Sunday, August 1, 2010

Peta Pledger...Love is in the details.

Love in business can be seen in many different ways. You might feel it in the enthusiasm of its leader, or see it in how a business treats its staff. It is common to find love in one area of a business, because every idea is born from passion.  It is, however, extremely uncommon to feel love across all aspects of a business. When I refer to love, I'm not talking about pretend love, or the kind of love you 'should' feel because you are paid to, but real love! The kind that bursts from your chest and sets off the twinkle in your eye. I'd like to refer to this phenomena as: THE TOTAL LOVE PACKAGE, or if you want something catchier, 'THE LOVE EXPLOSION!'.  
In my humble opinion, the success or failure of every business depends on how much of the total love package it can give its customers. If you think about it, being in business is like being in a relationship. You can be the man or woman of your customer's dreams, be the one they settled for, or much worse than that, the one that never had a chance! What sort of business are you? And if you are a customer, when was the last time you felt truly loved?

Being an avid spectator of businesses, and a hopeless romantic, I am always excited to find businesses that are the total package. It is with great pleasure that I introduce Peta Pledger, of Melbourne's  'Peta Pledger' fashion label. 
Since 2003, Peta has been dressing women from all over the world in her made-to-measure figure flattering garments. Peta draws inspiration for her designs from vintage patterns, Australian 50's housewives, pin-up glamour, rock-'n-'roll and tattoo culture. Fancy a bit of 50's breeziness and glamour in your life? Then you may have just met the right woman, and I can tell you for myself, love abounds in the world of 'Peta Pledger'!

BW: How does the 'Peta Pledger' label differ from other clothing labels? 
PP: The label is not limited to one age or size group.  I make clothing for children, size 4 women up to size 26 women.  I also offer a custom-made service, so if you see a style that you like, you can have it made in a different fabric and to your own measurements.

BW: Everything about your business exudes a love for what you do, from the exquisite finish of your garments, to your Blog. What importance do you place on detail?   
PP: Attention to detail is my priority.  I was really lucky to have tough dress and pattern making teachers in college (I did the Advanced Certificate in Designer Dressmaking from 1990 to 1993), we all heard the words "unpick it and do it again" over and over and we were encouraged to strive for perfection, which I still do to this day.
My website needs alot of work, but when it comes to my clothing, every garment must be perfect or it does not leave my studio.   There are hundreds of people making the kind of clothing that I do and the only way I can really stand out is by having really well-made garments using traditional techniques, many of which are slowing being phased out to allow for faster garment construction by other companies.  

BW: When designing the imagery of the Peta Pledger brand, what was it you wanted to communicate to your customers? 
PP: I wanted to communicate that most of what I make is inspired by the 1950's and 1960's.  I also wanted people to know that I use traditional dressmaking techniques on all of my garments and that I strive to give every person old-fashioned service.  The thing that is most important to me though is that I don't want anyone to feel left out.  A lot of clothing labels only cater to women that are a certain size, I want women of every body shape to feel that they can come to me - if there is something that I can't do, I have a collective of creative people like me, that I can refer them to.

BW: With your business having a focus on custom-made items, how do you prioritise your time between creating garments and building the label? 
PP: The custom-made side of the business is what finances the label.  Having a profitable clothing label that produces locally made clothing is really difficult, especially because so many boutiques prefer to consign stock over buying it outright.  Our material and labour costs are much higher here than offshore, so that makes local garment manufacture difficult too. So, for me, the custom-made clothing is my priority and I manufacture for stores in-between.

BW: What has been your proudest moment?  
PP: It's a long story, but in 2003 there was a time where I never thought I would sew again.  Gemma Jones, a Melbourne Pop Artist that I was - and still am - a big fan of, came to my studio to order a dress.  She had heard that I wanted to pack it in and had a conversation with me that literally changed my life.  Having someone who you look up to tell you that you are good enough to go into business on your own and to reach for the stars is a pretty good feeling.

BW: Can you describe your most challenging experience in business, and how you overcame it?  
PP: The most challenging experience for me has been doing work for friends.  You find yourself wanting to make something for everyone you love for free or for next to nothing, but as my accountant pointed out, at what point do you draw the line?  So, I overcame the problem by giving my friends a written quote as I do with all clients and letting them decide if they wish to proceed with the job or not.

My accountant has also asked me to stop giving away ready-made clothing away for free, but I am still finding the urge hard to resist! 

BW: What are your hot tips for promoting a creative business? 
PP: Have an online presence.  It sounds lame, but if people cannot find you online, you don't exist.  Have an interesting blog that supports a Twitter account, a Facebook page and an online store.  If you can't afford a website with a built-in shopping cart, a blog with a big cartel or an Etsy store attached to it is a great way to start.  Keep your posts relevant to your business and interact with like-minded people online.  Try and find a balance though, people will switch off if you're too in their face or too 'spammy'.
Outside of the internet, postcards are good as you can leave them in record stores or cafes.   If you choose to have a market stall, they are a great way to introduce yourself to potential customers without being pushy.

BW: Peta Pledger dresses women all over the world - how did you go about breaking into the international market?  
PP: My first international break was from a company based in New York called Killspeed - NYC.  My friend Jane introduced me (by email) to the owners, Marisol and Jens in 2006.  After that, I opened up an Etsy store in early 2007 and doing that exposed me to the whole world.  Thanks to Etsy, people in at least 15 different countries are wearing 'Peta Pledger'.

BW: What plans do you have for the 'Peta Pledger' label in the future?  
PP: The plan is to eventually have a store here in Melbourne that stocks independent labels and a made-to-measure service.  I would like to break into the US market, where the audience for what I make is much greater.  It's a hard time to predict where I am going to go in the future, but that's the plan for now.  Doing this will require a lot of money.  So I will eventually need to look into ways to get financial backing for my business, which I currently know nothing about!

BW: Is there a pattern you follow to make your dreams come true?  
PP: I didn't follow a pattern.  I have been very fortunate to have a collective of friends that really believed in me and helped me to get my business to the stage it is today.  You need to be prepared to work really hard (I worked a full time job and on the business up until I had a baby in late 2006), you need to be prepared for a lot of knock-backs and when you do get knocked back, you have to dust yourself off and get up and try again even harder.  Oh, and you have to believe in yourself.  If you don't have faith in your work, no-one else will.

You can check out Peta Pledger at:
Twitter: @petapledger
Facebook:  Peta Pledger 

Photo Credits: Nicole Reed,
*I have the Peta Pledger 'Sara' shirt in red and white gingham, it is my favourite clothing item, and I am convinced it has super powers. :) Thanks Peta!