Strategy

Bettina Liano tells “How I escaped administration”: Three founders that have hung on to their companies

Cara Waters /

Australia’s “Jean Queen” Bettina Liano has been saved from administration by a deal with Apparel Group, the company behind fashion brands Sportscraft, Saba and Willow.

Administrators Ferrier Hodgson were appointed to Bettina Liano last year but Liano has managed to turn her company’s fortunes around through an alliance with the Apparel Group.

Under the terms of the deal, Liano maintains control of her business, both the Bettina Liano and youth diffusion T by Bettina Liano brands, and retains the role of creative director for both brands; controlling design, marketing and continuing as chief executive of retail and online operations.

Liano told SmartCompany this morning that entering into administration was a harrowing experience but she was determined to fight on.

“I was solely responsible and no one could help me except for me,” says Liano.

“It was harrowing and it was like walking a tightrope: It was like a 50-foot wave surf movie, when you fly down the face off a wave. I just flew down the face and I didn’t wipe out and now I am paddling back out.”

Liano says she worked hard to secure the deal with the Apparel Group and went through an experience that was “about as hard as it gets”.

“Part of the administration process was part of the survival, I did not go into liquidation and I did not go bankrupt,” says Liano.

“I would have gone on; there is no way I would have shut up shop, not a chance.

“It was completely left side of the brain, it is how I wake up in the morning, you will never take that away – where there is a will there is a way.

“It was really hard. It was a lot of boring meetings and conversations with accountants and lawyers.

“The moral of the story is that hard work paid off; I just kept working and pushing and persevering and finding ways to survive.”

Liano says retaining control of her business was key.

“It was imperative. That was my end of the deal and they are providing their end of the deal and hopefully they have married up. They have a great structure behind them, they run a great show.

“Combined with the creative side it should rocket.

“These people are interested in working for me and expanding the market, particularly overseas; obviously they see the potential.”

Liano will maintain five retail stores, the online business and her Myer association with the Bettina Liano brand and T by Bettina Liano.

Apparel Group will develop and grow the Bettina Liano brands through an exclusive agreement to sell and supply both domestic and international wholesale customers.

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Cara Waters

Cara Waters is the former editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter for the Financial Times' website and she also worked for The Sunday Times in London.

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