Canberra Fashion

The tale of: ALICIA XYRAKIS

Lonsdale Street in Braddon houses your baby, Rebel Muse. We personally think you’ve changed the retail game here in Canberra by giving us an utterly gorgeous high-end boutique store worth raving about. Tell us how it all began.

Ok well you might want to boil the kettle first and settle down with a cup of tea…

Owning a boutique was a dream of mine for a long time, I always wanted to work in fashion, and I come from a small business family.  In my family no one worked in an office, they owned shops, and growing up that’s all I knew.

I was living in Sydney and studying fashion at FBI Fashion College, while I was there I managed the White Suede boutique in Paddington. I really loved that job, there was a real local vibe in Paddington and everyone knew one another; shop owners, café owners, residents, customers. I had a lot of autonomy with White Suede, as it was a Melbourne based family run company, who trusted me with their Sydney baby.  I would think about how one day I would love to have a sort of “White Suede” of my own.  A beautiful little boutique stocking Australian designer brands. A space that I could let my creativity out and build a little community with my customers and staff.

I had worked in retail my whole life! So I knew a thing or two about customer service.  But I knew there was definitely more I needed to learn before setting out on a venture of my own.  After White Suede I worked as an Assistant Merchandise Planner for Diva (the Jewellery stores) and then for its sister store Honey Birdette.  So a Merchandise Planner is different to a Visual Merchandiser.  Merchandise Planners work in head office with the buying team.  We work out how much stock is to be allocated to each store for it to sell through, margins and retail prices, how much stock the buyers need to be buying in order for the business to be profitable, sales reporting and implementing sale strategies.

My dad knew of my plans for owning a boutique, he also knew of this upcoming development on Lonsdale Street.  He encouraged me to just come down and have a look at the space, even though at this point I had made it clear that I was not moving back to Canberra.  Well when I came down to see the spot, I fell in love! I knew it was perfect! I knew there was a gap in the market in Canberra, I could see the potential in the location and deep down I knew it was much safer to start my venture here with the support and help of my family.

And that was the beginning of Rebel Muse.

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Other than owner/boss lady of the business, what are your main responsibilities for the stores?

I’m very lucky that I have an amazing store manager at Rebel Muse and casual staff members that I have been able to trust with a lot of day to day responsibilities. From looking after our customers in store to processing online sales and social media posts.  Without them I probably would have had a mental breakdown by now.

Even though I’m only in store a couple days a week, I still oversee the running of the store and provide support, training and make sure my team are always motivated and happy.

The rest of my job entails; Buying and curating stock, reporting on sales and inventory, updating our online store with new product, replying to customer enquiries, marketing, advertising, PR, Visual Merchandising, bookkeeping, paying suppliers and staff.

I have a blogger who plans and writes majority of the Rebel Muse blog.  We post new articles 3 times a week. I oversee the blog and give the final ok for all our posts and write one post a month.  I have a graphic designer who I work with to create banners fortnightly for our online store and images for our EDM’s and events. Its my responsibility to make sure I am giving clear guidance to everyone who works and contributes to Rebel Muse in order for it to stay true to my vision and the brand values I’ve created.

In the last two years navigating business, have you faced any challenges?

SO many challenges!! Probably one of the biggest is scaling the business and growing! And managing the cashflow to do this. There are a lot of expenses in running a business, and to this day I’m still not paying myself a regular wage. Increasing our range of stock, starting an online store and hiring a full time manager so I could work on growing other areas of the business, all cost money.  It’s a challenge to work out if its best to just stick with things how it is because its going fine, or take the next jump to make the business bigger.  Which means reinvesting the revenue you have made back into the business. And sometimes things don’t go exactly to plan.  The new idea that you have invested into, might not actually work out.  Take Peachy Keen for example. An opportunity presented for us to grow and expand. We did it! But we also bit off a little more than we can chew.  But still very glad we took the opportunity and learnt a lot from the process.

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Retail is already an unpredictable and fickle market with a lot of highs and lows.

One week will be great and then out of the blue sales die for a month or two.  Its just a matter of rolling with the punches and knowing that the down times don’t last forever.  You will probably be up again in another month.

The other difficult bit is not letting the performance of the business impact your mental wellbeing and bring you down.  Even if I’m having a pretty shitty couple of weeks where the business has underperformed, I can’t let my staff or customers know this and transfer my bad vibes on them.  I have to always be motivated for my team so we can continue to provide the shopping experience our customers know and love.

