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Inside the global fashion label that’s redefining modern business

Designer and Co-Founder of L’IDÉE WOMAN Breeana Smith shares how she successfully grew a concept fashion brand across three different continents.

Breeana Smith

There are countless ways to manipulate fabric, and the pleated skirt is a timeless wardrobe staple that’s elegant, feminine and lightweight. It moves beautifully with the female form, bringing the garment to life through movement.

Breeana Smith first became acquainted with the age-old art of pleating through her grandmother.

“My grandmother gave me a beautiful pleated skirt that she used to wear in the 50s,” she says. “I was headed off on my first trip to Paris and it was just such a special piece. I wore it everywhere around the city. I wore it as a skirt and ended up wearing it as a dress.”

After completing her studies in business and forging a career in brand management for international fashion labels, Smith became very savvy at uncovering gaps in the market.

“There’s this beauty that comes with the movement. The pleating creates this, it’s like an art-like feel to the garment.”– Breeana Smith

“I have come from years of multi-brand management, where all I did was look at different brands in the market, who were competing with one another, and what was being missed,” she explains. “It taught me not to race out there and sell your product to absolutely everyone and everything. It also taught me that slow and steady does win the race, always.”

The other insight she gleaned from working with fashion brands was that only a small percentage of a clothing collection would eventually make it onto racks in retail stores.

“I wanted to capture that 20 per cent and make it an entire brand,” she recalls.

With this mind Smith turned to pleating (inspired by fond memories in Paris) and paired it with vibrant colours – a concept the brand continues to explore and realise to its full potential.

A global brand with local roots

Partnering with leading Australian fashion retailer Coco & Lola helped put the brand on the map in the Australian market. This well planned strategic move paved the way for collaborations with a handful of small independent retailers until the time came to step onto the international stage.

“We left it at a level that we felt was really healthy, covering enough demand, but keeping people quite hungry for the product. That’s a really healthy point to reach before you start sabotaging it by having too much of the brand everywhere,” Smith points out.

At this year’s Afterpay Australian Fashion Week, L’IDÉE WOMAN took to the stage with a sea of colour that captured the interest of international retailers with the strongest response coming from the Middle East.

“There’s this beauty that comes with the movement. The pleating creates this, it’s like an art-like feel to the garment. It moves so beautifully on you. It catches the light.”

Since recently having launched in the US, Smith is excited to see her creations stocked in Bloomingdales, Saks and Intermix thanks to the brand’s global agents.

International flair

Breeana Smith

From her home base perched on the cliffs of Positano on Italy’s iconic Amalfi Coast, Smith tells The CEO Magazine that around 90 per cent of her business is run using WhatsApp.

With the main office located in Perth and production taking place in Bali, Smith begins her days responding to hundreds of messages from the Southern Hemisphere before shifting her attention to the Northern Hemisphere in the afternoon.

While the surrounding beauty is a nice way to enjoy a siesta, the process of running a global business is not without its pressures.

“The mornings are manic,” she affirms. “I wake up early, usually 5.30 am in the summer, so that I can at least catch the last few hours of their Perth’s day.”

Perhaps the biggest advantage of having the brand’s Head Designer Luliia Levdokymenko operating in Bali is the richness and merging of cultures – Southern Italy and South-East Asia – that shape the direction of the collections.

“I think people probably inspire me the most, but also, I live in a very beautiful place, so I’m constantly surrounded by beauty and colour. And the landscape in the south of Italy, I would say, plays a big part, especially in terms of the colour. I think it’s all part and parcel of creating a brand that wants to speak to women all over the world,” Smith admits.

Slow fashion

Breeana Smith

It’s no surprise that sustainability plays a prominent role in speaking to the modern woman.
“The idea is to have a dress in your wardrobe that you are essentially going to wear for a few years,” Smith says.

With three to four collections released each year, which is considerably less compared to major fashion labels like Zara and H&M, the brand focuses heavily on longevity.

“One collection will include 60 per cent of a carryover from the previous collection, based on the fact that those styles are still relevant,” Smith explains.

While China represents an opportunity to increase the brand’s production capabilities, the Co-Founders decided to walk down a more eco-friendly path through sourcing local stock fabrics with minimal waste involved.

“We work with small, family-owned factories and visit the factories every day. We also are constantly creating new designs from our off-cuts.” Smith says.

Once the fabrics have been chosen they are manipulated at high temperatures using machinery to produce a range of pleated forms. “Some of them are beautiful, fine, rich pleating, while others are wider, umbrella-style pleats,” she says.

The end result is an eclectic mix of classic silhouettes that lend themselves beautifully to special occasions, whether that be a cocktail event, your graduation party or your friend’s wedding.

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