One of this city’s great business success stories is the rise and rise of Australian Fashion Labels (AFL). With 170 employees, a slew of brands, a new store in Los Angeles and an upcoming collaboration with singer Solange Knowles, AFL is ready to take that next step from its new North Terrace home.
Started by Dean and Melanie Flintoft in 2007 with their label Finders Keepers, AFL now encompasses seven labels (including C/MEO Collective, TY-LR and Keepsake), their labels are stocked in more than 1700 stores worldwide, plus there are the online and bricks and mortar stores (BNKR on Rundle Mall and in Los Angeles). The new North Terrace home is now the creative and business hub for the thriving business. “Mel and I had been looking for probably two years and knowing that our lease was coming up, our business was growing fast, and everywhere we went, every place we looked at just didn’t feel right,” Dean says. “There were a lot of things that had to be done to whatever building we looked at – and this building was no different actually. The university had it for 20 years or so, there was an old terrible fit out but the heritage and the structure of the building was perfect for us. We just removed everything, so we’ve got lots of wide open space, an open plan. When we saw it, it had squatters living in it, it had been empty for two years and it was a mess, but we just fell in love and we knew it was the one.”
AFL founders, Melanie and Dean Flintoft
The label was able to make this move thanks to KPMG, a state government loan and Bendigo Bank. “Certainly Bendigo Bank was crucial,” Dean says. “We wouldn’t be in this building without them. It was a case of we found the building, we knew the deal we needed to put together but our business was also growing. There were multiple things happening at once. It was a fast-growing business. We needed a new trade finance package to keep that going. We found this building, which needed to be perfect and renovated. There was a lot of demand for capital within our business and Bendigo Bank, we were in Currie St at the time, their office was just down the road from us, a couple of hundred metres. From the first meeting, they got really involved in our business and spent a lot of time getting to know us and our business and they became a crucial partner for us.” The rise of AFL has been mirrored by a changing of the guard in Adelaide fashion, as designers such as Paul Vasileff (Paolo Sebastian) and Jaimie Sortino have made their mark in the world and now the city has a major fashion celebration with Adelaide Fashion Festival’s recent upgrade.
AFL’s North terrace HQ reflects the sleek nature of the company.
“There are definitely lots of conversations about what’s in the water in Adelaide in the fashion industry now,” Melanie says. “I think in general, there’s an upbeat feeling about the city and the opportunities for young entrepreneurs, especially,” Melanie continues. “People are staying in Adelaide for opportunities and 20 years ago that was not the case. In fact, in the last two to three years there’s been a mindset change.” Dean believes AFL has only scratched the surface with what they can achieve. “We’ve really just started,” he says. “We’ve got quite detailed growth strategies,” Melanie says. “Our Group General Manager Blake Williams was over in LA last week for the store opening.” “The opportunities are significant in the US in particular where we’ve got good traction,” Williams says. “We’ve invested heavily in people. We’re really just beginning that journey for how far we can take it in the US. The way we’re approaching the market is through a diversified model of wholesale, retail and online. It’s about the right products at the right time.” australianfashionlabels.com.au This article is sponsored by