When most of us think about the fashion industry, we envision runways lined with models in designer creations. We think of celebrities lining the front row. We see dedicated fans snatching product off the racks. While this may be the case for many brands out there, they all had to start somewhere. No fashion brand was an overnight success. Just like the rest of them, I’ve had to start at the beginning.
Starting a fashion business was one of the hardest and most exciting things I could have ever done. What started out as a simple idea has taken me on the journey of a lifetime. What I’ve learnt so far is that it takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to pursue your dreams. And in many cases, even more than that.
I came from a working class family. My father was a hard worker with a practical approach to life. He never encouraged me to dream because he was afraid of failure. He didn’t believe that I was smart enough to go to uni. In his eyes, I needed to master a trade and settle for mediocrity. That’s what people did in my town. Pursuing a career in fashion was seen as something frivolous and unrealistic. I realized that I was on a different level compared to people around me. They had a way of making me feel different. But as I grew older, I began to embrace my notion of indifference. I think it was also harder for people to accept me building a men's fashion brand in Australia because local men are not as fashion forward as their counterparts in Europe and The States.
I took up a job as an underground miner because I knew the only way I was going to make something of myself without any degree or qualification was by risking my life for big money. After working in this field for awhile, I had two turning points. First, I had a serious incident in which I almost lost my leg while still employed at the mines. After playing rugby for the local mining town, I developed compartment syndrome. I was air lifted by an emergency helicopter to the nearest hospital, had 3 operations, and blood transfusions for the amount of blood I lost. I was than kept under observation for nearly 2 weeks. My leg has never been the same since. At this point, I started to reevaluate what I was doing with my life. Soon after, I had a serious argument with my boss at the mines. After that, I was fired and my coal mining credentials were wiped out. Shortly after that I was on my way home on a very long drive with all my belongings. Whilst driving I knew things would be different and that I needed to do something that would make me happy and for me that was to start a fashion label.
The answer was easy, but getting started was not. I quickly learned that the road from concept to consumer was a bumpy one.
To this day, I haven’t shared with my dad that I’ve started this business. So I’ve had to find ways to make ends meet while hiding my passion. At points, I’ve had to scrape pennies together to pay my bills and fund my dreams. After being unemployed for almost a year, I took on numerous contract jobs spending months at a time in the middle of nowhere building gas plants to generate income. I spent my nights making my fashion business a reality from my home away home, at the work camps I lived in. After hitting a wall with manufacturers in Australia, I flew to China to see more factory options. But since my dad wasn’t aware of my business, I couldn’t share the details of my trip with him. When he wasn’t able to get in contact with me, he managed to get in touch with one of my friends before attempting to fill out a missing persons report.
In addition to secretly working to bring my brand to life, I encountered a few major setbacks. I had to go from factory to factory searching for manufacturers that would take on my project. Without proper backing or an education in fashion, many of them were unwilling to work with me. After landing on factories I could work with, I lost thousands of dollars to poorly produced samples.I made some business decisions that had good intentions, however at the time the business wasn’t ready for it. I understand that mistakes will be made along the way, which will serve me as my teacher on the road to success.
I also made a poor personal decision where my driver’s license was suspended for a year. The biggest lessons I’ve learnt so far are not to take anything for granted and that you are the product of your actions. So, I’ve had to depend on others to get around to important meetings and classes. To gain back some of my independence, I purchased a simple push bike to get from point A to point B. In addition to getting around more easily, I was able to rediscover the joys of the wind blowing in my face as I coasted through the streets of my hometown. And like the pedals on that bike, I used my energy and will to pedal myself towards my dream.
I’ve encountered lots of naysayers who are quick to scream my failures and whisper my accomplishments. And even my relationship with my girlfriend was a casualty of my investment of time into my business. Sacrifice is the price we pay for the dreams we chase.
But on the bright side, I’ve found support in my mentor and my mother, and I’ve picked up new skills and mindsets through my unremitting desire for self-development. By working through these challenges, I’ve been able to learn from my mistakes and work even harder towards my goals.
I’m motivated to make this happen to prove to myself I deserve to be where I want to be. I’m determined to do this because it's something that makes me happy. And I’m literally investing my whole life and money into this dream.
I believe that every experience has a hidden message. A lesson to be taught. An experience to be felt. My message was clear. My lesson was learnt. And my experience was there. A new chapter in my life has been born.
"Fashion imitates life." - Nikke Horrigan