Blake + Grace: Designer profile
Posted on 7 November 2016 by admin
We chatted with Lauri Menzies from Blake + Grace about her obsession with shoes, her favourite Australian designers and the importance of having a strong support network for small businesses owners.
Tell us a bit about Blake + Grace. What makes your label unique?
‘Blake + Grace’ is a Melbourne based on-line leather goods business, specialising in affordable, high quality, handmade shoes, for ladies and little ladies, that launched in October 2015. What makes us unique is we aren’t like your mass-produced brands, each style/range is inspired by someone or something in our (my husband Shea and I) lives. We do smaller scaled production runs, re-order on the best sellers and then use the best sellers and those in the range for inspiration on the next one design.
When and why did you start Blake + Grace?
Shea and I had both always had an urge to develop our own business and both have a ridiculous obsession with shoes. We’d also had shoes made previously in Indonesia (the supplier we now use for BG) through some close Indonesian family friends over there. The quality had blown us away! So it only made sense to make something more out of it! So after spending a few years just dreaming about it, in 2013/14 we started investigating and playing around a bit more and then in October 2015 we launched!
What was the inspiration for your current collection?
Everything we produce is inspired by something or someone in our lives, whether it’s our children, or the places we’ve travelled. Our most recent Spring range was inspired by our favourite (well behind Australia of course) country in the world…Italy and more specifically Rome, with our Roma heels. It was while we were living in London in our early 20s, we were travelling around Italy and in Rome at the time, I kept seeing this pair of sandals! We were on a pretty tight ‘travellers’ budget at the time, so I kept saying “no I can’t afford them” then on our last day and after having not stopped thinking about them I bit the bullet and bought them on the way to the train station to leave Rome. That was almost 15 years ago and I still wear them. So our latest ‘Roma’ range is inspired by those sandals and that story.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background?
I’m a busy mum of 3 young children, our eldest daughter Azalia ‘Blake’ is six, our second daughter Tuscany ‘Grace’ is four (so you can see where the name comes from), and then there is our little man, Mahli who is two. My background is in marketing and up until recently I was working at a global winemaking and distribution company where I’d been for almost 10 years. They were amazingly supportive particularly since having kids. They allowed me to work 3 days a week which gave me the time (and the money) to create and launch Blake + Grace. The marketing background has definitely helped along the way too.
What other designers are you into at the moment?
I just LOVE Aussie designers, be it clothing, shoes, interiors. Some in particular are Bec & Bridge, Chi Khi by Nat Bassingthwaighte, Mister Zimi with their unique unforgettable and so easily recognisable prints (and the Bali connection), to sexy and edgy shoe label Holy Stone. Although right now I am completely obsessed with home décor/Interiors and smaller local artists. Petite Interior Co. put together some absolutely stunning children’s rooms, and I love some of the unique prints by Emma from Pax & Hart, Laura Blythman and Grotti Lotti, and I can’t wait to see what’s next from another local mum Kristy from Fox & Ramona, her beautiful concrete pots and now her evolution into homewares that are to die for!
What else are you inspired by right now?
Similar to the above, mums like myself, that are following their dreams, going with their gut and having a go at something they are truly passionate about inspires me most.
Why do you want to come into SO:ME Space, and what are you hoping to get out of your time in the space?
My family and I are South Melbourne Market regulars, it’s very rare that a weekend would go by where we didn’t visit the market for our weekly fruit & veg and meat & fish shop, oh and the kids getting their weekly dimmy fix. I’ve loved watching the market evolve over the past few years, particularly the SO:ME Space. I love how they are now appealing more to the demographic of the area, young families, couples etc., but still have some of the old school retailers for the older generation who have more than likely been going to the market for ever. I very much love the way the SO:ME space gives up and coming designers and new businesses a chance to promote growth of their brands and labels and helps them get their names out there a little more. This is greatly appealing and hugely important for those who are predominantly online retailers, like us, who want to experiment a little more. It also allows people to come and see, touch and try on our products, which is huge for an online retailer where trying before buying isn’t possible.
What was the professional highlight of your past year? What work are you most proud of?
The biggest highlight for me to date was launch day! I was sitting with my web developer and he made me hit the switch that turned our website from test site to live site, the butterflies in my stomach were out of control and then the ‘ping’ sound within 25 minutes of launching with our first sale! It blew me away, and the fact that that first sale wasn’t my mum, mother in-law, sister or a girlfriend, it was a completely random customer! That was a highlight for sure. Oh and being at school pick up a few weeks back and seeing someone wearing our ‘Tuscan’ boots and watching people commenting and it was again, someone I didn’t know! In terms of what I’m most proud of, I’m proud of it all and myself to be honest! I took the plunge while raising a young family and working, it would have been easy to say “No I’ll just wait another year or so” but I didn’t and I’m so proud of that fact.
What advice do you have for people wanting to start their own store or label?
I’ve been asked this a fair bit lately and my response is always the same… Plan it, research it, make sure you have the support of your family, surround yourself with positive people and business partners and most of all back yourself. For so long I was going to do this, going to do that, it wasn’t until I had the full support of Shea that I though you know what, I can do it and I did. You never know until you do!
What does the future hold for Blake + Grace? Where are you headed next?
Hopefully with the help of the SO:ME Space pop up shop, more people will become familiar with Blake + Grace, and start following and supporting us on this journey like our loyal followers have to date. And while my daughters have their names (well middle names) up in lights in the brand name, our little man’s time is coming soon, with a recent soft launch into shoes for mini men with our ‘Mahli’ desert boot, there will definitely be more coming for the mini men in the future, and maybe the big men too? Watch this space.
Blake + Grace are in SO:ME Space from 21 September to 16 October 2016.
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