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by Once Was
Although Melbourne based fashion brand OnceWas has been operating for five years, their story extends further than the timeless designs.
Introducing you to Belinda Glynn (Director & Head Designer) and Linda Cerny (Head of Wholesale). Together, they are the owners of this iconic Australian label. We sat down with Belinda & Linda to discuss how they started their career in the fashion industry to how they survived the recent pandemic as new business owners.
What inspired you to take ownership of the brand?
Twelve months ago, we were faced with the daunting decision of whether to walk away from the brand we had poured our hearts & souls into or find a way to self-finance & purchase OnceWas.
Having worked on the brand since its inception, we both knew how much more potential it had to offer and just knew this wasn’t the end of the road for OnceWas.
Belinda Glynn (left) and Linda Cerny (right).
How did COVID affect you both during this time?
In the middle of negotiations to buy the brand, COVID hit which added another level of uncertainty & risk but we knew we had dedicated too many years of blood, sweat & tears to give up on OnceWas & made the bold decision to forge ahead with the purchase. Like most people, it was a challenging time for us as we navigated the new world of virtual fittings and sales meetings and jungled the complexities of self-funding a new business in unprecedented circumstances.
How do you manage having such a close relationship and business partners?
Linda: We started off as work colleagues which I think was very important for us to later become business partners. Working closely together everyday, it was only natural that we bonded over personal stories. Belinda was a true inspiration to me and I valued all of her advice. We realised we had so much in common and it was really organic how close we grew. As soon as I got engaged I just knew I wanted Belinda to design my dress. She has such an eye for detail and the dress was not only beautiful but so comfortable that I didn’t want to take it off. We worked together for almost 7 years before we took over the business and I feel that we both know each others strengths, bouncing ideas well off each other when we have decisions to make. I think having a close relationship really helps with that.
What has been the biggest highlight of your ownership of the brand?
Belinda: Although it has been a challenging year, it has also been a remarkable year for OnceWas. We are so grateful to have such an amazing team that have stuck by us through all the uncertainty of the past 12 months. Not to mention, our loyal customers and stockists who have continued to support us while dealing with their own challenges.
We’ve been completely overwhelmed by the support we have received from all of the small businesses that we work with & that have helped us make the transition into business owners, not to mention our loyal customers, without whom we would not have made it through these challenging months.
Owning the brand has allowed us to forge closer relationships with our customers & get to know them on a more personal level so we can better understand their needs & continue to strive to add greater value. For our small team of four, hearing all the positive feedback about how much our customers love our products & how a piece of OnceWas has helped to make them feel good about themselves, fills us with so much satisfaction & pride, it makes all the challenges & long hours of work worthwhile.
How do you think the fashion industry can improve?
Belinda: I think the fashion industry is starting to make great inroads to improved sustainability & customers are becoming a lot more interested & aware of what goes into making a garment which I think is huge progress although we still have a long way to go. As a small brand with small buying power, there is so much we can’t control but what we can control is what we design & what we produce. We are focused on lightening our footprint by designing high-quality investment pieces that can be worn for many years & producing small quantities that sell out instead of ending up on discount racks & in landfill.
Belinda & Linda discussing their first Trunkshow in efforts to reduce OnceWas's carbon footprint.
Do you have any good reads ready for the summer period?
Belinda: I have just read Tactics of Titans by Tim Ferriss, I highly recommend it!
Linda: Currently reading Pumpkin Plan.
What has been your biggest learning since taking ownership of the brand?
Belinda: I’m learning to lower the importance when encountering challenges & obstacles. As they say, everything always works out for the best in the end & if things aren't working out, it’s not the end.
Linda: Yep agreed with Bel! I have definitely been inspired by Bel to take this approach as we cant control everything that happens e.g Corona virus and we still made it through to the other end. Also I think that we stick to our guns and when most brands weren’t doing resort collections we still forged ahead and did it even though it was a risk it paid off.
What advice do you have for people wanting to start their own fashion label?
Belinda: My advice would be to do your research as the fashion industry has so many pitfalls & complexities. If you don’t have years of fashion industry experience under your belt or an experienced team around you, it can be a very high-risk career choice. It’s not a glamorous industry that outsiders perceive it to be & involves many long days & sleepless nights.
Any final words?
We really want to thank our customers & stockists for their support and loyalty, especially over the last 6 months. This year we are so grateful to you, our customers. If it wasn’t for your support and loyalty, we would not be here. We have loved talking to you, listening to you and dressing you!
We have been hard at work in our design studio planning 2021 and can't wait to show you what we have planned. You are going to love it!