How Steele founder Jessica Reid scored an exclusive deal with Myer by taking her time

Steele founder Jessica Reid

It’s essential for entrepreneurs and business owners to not “rush in” when entering into a partnership with a larger brand, according to Melbourne fashion designer Jessica Reid.

“Have full confidence that you’ve got the right infrastructure, the right team, [and] the right people in the right department,” Reid told SmartCompany.

“Have confidence that you can manage any request that comes through.”

Reid is the founder and creative force behind fashion label Steele, which has recently locked in an exclusive deal with Myer.

Steele garments are now stocked in six Myer stores in Melbourne, Sydney CBD, Bondi, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide, and Myer customers will also be able to purchase Steele designs via the retailer’s online store.

With a healthy online presence and following on social media, Steele fits squarely into Myer’s continued focus on young, contemporary labels to attract a new generation of shoppers to its stores.

In August 2015, Myer inked a deal with popular clothing label Tiger Mist, while in October last year, luxury handbag and leather goods maker Mon Purse opened its first concierge store in Myer in Melbourne.

Reid told SmartCompany this focus on “emerging brands” is one way she believes the retailer’s vision aligns well with the vision she has for her own brand.

“Myer has gone through a little internal shuffle recently and I loved the new focus on emerging brands,” she says.

“They are passionate about contemporary brands and I liked the way they were rolling out their campaigns and events.

Reid describes the Myer strategy as “quite progressive” and while she always pictured Steele products in a major department store retailer, she says the deal with Myer evolved organically.

“We both had expressed interest in one another,” she says.

“They were interested in the brand and the buyer personally loved it … we had expressed interest in working with a major and were focused on finding the right partnership.

“We took it slowly … we had a few discussions over a few seasons to make sure we were on the right page and it went beautifully from there.”

Reid established Steele in 2010 while working in fashion wholesaling. While the designer does not disclose details about the brand’s financial performance, Steele products can be found in 80 retailers across the country.

The brand has also recently launched into the US market, which Reid told SmartCompany goes “hand-in-hand” with partnering with Myer at home.

Steele employs an internal team of around 10, while also working with a broader network in areas such as production and PR, and Reid says investing in your team is another important consideration when partnering up with a larger business.

“I really want the relationship [with Myer] to grow and be successful,” she says.

“I’m investing a lot of time in the relationship … in the manpower to be able to work closely with them.”

And when it comes to how she ensures the brand maintains the vision Reid had for a strong yet feminine label six years ago, Reid says it’s about looking inwards.

“You have to be aware of what is going on in the market and the landscape out there,” she says.

“But we try to look inwards a lot and focus on the things that mean a lot to us.

“Each season we ask ourselves, what can we do that’s new? What do our customers want to see next? What would inspire them?”

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