Today we are introducing you to Julie, the small business owner of Best Dressed Art, and an Indigenous fashion designer specialising in digital art.
Julie has multiple degrees in fashion and visual arts and a passion for flow fashion over fast fashion. Noticing that digital printed fabric is more cost-effective and that hand-painted fashion, Julie decided to start her own small business, Best Dressed Art and has quickly made a name for her across Australia.
The COVID-19 lockdowns changed the course of Julie’s business, forcing her to shut down her bricks-and-mortar store in favour of an online store. She has noted that her Bundaberg location makes it hard for her to reach all her target customers, but she is hopeful that her online business will provide an opportunity to overcome this. This week, Julie is running a NAIDOC Week Fashion parade on the Frazer Coast featuring local Indigenous models.
“I like that Many Rivers helps those who no one else would help and get them into business. When you are starting a business, you have so many expenses. Stacy, my Many Rivers business coach was excellent to work with.”
Read more about Julie’s business journey so far with Best Dressed Art.
I have been a fashion designer and artist for many years. Last year I decided to open a bricks-and-mortar fashion shop with my own designs in it. It’s a type of wearable art.
I opened it just before COVID- 19 lockdowns, but I was affected early by the restrictions, so I had to shut it down.
I have always been interested in fashion. I studied fashion, and I have two degrees in visual arts, so my business marries the two. I’m very interested in applying digital art to fabric. Hand-painted fabric is really time-consuming, and it is not very profitable. It is very hard to reach the market; it’s a very niche market. Digital art is a more cost effective way to produce designs onto fabric. I approached Many Rivers to investigate this idea.
Owning my own business was a dream since I was very young, it’s not about the money, it’s about expressing my creativity. I wanted to get my art out into the market.
I am very creative and do too many things. I just wanted something for myself. I want to be known for my work as an artist and to be a mentor to other Indigenous people. It is always good to show that someone has been successful and to show them that it is possible.
Best Dressed Art
Soon I am going to sell my pieces of fashion online – I am getting the website built. I am really interested in doing flow fashion, not fast fashion. Because of COVID-19, it is so much easier to get something produced in Australia anyway. I want to do things that don’t harm the environment, so I use special ink.
I am doing an Indigenous art fashion show for NAIDOC week, and I have a new range of linen garments coming soon.
At the moment it is just myself working in Best Dressed Art, and I don’t have any employees. I outsource specialised areas such as building my website. I have tried developing my own website before, but I can’t do it as well as the specialists.
Before starting my own small business I worked in the education department in the administration department, I was a legal secretary and I have done a lot of office work. I continue to do work in Indigenous communities and deliver projects out there.
Working with Many Rivers
The fashion industry is hard to break into, and a friend knew of Many Rivers micro loans and business coach Stacy. So I met Stacy a few years ago, but I wasn’t ready to do anything with my business yet. I started working with her in 2021.
I had to have a business plan to bring my idea to life. Stacy taught me that I had to think very clearly about what I wanted so that I could put it into a business plan and make little steps so that I could achieve them in a period of time. We looked at what I want to be doing in a year and what are the steps to get there. She encouraged me to get a business bank account.
Stacy was excellent and she gave me hope. I was chasing my dreams. After the shop fell apart, I didn’t want to give up and wanted to give my business one last try. She is highly knowledgeable about small businesses, and that is one of the reasons I really like Stacy. She has been in business herself and that is where she got her wonderful knowledge of the sector from. It makes me feel at ease.
I like that Many Rivers helps those who no one else would help and gets them into business. When you are starting a business, you have so many expenses. Their loans are for those who want to start a small business, and they are very good at helping you get your ideas together. Stacy, my Many Rivers business coach was excellent to work with. She was able to see my creativity and see the possibility around my name.
I want to stay in Bundaberg, but reaching a market digitally from a regional location is hard and I am geographically isolated.
The biggest success for me is that even though I have not broken into the fashion industry, I do have a good name for myself, and I am well known within my area and in Indigenous communities throughout Australia.
I am working in a totally different field. I think up until this point I put my creative side to the side. Even though it was difficult it is just something that I had to do. All the things that I have been through have brought me to this moment.
Establishing my brand and reaching people who want to wear my clothes by improving and working on my marketing. My other goals are to mentor other Indigenous young people. In the last fashion week, there was a lot of emphasis on Indigenous designers, and that is a sector that is really growing. There is a growing demand for Indigenous events and products and ones that are not made overseas.
On the Frazer Coast there is an interest in Indigenous fashion, and I have been invited to do an Indigenous fashion parade in the Gatakers Art Space in Maryborough during NAIDOC Week. I will be featuring Indigenous models from the area. I am going to give my Indigenous art an international twist as well so that it can be infused with international culture. Not all my imagery is Indigenous.
One of the reasons I am doing this is because I want to remind people to not give up on their dreams and to be an example and know that you can be successful from a regional area. That is where marketing comes in and where Many Rivers is helping me most, to reach the market.
Thanks, Julie for sharing the story of Best Dressed Art with us. We can’t wait to support you on this journey to achieving your business goals.
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