How fashion imprint OnceWas landed a deal with David Jones without having to make the first move

Melbourne fashion label OnceWas will be headed to David Jones in August, when its spring Armada range is distributed through the major department store, in a move designer Belinda Glynn says was all about waiting for the right moment.

We weren’t in any rush and the first conversations we had for DJs, they loved [the designs] but it wasn’t the right time for either of us – we were happy to just hold on,” Glynn tells SmartCompany

That was in September 2016, and it had taken only a couple of years since the label re-branded from SpencerLacy before a buyer from DJs noticed the stock and approached the label to chat.

The plan was to ideally have a buyer try to court the business, rather than having to pitch fashion lines to a variety of different big distributors.

That plan paid off, and while Glynn says not every business can wait for big buyers to knock on the door, the OnceWas strategy has been one of building up momentum around the product until big retailers were taking notice.

“I was always had the philosophy where we built the brand until we had majors knocking on our door,” Glynn says.

“It was about waiting it out until you can do it on your terms, and then we were able to forge a relationship [with someone] that believes in the brand.”

It’s far from a breezy time to be operating a local fashion label, but Glynn says the rebrand from SpencerLacy to OnceWas was about building something that was agile and could avoid being pigeonholed into one particular product category.

“It’s not easy – it’s getting harder and harder,” she says of local fashion.

“But because we’re a small team, it’s quite easy to be agile and over the past couple of years we’ve learned quite a few valuable lessons ourselves around trying not to spread ourselves too thin.”

This strategy includes focusing on the stockists the label already has, especially as the brand launches into David Jones, and keeping the community of shoppers engaged all the way through brokering new deals.

Concentrate on things that are vital, like branding and marketing. Get people talking about it organically, it’s about building that relationship,” Glynn says. 

The first OnceWas pieces will be on the floor of David Jones stores from August, but the label will also be looking at expanding internationally over the next year, given it has secured distribution into Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong.

That’s going to be our next focus – getting the product mix right – you then have the challenge of the different seasons,” Glynn says. 

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Jan Deane
Jan Deane
4 years ago

I like this label – there’s a store near me in Hawkesburn where I have purchased 4 or 5 items. I prefer shopping in the smaller shopping strips so probably won’t be going to DJs.