From the source: Anya Stoliar, Fortunate One

Insider Retail Weekly: How did Fortunate One start?

Anya Stoliar: We’re very wild and free. We started Christmas 2016 with the need and desire to create a brand that was inclusive but aspirational. We wanted to hit the boho market, which a lot of boutiques in Australia weren’t doing at the price point that we were looking at. We wanted to deliver the same kind of exceptional higher-end marketing and shopping experience for customers, even though we were a fast-fashion brand.

A lot of brands have a higher price point and can deliver events, pop-ups and experiences, but what we found was that a lot of our customers want another alternative so they can spend a bit less on clothing and have extra money to go to an experience they wanted to participate in. Our customer base loves travel and festivals, so they wanted something that encapsulates the current trends, but not to fork out $300 for a dress.

Today, we have a big worldwide audience. Australia and the US are key markets, but we have customers everywhere from Europe to Africa and we do ship worldwide, which makes it a lot easier. We’ve had customers tag us in photos from Coachella to the Atlas Mountains – there really are no borders to what we’ve done so far.

IRW: How has the business developed since launch three years ago?

AS: From a business perspective, we have built a brand that constantly looks to one-up everything we do. We’re always looking to improve our product selection and our customer service while making our website UX/UI very customer friendly.

We have a small team, with staff based in Australia and Japan, but we’re already almost ready to add more members to our brand. We haven’t slowed down once since we’ve started. We have grown 132 per cent in revenue year-on-year. Our US revenue growth is 125 per cent YOY, Australia is 120 per cent YOY and the rest of the world stands at a huge 255 per cent YOY. We’ve also worked hard to grow our website traffic 80 per cent YOY, focusing firmly on Instagram and Facebook social media marketing.

IRW: Fortunate One works together with its sister brand Hello Molly quite a bit. How are the two brands different while working together at the same time?

AS: Hello Molly and Fortunate One are two peas in a pod in some cases. We both heavily focus on social media marketing, but we’re different in terms of creative branding and customer focus.

In the early days, we shared staffing resources to get the brand off the ground. But we’ve moved away from that and now the things that unite us are core values and our office – but we do have ongoing collaborations. Hello Molly launched a swimwear line and we hadn’t sold any, so it was a perfect opportunity to cross-collaborate and that did really well for us.

Fortunate One is very boho- and travel-inspired – it’s about everyday pieces and  beautiful gowns that you can travel with. Hello Molly is more feminine and the focus is on party dresses, but it’s not just about going out clubbing. She might go to a bar on Friday, an event on Saturday, then she might have a christening or engagement party on Sunday. Hello Molly takes that girl through any opportunity.

IRW: What plans do you have for the future?

AS: 2020 will be our biggest year ever. We have a big US audience but we’re looking to increase that even more by working to make our products as inclusive as possible and diversifying our range.

Also, we want to have more of a presence offline as well. We’re based online at the moment because we’ve been able to build the brand without borders and it’s given us the opportunity to grow as quickly as we have.

But we understand that [online] can sometimes be alienating for customers, so we’ll have a special pop-up at Splendour in the Grass this year, which is closely aligned to our values and will give people an opportunity to see garments and for it to be an influencer event. From there, we’ll see what kind of events and activations we’ll have in the future.

We’re working on our customer service, which bridges the gap between online and people not seeing the stock physically. We make ourselves available on the phone, at any avenue our customer is present – if they want to DM us on Instagram, we’ll respond there. We aim to provide customer service which isn’t one-size-fits-all. If our customer isn’t sure about what a garment will feel like, they can give us a call and we’ll explain the details of the garments; we can give them specific measurements, and we’ll go above and beyond to make sure they’ll get whatever they would want normally in-store. We also offer same-day delivery to everyone in the Sydney metro area, but we’re looking to expand that moving forwards.

Online, I think our customers appreciate us in terms of our reviews. We average 4.5 stars across Google, Facebook and Product Reviews, which we’re proud of.

IRW: You mentioned you’re looking at making the brand more diverse and inclusive. What does that mean?

AS: Obviously, inclusivity is a hot topic right now. From the very beginning, we wanted  a brand that was aspirational and inclusive. We work with models from all backgrounds, but one of our key models and muses, Dominique Elissa, has an Egyptian and Hungarian background. We’ve worked with another model who has a Puerto Rican background with strong beliefs on the environment. We wanted to steer away from the stereotypical blonde, thin girl, which is what a lot of other boutiques are doing.

Besides that, we wanted the inclusivity to carry across to the girls we work with in terms of influencer marketing. We work with a lot of new mums, as well as girls who are going through the beautiful cycle of maternity. Even though our garments aren’t designed for maternity, we’ve had a lot of great feedback from women who can wear our brand during pregnancy and beyond. [Maternity] is something we’re looking at expanding, given that feedback. People have really felt that our flowing gowns make them feel feminine and they’re not very restrictive.

We also work with self-proclaimed plus-size model and mum Tallulah Moon. She provides body positivity and shows that fashion can be for all shapes and sizes. She’s been a great advocate for the brand and dispelling the myth that fashion is for one look and one kind of girl.

We currently stocking up to XL but we’re looking to expand it further, depending on what our customer feedback is.

IRW: In what way does the brand support local and homegrown talent?

AS: Being an Aussie-born-and-bred brand, it’s important that we can support local businesses as well. In every shoot and campaign, we want to educate customers on our world and what we’re about, so we’ve collaborated with local brands. For example, we’ve shopped with a local importer and exporter of antiques for our photo shoots. People often ask where our beautiful props are from, and it’s been a great way for us to cross-promote other brands.

