Fashion designer, Effie Kats, was ready to showcase her new collection of tailored suits in rich colours and flowing fabrics at Melbourne Fashion Week (MFW) this year until she became a victim of the COVID-19 delivery delays which have recently plagued the fashion industry.
“We do our production of suiting off-shore. That was accounting for over 50 percent of the show so we were really reliant on those pieces and unfortunately, they are stuck in a container backlog,” Effie tells The Greek Herald exclusively, just one day after she decided to call off her show.
“We have had challenges the entire way through. Obviously with lockdown, the timeline of the show moving and then for staffing through the coronavirus pandemic… it’s been challenging and it’s been challenging from the get-go. I knew it would be and I hoped obviously, that it would never come to this but it was inevitable.”
Effie says she is ‘devastated’ she had to pull out of her MFW show, which was styled by Deni Todorović and also incorporated a collaboration with jewellery designer, House of Emmanuele. They had created bespoke pieces sewn into classic eveningwear looks and incorporated neon highlights and mesh arm length gloves.
“It’s devastating because I was really excited to have this moment because you know, it’s been a challenging year for retail,” Effie says.
“I know that so many businesses are doing it so much tougher with rentals and overheads and that kind of stuff so we’re very lucky that we’ve got an online [store], but it was going to be a kind of celebration of coming out of the challenging period and I’m really disheartened that we’re not going to have that opportunity.”
Hitting rock bottom:
Of course, having to pull out of a fashion show would disappoint any designer. But in the case of Effie, her cancellation hits even harder as her passion and love for fashion goes back to her childhood when she used to work in her family’s tailor warehouse.
“When I was little, my dad would always have men’s fashion magazines, never women’s, and I had this hobby where I would look through the pages and men’s runways and I would draw the outfits and convert them into women’s outfits,” Effie says with a laugh.
Later, when Effie was older, she would eventually drop out of two university courses and launch her brand, Zachary the Label, with the aim of creating affordable fashion.
“I just called my dad and I said, ‘I’m dropping out of uni and I’m starting a brand. I’ll come into the warehouse, I’ll work for you… whilst I’m getting myself going’ and he was like, ‘alright’,” she explains.
“My grandma, who’s also in the workroom, would say things to me like, ‘you need to give this customer an extra inch on the waist, do it from this side.’ She was showing me where I’ve got to add or take away [fabric]. So I started to develop a basic understanding of patterns.”
Zachary the Label grew quickly and organically from there until Effie involved an investor, which she says was a ‘really difficult lesson’ for her as she ended up having to put the business into administration.
“After Zachary, I had no money. I was essentially starting from scratch… I was at Ground Zero and that really personally, for me, I would definitely call that time my rock bottom,” Effie says.
‘I’m looking to the future’:
And yet the Greek Australian never gave up. She started to realise that consumers like to connect with designers on a personal level and so decided to launch her self-titled business Effie Kats.
Now she focuses on women’s tailoring and designing suits for women which are not only within an affordable price bracket, but also make women feel “amazing and empowered” when they wear them. She also owns Bayse Brand.
“Reconnecting with customers and hearing them and going through that journey of creating a piece that they’ve loved and made them feel so amazing, that was the perfect introduction for me back into the industry,” Effie says.
“It gave me life again after such a difficult time.”
It’s this soldier-on attitude which has seen Effie’s business grow exponentially in the last few years, to the point of even holding a fashion show at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival (VAMFF) in conjunction with Priceline a few years ago.
The show celebrated women of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and ages, and she hopes to be able to replicate this again in the future, despite the coronavirus pandemic throwing a spanner in her plans this time around.
“For me, partaking in fashion week has been a dream since I’ve come into the industry. So I was so fortunate to have that opportunity with Priceline, but I was also really excited to do it on my own,” Effie concludes.
“At the same time, knowing that the next one is in March, I’m looking to the future and I’ve already started planning that collection in my mind.”