then on one thing but the beauty of doing it all together is that there is always one of us to carry the other along…
Katy; as a full-time working mother of three young daughters you must face challenges daily… How do you manage to juggle life with the girls whilst remaining passionate & delivering collections every season?
Well yes, raising three girls is an adventure; particularly now as they get older & all have different interests – their social calendars are much harder to juggle than mine!! In recent years I’ve really learnt to cherish my time at the office; It’s my opportunity to be creative & focus on what inspires me…
What would you say have been the key reasons that you have been able to weather the storm - Our clients want to know; How have you done it & what is it about Farage that keeps them coming back?
I really feel that in business if you always ensure that you stay true to your values; continue to deliver on your promise & don’t compromise on quality or customer service you will not only be able to survive in business, but you will thrive. With all the volatility we’ve experienced in the industry; particularly over the last 8 years, I believe that it’s exactly this philosophy that has seen us through…. Katy, Myself and our Team are just as commited to our three pillars as we were when we started; the heritage of tailoring; delivering a quality product with authenticity and integrity and of course maintaining our focus on provenance as we continue make in Australia….it’s what our customers both expect and admire us for.
Heritage, Provenance & Authenticity - Tell us more about this & why their significance is so important to the brand.
These pillars are at the core of our brand; everything we do reflects each of these values. Our collections are built on the Heritage of fine tailoring & craftmanship; Our focus on Provenance ensures that we source our fabrics from only the very best mills & work with the most experienced & respected makers across the globe… Our Shirts - the cornerstone of our brand; are handmade in our very own factory in Surry Hills, Sydney – Giving us an authentic control over the quality of the garments that we deliver.
What’s next for Farage?
Right now, Katy and I are really inspired by the innovation that is coming through with regards to technical and performance fabrics. With the evolving lifestyles of our customer we find that they have more expectation of versatility from their suiting; the mills are embracing this and in turn there is so much development in this space which is exciting! For Farage though it’s about finding the balance between the traditional elements of 100% Australian Wool and the modern elements of durability and performance… It’s exciting and we’re really embracing the challenge.
You have three beautiful daughters – tell us Joe, was that a succession plan in the pipeline? Truly, is it your hope that they will one day take over?
For me I would love the girls to someday be involved. It’s not something I will push for but secretly should any of them want to be a part of the business it would make me very happy. There are many things that could be worse.
Our customer has evolved, as has fashion; what are the key changes over the past 20 years that have helped reshape the industry as a whole?
Certainly, the most notable change for the industry would be the growth of Online Retail; we were early adopters of Ecommerce launching our first site in 2008 but it’s become much more significant in subsequent years. Having an online platform has become a necessity for all brands – even more so now than bricks & mortar. What it has also done is encourage brands to make their retail space experiential & innovative more so than ever before. It’s essential for us to give our customers a reason to visit us in store rather than just to buy product; it’s an evolving challenge.
Whose style do you most admire?
For me I would say the most consistent Style Icon I’ve had across my twenty years in this business would be James Bond. From Roger Moore to Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig; No matter the era he has managed to remain timeless, classic, yet effortlessly modern… He really is known just as much for the tuxedo as he is for the Martini… I’m a fan of both.
The female style icons I am loving right now would have to be the new generation of Royals. They are bringing tailoring back to the forefront. It’s sophisticated, polished and very modern.
What inspires you? Talk us through the design process… Does this change from season to season – has your approach to designing ever changed?
I’m inspired mainly by design, architecture & travel. For me the design process always starts at the fabric fairs in either Milan or Paris & in turn being in those cities I automatically become inspired… I also gain energy from other creatives, those with similar passions… Commencing a collection from the fair ensures it all starts with the fabric – it naturally evolves from there.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge across the twenty years in business & what was the key to getting past it?
Learning how to let go and trust in your team. Initially I found it quite hard to let go as I felt that nobody would be as connected as I was or understand the vision like I did… Thankfully I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by great people over the years that soon taught me the opposite is the truth – no one can do it alone; truth is – who would want to?
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