I’ve also changed as a person in the last couple of years, and so has my views on the Fashion Industry.  Most recently learning that the Fashion Industry is the worlds 2nd largest contributor to landfill! So it’s also a matter of letting my business model change and grow with me and making sure it’s also true to my personal values.

Who is your role model/s?

In the Fashion world I would have to say Leandra Medine (Man Repeller) and Miroslava Duma.  In life, my mum, because I don’t know anyone more resilient. In business, my dad, who has always been progressive in a very traditional business model.  And both of them are extremely hard working.

What do you do to stay fit and healthy? #fitspiration

I try to do 2-3 sessions at Club Lime gym and 1-2 Yoga classes at Soulutions Yoga per week. Both of these places are right above Rebel Muse, so I really don’t have an excuse for not going! Except sometimes work really is that busy!!

I prefer to exercise in the morning, I find it sets me up for the day (but this is definitely harder in winter).  I have a pretty healthy diet because I genuinely love good produce and cooking at home.  I cut refined sugar out of my diet as much as possible. But I’m not super strict on myself and will eat dessert when out at a nice restaurant or cake at a party or chocolate brownies during that time of the month… But day to day my diet is usually pretty sugar free.

If you could jump on a plane and travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be? Amalfi Coast, Italy.

What are your go-to fashion labels? Nobody Denim for denim and basics and Macgraw, Camilla and Marc or Alice McCall for those special pieces, and PE Nation for Activewear. Oh and Hansen and Gretel are quickly becoming a new fave.

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The shoe label you could wear to death? Dept. Of Finery.  They’re a Melbourne based brand that have only been around for a couple years and their shoes are hand made in Italy.  They have the best boots and sneakers for everyday wear.  They’re so comfy, practical and super cute!

If you could give one piece of advice to someone wanting to start their own business, what would it be? Underestimate everything.  Except for the amount of work it takes. Underestimate your sales, growth, expenses.  And over estimate the amount of work and time you need to put into your new baby.

Where do you see yourself in the next 2 years, both personally and professionally?

Personally, I hope to be living more permanently with my boyfriend and travelling more.  He’s currently based in Sydney and I’m in Canberra.  We have a place in both cities and live in both cities.  But at the moment my time is mostly in Canberra with very sporadic and short trips to Sydney, dependent on the business.  I spend a lot of time in Sydney as that’s where I do the buying from and where most of our brands are based.  But in 2 years I hope my base is in Sydney with trips every month or so to Canberra.  I also hope I will be able to take holidays and travel more by then.

Professionally, I hope that Rebel Muse has grown to one of Australia’s favourite online shopping destinations and blogs for ethical and sustainable fashion for women.  I hope to have a small passionate team working for the Rebel Muse online and instore.

Describe your typical life in a day:

5.30 to 6am – I wake up somewhere around here. Brush my teeth, put on my gym gear and go to the gym

6.45 – gym, shower, dress for the day

8am – get my coffee and into the shop.  Admin work on my laptop and process the previous nights online sales.

10am – Shop doors open… work work work.  Serve customers, process online sales, merchandise the store, reply to emails, Instagram posts, update online store, process new stock arrivals, pay invoices etc etc.

5.30pm – Close up shop for the day and head home! Maybe do groceries on the way home.

7pm – Cook dinner, eat, clean, shower, prepare gym bag and clothes for the next day.

9pm – Open up laptop again and catch up on more admin work, buying or blog post writing. Or relax and read a book

10.30-11.30 I hit the hay somewhere around here. Depending on how much work I have had to do that evening.

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@alikixyrakis in a flash:

Coffee or tea?: Coffee

On your bedside table we’ll find: A glass of water, tissues, blistex, phone charger, notebook and a book I’m reading.

Favourite flowers: White Peonies or Hydrangeas, but mainly just greenery

Book your currently reading: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Signature scent: Coco Chanel Mademoiselle

5 can’t-live-without handbag contents: Blistex, phone, wallet, hand sanitizer, sunglasses, Laptop (yes it fits in my bag), Notebook and pen.  Ok that’s 7… Sometimes I hold my laptop and notebook instead of putting it my bag… so that’s brings it back to 5.