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One-off design sets up win

A REQUEST to design a swimsuit for the cover of the Xpress magazine five years ago created an award-winning business for Claire Metcalf.

The former ballet dancer, turned model, turned fashion retail outlet manager put the outfit together and “had a business two weeks later”.

Ms Metcalf and her husband Gavin Eddy run C.design and this year she was named WA’s top business owner.

She said the fashion industry was a lot of hard work.

“You have to be fairly committed but a lot of the people in it love it,” Ms Metcalf said.

Her work is sold in the UK, the US, Milan, Singapore and Australia.

Last year the company picked up a contract to supply Australian department store chain David Jones.

“It took us four years to get David Jones – not that we’d shown to them that many times,” Ms Metcalf said.

“The company has to be ready before you even look at approaching stores such as David Jones.

“If you can’t deliver on the orders, you shouldn’t even approach them.

“You have to be 100 per cent happy with your product before you show it.

“Breaking into the international market is harder again because of the time difference and language barriers.

“They are at least interested in seeing you but your product has to be different enough and competitive enough for them to bring it in.”

Ms Metcalf said the WA Fashion Week shows gave the local industry a fillip.

“Fashion Week is mainly about profile building. It brings the fashion media and some of the buyers to Perth,” she said.

“It lets us approach these people in person. It’s how we picked up (UK retailer) Harvey Nichols.

Ms Metcalf said she thought the WA fashion industry had taken off in the past two years.

“Some of the WA names are now quite strong nationally and internationally but I suppose there were always a lot of strong names from the industry.

“Technology has made it easier for us. We’re more accessible and can compete more with the rest of Australia than we could in the past.”

Ms Metcalf said her business skills were gained through trial and error and commonsense.

“My husband’s background is in accounting and financial advising,” she said.

“However, the manufacturing side was something neither of us had ever encountered before. We learn as we went along.”

The company’s outfits are all manufactured in Perth.

“We tried manufacturing in Sydney but that was a complete disaster.” Ms Metcalf said.

“We like to be very hands-on with the production.

“Plus, our designs are very simple, so they are actually quite complex to make.”

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