Whilst we’ve only just launched our blog and don’t have our products for sale just yet, it’s been a long year in planning and preparation. We’d like to share a bit more with you about our journey over the past year and how this project has evolved.
September 2017: Chiara, founder of Ciiara came up with the concept during a 3-wk holiday in Spain. The aim was to connect fashion (specifically clothing that allows movement and dancing) with social impact.
January 2018: Met with Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in Hanoi, Vietnam. Whilst we didn’t know exactly how the corporate-charity partnership would look like, we wanted to establish a relationship with a suitable charity to build on our social impact plan. We were pretty impressed with the achievements of Blue Dragon since their foundation in 2003, and particularly with their work on rescuing and supporting survivors of sex trafficking. Our founder Chiara, being a Vietnamese person (French born and Australian raised), also felt a personal link with this charity.
January 2018 – March 18: Business plan development and upskilling. Without any experience in design and manufacturing, we realised it was important to understand as much as we could about the industry, so in addition to Googling a lot of questions, we also enrolled in several courses online and in person around how to launch a clothing label. The plan took us a few months to finish and ensured we had some strategy across all functions relevant to the business including marketing, product development and manufacturing, company set up, logistics and launch planning.
April 2018: Started design and tech pack development. We needed to source some Melbourne-based designers and garment technicians, and have since been working with them on our first season range.
May 2018: Decided on a business name. This was particularly difficult as most internet domains with the same name were taken (we trawled through hundreds of girls’ names, from modern names to mythological and ancient Roman names). This month we also registered the business and received our ABN – yay!
June 2018: Designed our logo by asking our friends on social media to pick their favourite designs. We also undertook a short course on Specification Pack development for manufacturing garments. We applied to be part of a start-up accelerator/mentoring program in Melbourne and failed. But we were determined to move forward despite this setback.
July 2018: Undertook a two day workshop with a strategy consulting company to refine our company purpose and vision, and specifically to work on what our social impact framework would look like. At the conclusion of the two days, we’d agreed on our company’s tagline: Empowered Women. Self-Expression. Love For Life.
- Empowered women: our whole brand is about empowering women, supporting them to take control and live an authentic life for themselves. We felt that this should be founded on community and through real connections (hence this blog and the social impact – connecting females across different countries through the charity).
- Self – expression: Inspiring women to be who they want to be, particularly in their physical form, through dance, creativity and movement, both in this moment and in life.
- Love for Life: encapsulates how an empowered woman feels; being truly happy within herself, and within broader society.
After investigating a number of different social impact models, we decided that our aim once established, would be to –
donate 50% of profits to charities and organisations that support women
Of course, we are still in the start-up phase and will not be making any money in the short-term, but it is still important to us to make an impact during this growth phase. So from the moment that we start selling products in 2019, we will be donating 10% of revenue, until we become profitable (after which we will move to the 50% donation model).
August – September 2018: Website development. It was important that our blog and future ecommerce store capture the essence of our brand – a strong, premium label, that connects with women. In September we made our first trip to China to meet with some potential manufacturers. During this trip, Chiara also met with Michael Brosowski, the founder of Blue Dragon, and we signed an agreement with Blue Dragon.
October 2018: Official blog launch and first samples arrived. We received our first samples (see photo below) and have been testing these out on the dance scene.
Later this week we are in Bali for a couple days to meet with more manufacturers (we couldn’t find all the ones we needed in China to make our complete range). We make it a point to meet with everyone that we work with, to form a relationship and ensure that our visions align.
So as you can see, we’ve been working hard to build on our initial idea – and we are finally seeing some material progress! The next steps include refining our samples so that we can move into production, and then launching our official e-commerce store to start selling early 2019. We’ll also be continuing to update our blog and social media pages on a regular basis – please like/follow us and tell others you know who might be interested about this project.
Of course throughout the above journey, we have had the continual support of our amazing friends, families, acquaintances and even random strangers we’ve reached out to via email or met on planes (true story!) – once again, a big thank you.
Stay tuned for our next update! Xx
Cover photo: Some shots from our (failed) pitch funding video. Special thanks to Hooked on Dance and Kardia Films
Chiara is the founder of CIIARA. A French-born Vietnamese living in Melbourne. Passionate about dance, fashion and social change.