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DIGITAL DISRUPTION: Rockstars and Royalty

HerCanberra Team

Vicky Kidd-Gallichan is one of the most recognisable names in Canberra couture…now she’s embracing technology to grow her business.

Rockstars and Royalty has been synonymous with the stuff of fantasy since Vicky Kidd-Gallichan landed in Canberra 10 years ago. Her one-off dreamy gowns were the pièce de résistance of early FASHFEST runways and countless brides have flocked to her door. We spoke to her about the journey of taking a very hands-on artform into the digital age.

Why did you decide to take a traditional business online?

During the all the years that I’ve been working one-on-one with my clients, I kept hearing the same stories. Clients were telling me that they had gone down the path of having something custom made either because they couldn’t find something to fit, usually because of their dress, height or body type, or they were telling me that they could find the style they liked.

Often, they’d bring in pictures and say things like ‘I love the top of this dress and the bottom of this other dress’ or ‘I love this but wish it came in blue/ wish it had a bow/ didn’t have a bow/ was longer’ etc. This is what gave me the idea of bringing a little piece of the couture experience online and of creating a collection of special occasion dresses, skirts, corsets and accessories that all have design and sizing customisation options so that my customers can change each design to be exactly how they want them to be.

I was also getting lots of enquiries about my designs from outside of the Canberra region, or after I was already booked up, so I was exploring ways to expand my brand. Taking Rockstars and Royalty online seemed to be a great way to be able to grow beyond being a local brand.

How did you make this idea a reality?

Moving from being a sole trader to an online company was a huge and scary leap. The first part of my research into whether this idea was viable was to talk to my customers. As an established brand, I was in a position where I already had a large social media following that I could call on for research. I did two online polls about my ideas, via my Facebook page, and got great answers from those.

My next step was to invite people to my studio to talk to them one-on-one about online shopping and what they would want and expect from the online shopping experience.

Next, I used this research to create paper versions of the website and talked to my followers in person and via Skype to talk them through what the online shopping experience would be like on my new website and to get their feedback again. All of this cost me nothing except time and gave me valuable feedback as I progressed.

I made my first sales of the new range from these paper websites, long before I’d even made the first samples. This gave me the confidence that this idea was worth pursuing.

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Where did you seek support?

I didn’t have the skills or the budget to do it alone, so I sought help. I applied, and was successful, in winning a place, first on the Griffin Launchpad, and then on the Griffin Accelerator in 2016. The mentoring through the Launchpad gave me the guidance to do the early customer research and validation, and the Griffin Accelerator then gave me some funds to get going and, most importantly, access to an amazing group of mentors who helped, and continue to help, guide me. I was also lucky enough to be awarded an Icon grant which gave me the funds to develop to interactive part of the website.

Have you had to learn new skills?

I’ve had to learn lots of other new skills along the way. It’s been an intense 21 months with some steep learning curves along the way.  I’d never had to do pattern grading and working to standard sizes before – everything had been custom made to each customer’s measurements for my couture pieces. I hadn’t employed staff before. I had to learn a lot about e-commerce and the online shopping world, and countless other things.

It’s been incredible. I love to challenge myself and I love to learn new skills, so as daunting as it has been, by passion and enthusiasm for knowledge has dragged me though many long working days.

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What has been the response from the public?

The response from the public has been really supportive and encouraging. I’m still talking to my customers a lot and asking for feedback as to what they’d like to see as the website and brand grows. I think it’s vital to not lose that connection. I’m lucky to have such a strong, supportive following.

What have been some of the greatest challenges?

I have a few challenges that I’m working to overcome. My biggest one is that I’m asking people to shop in a completely different way to the way that we’ve been told to shop for clothes by the fashion industry and media for our entire lives.

I don’t categorise any of my products by size (you won’t find the word ‘plus size’ on my site), event (I’m not going to tell you what is or isn’t a wedding dress or a ball dress – it’s up to you to choose the combinations that suit you) or gender (I’m an inclusive brand and want everyone to feel comfortable to shop for the clothing that they want to wear).

I’m also not selling ‘trends’. I’m selling great quality clothing that is designed to be kept and worn over and over again. Fast fashion is having such a detrimental effect on our environment and on the people who are exploited during the production. I want to encourage consumers to move away from buying fast, cheap fashion and from keeping up with trends.

I want to see people shopping for clothes with a ‘buy less, wear more’ mentality. If we buy great quality pieces that we love and will wear for years, if we buy pre-loved and second-hand clothing that suits our own personal style, we can make a difference to the future of our planet and to the lives of those who are being exploited during the production process.

It’s going to take a long time to ‘reprogram’ people out of these shopping habits, but it’s an important change that we need to make as consumers for the sake of our planet, not just with our clothing choices, but with our consumption habits in all areas of our lives.

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Where to from here?

I have a lot of plans for the future. As the brand grows, so will the number of designs, the range of sizes and the range of fabric and customisation options available. I’m hoping to reach the point soon where I’m ready to raise my next round of investment. This will give me the funds to improve the website, grow the range, and to increase my production capabilities.

Another of my future goals is to develop a range of recycled synthetic materials to use for my designs. I want to find a sustainable way to keep using the fabrics that I love, such as sequins. If anyone reading this can help or is interested in exploring this with me, please get in touch.

I’ve also started making a series of videos for my YouTube channel about how you can shop more sustainably for clothing—doing clothing makeovers and tutorials with charity shop finds and showing you how to reuse and re-wear items from your wardrobe. I want to show people that you can have a great, versatile wardrobe without buying fast fashion and following trends.

Do you think more traditional businesses are going to need to move online?

I think it’s so important for all businesses to have an online presence now, whether they’re selling online or not. A website and strong social media presence is expected and is vital to help connect you with your customers, regardless of the type of business you have.

I think that we will see more and more traditional businesses moving online. The world is getting smaller and it’s easier than ever to connect with customers around the world. But I think it’s also vital for businesses to stay connected to their local communities. With a world of choice, a lot of customers are choosing to shop local, to support local businesses and to shop with a conscience. They want to know who and where they’re buying from and what the environmental and economic impact of their purchasing choice is.

I believe that, to be a successful brand, you need to be connected on a local level to be successful at a global level. If you can do that, there’s a whole world of opportunity out there.

Find out more about Rockstars and Royalty here

Photography: Tim Bean Photography

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