Melanie and Dean Flintoft, the cofounders of multibrand fashion firm Australian Fashion Labels, have been steady and deliberate in the growth of their Adelaide business.
The Flintofts, who were in Los Angeles recently to check on their flagship downtown — the only other one after the store in Australia — celebrated a decade in business last year with the company’s launch of a web site in China and the implementation of a new enterprise resource planning system.
This year the company is focused on growing the U.S. and China business via wholesale and the online channel. Additional flagships could be in the future but it will be at a measured pace.
“There will be [more stores],” said Dean, who serves as the company’s managing director. “We’re still concentrating on the wholesale and our own online business and then the plan is to open more flagships. It’s not about having a full retail chain, just having strategic flagships in a few different cities around the world.”
The company has considered a store in China, but has no plans at the moment to open one there.
“For us, that seems a bit risky at the moment,” he said. “It might be down the track, but the online uptick in China is a lot higher than certainly the U.S. or Australia and it’s getting to the stage where the majority of sales will be online soon. So our strategy is to wholesale through other retailers and then grow online. Then we’ll see where we go with the flagships. I would like one there [in China] at some stage.”
The U.S. currently accounts for about 50 percent of the overall business, with Australia about 25 percent. The payoff in China, where the company first began wholesaling about three years ago, has seen the strategy work with plenty of good growth, Dean said.
The Flintofts started their business in 2007 in Adelaide. Dubbed “fast contemporary fashion,” the company has focused on selling fashionable, well-made designs at competitive pricing with limited stock on hand that has trained customers to buy now rather than wait. The current Australian Fashion Labels portfolio consists of Finders Keepers, which was the company’s first brand. C/MEO Collective then launched in 2010. That was followed a year later with Keepsake, The Fifth Label in 2014 and then Jaggar Footwear in 2016.
The company, with more than 130 workers, is comprised of a wholesale business that’s in over 1,700 stores worldwide, including Nordstrom, Shopbop, Revolve and Bloomingdale’s, and a direct business called BNKR with online and the two bricks-and-mortar flagships.
Eyewear collaborations are on tap for C/MEO with Australian brand Oscar Wilde and one for Finders Keepers and Quay. There’s also the upcoming Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia in which the business will be putting on an event about three times larger than what it’s done in years past.
“We always try to make it bigger and better than the year before,” said Melanie, who is creative director at the company. “Obviously, with C/MEO being more of a runway brand and its following, we always get good outcomes.”
Where the company turns next after Fashion Week is nothing outlandish, simply a steady gaze on the business with no plans for additional brand launches or a strategy to get into men’s wear.
“We’re pretty focused on what we have,” Melanie said. “I think each brand complements each other and has its own focus. We feel like we have it covered and each brand does their own thing separate from the next one without cannibalizing one another. We’re really happy with the mix.”