TALULAH STITCHES UP A DECADE OF DESIGN
Written on the 24 April 2015 by Karen Rickert
STYLE is volatile and the technology-inspired transformation of the industry has contributed to the demise of a number of fashion houses in Australia.
However, not so for women's designer label Talulah which has not only managed to stay ahead of the sartorial pack, but will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year.
The brand is stocked in David Jones, has spawned the diffusion line Isla, exhibited at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia the past five years and has inked a deal with an international showroom to crack the US market.
Born in Brisbane, the label is synonymous with classic feminine silhouettes combined with sophisticated and vibrant prints.
Founder and designer Kelli Wharton has carved a successful career at the helm of Talulah, growing the business from a team of three to 25 in the past decade.
Wharton started out by selling her wares to boutiques across Brisbane and honed her wholesale and marketing skills while working under other designers.
She launched Talulah at the Delfin Australia Fashion Design Awards in 2005 and the showcase took out the Mercedes-Benz Lifestyle category.
"Ten years has gone so quickly," Wharton says. "It's so important to have a team that lives and breathes the brand and I feel really lucky to have such a committed team. There'll definitely be some champagne popping in the showroom."
Getting the label off the ground was no easy feat for Wharton, who had to balance a small team with growing demand and persuade stores to stock her clothing.
"Manufacturing is so important," Wharton says. "You have to not only meet deadlines, but making sure every garment is made to a high quality means you're constantly checking and rechecking quality control."
Wharton says a lot has changed in the past 10 years, particularly the level of consumption which has been driven by international chain stores entering the market.
"We've seen fashion become much faster and trends now move much more quickly for the Australian girl," she says.
"As a result of this we've seen larger retailers like Topshop and H&M move into the Australian market and, despite The Localé Group [Wharton's umbrella company] being a house of luxury brands, fast fashion has still become a competitor.
"It's always sad to see big fashion houses close their doors and these changes have certainly been the catalyst for some companies' closures.
"This is why we're always in discussions around where media will be moving next."
Wharton says social media has become the main form of marketing, eclipsing advertising and magazines, and Talulah has adapted accordingly.
The label has more than 30,000 fans on Facebook and amassed an 110,000-strong following on Instagram - the fashion world's social media platform of choice.
"We see it as a really important resource that speaks directly to the customer," Wharton says.
"Bloggers have also become a more powerful force in the industry which has been a big shift."
"I really like the idea of being able to help younger entrepreneurial women who are still starting out."
As well as offering creative control, social media allows Wharton to convey Talulah's brand identity and the ethos shared by the team.
"Firstly, and I think most importantly, our designers always make sure that we're staying true to the woman we're designing for," she says.
"When we design with her in mind, she stays true to us and will keep coming back season after season.
"We keep our designs aspirational. The Talulah woman wants to be the best version of herself when wearing our designs."
Wharton escaped the concrete jungle and relocated to the laconic beachside township of Byron Bay in 2010 to create a "balanced life" with her husband and two children.
"Byron Bay is also a great place to relocate to - we recruit nationally and most of our team have come from Sydney or Melbourne. So we've ended up with a city team in a beautifully relaxing destination."
The creative director has a number of projects in the pipeline, including being invited to speak at Run the World on May 26.
She will join the all-female entrepreneur conference, which is hosted by the League of Extraordinary Women, along with jewellery designer Samantha Wills and The Collective editor Lisa Messenger.
"I really like the idea of being able to help younger entrepreneurial women who are still starting out," she says.
"I know exactly what it's like to be taking a risk and when you've taken a leap, having no guarantee that it'll all be worth it.
"I know that when my company was in its early days I would have gained so much practical help from events such as Run the World, not to mention the inspiration it would have given me."
Wharton also plans to add another element to the Talulah train, launching a home and living collection in July.