How Fashion Week Has Helped This Australian Label Grow

Kicking off next week, Fashion Week Australia is fast approaching—and the excitement in the air is palpable. Fashion Week Australia has launched some of our country’s biggest names, and we're looking forward to seeing what young designers deliver this year. While we’re anticipating that some of Australia’s burgeoning new designers are sure to impress us with their unique designs, we’re equally eager to experience what some of our favourite now-established designers will be presenting.

One such label is Hansen &Gretel, a brand that has won over the hearts of Australian women over the years for its classic, yet uniquely elegant style. Because we truly believe in the importance of Fashion Week Australia, we were curious get some insight from the perspective of a designer who has participated in the past.

For an inside look, we spoke with the brand’s founder Ainsley Hansen to hear about the impact Fashion Week Australia has had on her brand, as well as to get a few hints about what we can expect to see from the brand at the upcoming show. To hear how Hansen & Gretel has grown because of Fashion Week Australia, and to get some inside information about the upcoming collection, keep scrolling to read the full interview below. 

Meet Ainsley Hansen:

PHOTO:

Supplied by Hansen & Gretel

Tell us about the label: How did you decide to launch the brand, and what steps did you take to get it to where it is now?

Hansen & Gretel launched at a time when womenswear strongly consisted of bodycon dresses and draped satin party ensembles which didn’t reflect my natural style choice. My design ethos has always encompassed a certain ‘femininity with bite’. Sharp, uncomplicated, and cut to compliment the female form but always underscored by a boyish accent. The name Hansen & Gretel was chosen to represent this synthesis of masculine feminine, that yin & yang where Hansen is a nod to my/father’s family name, and an ode to the brand’s mannish trace. ‘Gretel’ really constitutes for the idea of womanhood, the girl, the sister, and our journey as female’s which is always a prevalent theme in my collections.

Launching any business is challenging, as is the emotional ebb and floweven more so. Belief from close friends and family helped keep my dream on its course. I quite literally was the designer, pattern maker, retail and wholesale manager, brand marketer and accountant for three years. The past 24 months have been a highlight, as the business’ growth meant that I could invest in a team of support.

What training did you have, and how helpful has it been?

I studied design at The FDS for three years and interned with the likes of Josh Goot and later, Gary Begini. I couldn't be where I am today without the training I received in design. It’s a crucial foundation, but no house is complete with just a structure. Career and general ‘life experiences’ shape and mould you even more, so it’s safe to say I am still learning, still ‘training’ and grateful that I had to work so hard to get to where I am. The rewards are that much sweeter.

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Supplied by Hansen & Gretel

Do you think fashion week has been successful in helping your label grow? Why?

I do. I have most valued the opportunity it has given us to connect with our community. Social media is such a powerful tool, and it offers our audience an immediacy and brand intimacy, particularly relevant during events like Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Last year, we debuted and offered a See Now Buy Now opportunity, offering the product from runway direct to our consumers. This personalised our relationship and engagement with them. Essentially, we were diluting the boundaries from a strictly industry event and inviting our community to become part of that ‘fashion week phenomenon’, enabling them to connect our runway to their reality. We are really excited to repeat the opportunity with an exclusive capsule available from the runway this year as well. This will be immediately available at Hansen & Gretel stores and our online boutique following our runway event Tuesday 15th May 4 p.m.

Opportunities such as these help with broadening a brand's community and subsequently assist the business’ growth, both nationally and internationally. I feel proud of our industry and enjoy being part of the MBFWA experience.

What have been some highlights of the year for Hansen & Gretel?

My biggest highlight has been my team. We strive to create a nurturing environment, encouraging interns with generous mentorship programs, and great opportunities for select candidates to grow their careers with us. The matriarch in the business leads our accounts team and the idea of this sisterhood, womanhoodthat ‘guardianship’ so to speakis taken very seriously.

Apart from appreciating our rising wholesale growth, launching Hansen & Gretel Accessories has been the cherry on top. Our leather handbags and wallets complete the collections beautifully, as well as the Hansen & Gretel jewellery lines each season. Shoppers are able to walk into our boutique and stylistically enjoy a full brand experience.

Collaborations have also been a high point for the brand. The idea of community and the theme of ‘women supporting women’ is part of our brand identity, so the journey of these partnerships from idea to finished product was really special.

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Supplied by Hansen & Gretel

Your fashion week presentation last year was amazing. What can we expect from your to see this year?

This year’s collection is a highly visual narrative thread in celebration of the journey of womanhood, aptly titled ‘Eve’. Ethereal, polished and playfully chic, it embodies the beauty you wish to be and all the personalities in between.

What is the inspiration behind your fashion week collection?

I was drawn to the idea of focusing on a woman’s inner strength as opposed to her reflection. (Our industry can be seen to offer a woman her choice of ‘true identity’ through their solution of armour.) The Garden of Eve introduces ideas of abundance, allure, and the new love generation, entwined in original sin. The collection is a labyrinth designed to engage you in a journey to your inner self, your ‘Eve’.”

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Supplied by Hansen & Gretel

What have been some of your best-selling pieces to date?

A majority of brands are encouraged to consider and target one niche (one woman so to speak). Our shoppers genuinely encompass 16-60 year olds, and our design process embraces this with no jeopardy to progressing their style each season. I worked out pretty early I wasn’t interested in being unattainable. If a mother and daughter can shop the same item in store and make it their ‘own’ stylistically—I love it. Best sellers have included the Olsen Top ($219) and Penelope Top ($179), Demi Dress ($249), generally anything linen, as well as the England Blazer ($349)... to name a few.

What do you envision the future of Hansen & Gretel to look like?

I really look forward to furthering our sustainable initiatives. I also hope to maintain our Australian retailer loyalty while opening up a few more Hansen & Gretel doors interstate. International expansion is on the cards for us this year, which is very exciting. Above all, it would be great if key staff members who are with me today are present in the brand’s future. It would be so lovely to celebrate the successful milestones to come with the team that made you shine to begin with.

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Supplied by Hansen & Gretel

How important is sustainable/ethical practices to the work you do?

We are a socially responsible brand and are currently working on metrics to report on the investments we are making and the impacts they are having. Hansen & Gretel is committed to producing less waste than conventionally made clothing, using less water and making clothes which release less carbon dioxide than industry standard. The business has made considerable investments into biodegradable bags in an effort to eliminate plastic from our retail and wholesale production chain.

The idea of making a difference ‘one shopper at a time’ starts with packaging, whereby we employ recycled brown paper carriers, in addition to our decomposable wrapping, which quips, ‘Baby, I was made for you and... the environment!’.

It would be great to see more environmentally minded and socially responsible sentiment echoed throughout the industry at large.

Too eager to wait for the brand's new collection? Shop Hansen & Gretel's current collection online. 

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