Troop commander to boutique label owner in 12 months

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By David Russell

[email protected]! it, I’m gonna do it.” That’s what Don’t Do Pretty Founder Eloise Houseman said when she had her “epiphany moment” 12 months ago. After selling a successful city gym and joining the army for a stint as a troop commander, the single mum returned home without a job, and not wanting one.

“I came back and thought, ‘you only live once… I want to do what I want to do’,” Eloise told Inside South Australia. She registered a domain name, and the embryo of a new South Australian fashion label came into being.

While Eloise and business partner Rebel are newcomers to the industry, Eloise has always had an interest in fashion. She makes her own clothes, and two years ago did a three-month fashion course at TAFE.

“It was the best 12 weeks of my life… just sitting there creating and drawing things… Even if it didn’t work… it was so therapeutic to do.”

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Eloise sees her lack of industry experience as a blessing for Don’t Do Pretty.

“When the industry zigs, we zag. We’re always trying to look for something that’s different… Being inexperienced within the industry has been great for that.”

“We’ve made some really good contacts with people here and they’ve been really generous with what they’ve shared with me… pattern makers, sample makers, that sort of thing…. And they are all South Australian based.”

“They had the experience, shared it with me and I threw everything into it.”

Don’t Do Pretty is live to a VIP subscription list that includes some of New York’s biggest fashion bloggers. It wasn’t expensive marketing or media famils that got their attention; it was good design, quality photos, and Instagram.

“We have had some really strong interest from bloggers… my target market is really strong, powerful women in really great positions who own their confidence.

“We’re boutique, its about having something that nobody else has… (it’s) for women who don’t want to turn up to the Melbourne Cup with the same dress as someone else.

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“For this first collection we’re doing skirts that work for everybody’s body shape. If you’re a booty person, we have a skirt that works for that really well. If you’re a tall, thin, no hips person, we’ve got a skirt that comes into the waist and shows that off.

“We’ve been talking to people and finding out what they want… we’re not all models who are five-10 and size eight.”

Eloise draws inspiration for new designs from what she sees around her.

“Nature, streets, bricks and mortar, slate… when I’m walking around I snap photos of inspirational moments.

“We come up with mood boards (with) different textures, images, cuts, styles, lines and details. Then we start breaking it down… choosing fabrics, ordering swatches from everywhere, sketching, getting the pattern-maker in.

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All Don’t Do Pretty clothing is made in South Australia. The leather is sourced locally, the pattern maker lives in Adelaide’s Southern suburbs and production is contracted to a manufacturer in Glynde. They have strong green credentials too.

“We don’t do fast fashion… the fashion industry is the second biggest polluting industry to the environment, behind oil.”

“We’re really against that… we do so much research into our providers and manufacturers to make sure our values are upheld.”

Local staff and contractors, small batch production and environmental-friendly practices mean Don’t Do Pretty pitches at a higher price point.

“We really want to hit international markets, so New York, the UK and China. We also want to reach out to some domestic fashion hubs, including Adelaide.

“Adelaide is becoming one (a hub), and I love that… the success of South Australian people, like Aus. Fashion Labels, Critstina Tridente and Paulo Sebastian has been awesome to watch.

“We have had interest from boutiques and we’re being selective in where we put items… We need to be true to our brand; we’re Don’t Do Pretty… we do the rock star side of things.”

Don’t Do Pretty goes live to the world Monday 16 November.

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