We also worked with two charities, including Black Dog Australia, which focuses on mental health. We want to have a mentally friendly office, so we have a lot of team-bonding activities. We focus on a work-life balance and we have a dog-friendly office. We wanted to see how we could expand on what we have in the office. So we sold a digital poster of crystals, which are trending at the moment, and there’s a lot of research around mental health with them. We ran that promotion and donated $5 from every poster sold to Black Dog.

We’ve also started a charity collaboration with Clear Tides, which focuses on marine conservation and plastic-free oceans, which is something we’re quite close to.

We designed two T-shirts to support them. For every T-shirt sold, $5 goes to Clear Tides and that’s an ongoing collaboration. We’ll sell the limited edition T-shirts until they run out.

We want to help the environment in whatever way we can. Fast-fashion gets a bad rap, so we want to do what we can. The world doesn’t need one person doing sustainability perfectly, it needs everyone trying to do something sustainable and sometimes that might be imperfect. For us, every small step we take will add to that.

IRW: Social media marketing is a big focus at the brand and it’s just hit 100,000 followers. What’s your strategy around that?

AS: For us, social media marketing is the backbone of the brand. We’ve built the brand primarily on Insta and we’re looking at other channels such as YouTube. For us, working with influencers has been important, especially as Instagram is available to everyone 24/7. Our customers can focus on what the brand is all about but also ask questions and interact with us. That’s been a strong point for us.

We have a specific budget that we focus just on Insta, and we’re looking at growing that because we’ve had strong results. We were early adopters of the ‘tap to shop’ function and now there’s ‘tap to shop’ stories – that works really well for us. We sell a lifestyle on Instagram, but if a customer wants to buy something, she can buy it straight from the post.

For us, influencer photos are very high performers, along with creative content we create in-house – flatlays of garments do well. Some of the candid influencer shots are the best performers. I think the customer really aligns with that and it’s someone that’s relatable and aspirational.

The most important thing for us is that we don’t rest on our laurels. Every day, there are always new and emerging platforms. YouTube has been around for awhile but now it’s almost overtaking Instagram in popularity, so it’s important that we’re not just focusing on Instagram. We’re testing out other avenues for us, we’re testing out new social functions, new content and new influencers because we want to propel the brand forward. A lot of time, 90 per cent of what you test won’t work, but 10 per cent will bring in new revenue and customers and new things for us to grow.

We have key influencers we work with. Emily Yates has been a supporter of the brand since early on. She was one of the first influencers we worked with. She’s based in Byron and we’ve continued to work with her while she’s pregnant, which is exciting. She’s so happy she can wear our clothes.

We also work with Elise Cook, who travels around Australia with her husband, who sells wine – and she very much embodies the spirit of Fortunate One.

We’ve got Edith Broad – she’s a micro-influencer. While a lot of other brands are looking at getting the influencers with the highest followers, we’re looking at micro-influencers, which are popular for us. A lot of the time, their content is more relatable and a lot stronger engagement than someone who has two million followers.

Different brands will have a different benchmark for what a micro-influencer is. Anyone from 2000 to 50,000 followers would be considered micro, so they’re up and coming. What’s important is their content is beautiful and very much aligns with the brand. For us, engagement almost trumps the number of followers the influencer has, because the results will be a lot stronger.

Besides that, we’re always testing other influencers that come up. You can’t rely on the one influencer forever – your demographic is going to change and grow – so we’re always testing different micro- and macro-influencers.

IRW: As you mentioned, fast-fashion often gets a bad rap in the sustainability stakes. What else is the brand doing in that area?

AS: Because we’re a small brand, it’s about taking those really small steps at first and developing from there, so at the moment, our packaging is recyclable. We really like to promote that, we talk about how we can help the world on our blog. We try to include more natural materials like cottons and linens in our garments.

We also donate our old samples to charity, as well as things that aren’t sold or are used in shoots that we no longer need, rather than just throwing them away and adding to landfill. We use a lot of vintage accessories in our styling as opposed to buying something new. Instead, we’ll go to op shops – the pieces look unique but also help the environment. You don’t need to buy a new belt you’ll only use twice.

Then we also encourage all staff to do their bit. We recycle a lot in-house too.

We are transparent with customers about things we can’t currently change. Our suppliers are based in Sydney, but our products are designed in Southeast Asia, so we are really clear about that. That being said, we’re looking to bring a lot of designs in-house in the coming year to ensure our environmental footprint is lessened.

IRW: Are there any online retail trends that you guys are looking at right now?

AS: There are three major ones. A lot of international brands are doing a lot of micro and macro events with a stylist or an influencer or an event that customers can participate in. Some international brands are creating festivals for customers to go to – it’s a way to combine the inspirational influencers customers love with a customer experience.

The second one is video. The great thing about video is you can capture so much in the moment and there is so much more emotion, you can create a real experience for the customer. Plus a lot of social algorithms favour video, so you’re likely to get a lot more engagement. So it’s something we think about when we’re creating campaigns and ads.

The third thing is VR. With VR, full immersion is quite awhile away, we’re not about to put on goggles and have a full shopping experience, but it’s interesting to see how brands are doing it. You could try on product before you buy it with the VR googles. There are a lot of VR filters with Instagram and Snapchat.

Very soon you’ll be able to try on that dress and there will be VR showrooms, bridging the gap between on- and offline, allowing customers to try before they buy.

I think VR is going to really change how customers shop.

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