Keeping It Local

Following your dreams and making them happen takes courage- lots of it- and this couldn’t be more true if you are planning a career in fashion.

Like any design discipline, the scope of what you can do under the banner of ‘fashion design’ is enormous and complex. From cracking the big time as a designer on the New York runways to selling ready-to-wear designs to manufacturing giants, the competition and the industry itself can seem overwhelming.


This is why I always have a grin from ear-to-ear when I see a creative approaching a competitive career with a different mindset, choosing to focus on how they can use what they have and where they are right now to make things work for them.



Despite it’s small size and lonely location, Perth can be the perfect place to do exactly that. My good friends Kate Wilks and Erin Van Haeften met in fashion school and upon discovering a shared love for craftsmanship and quality in fashion design, the duo banded together and started making clothes under the label On a Whim.


Perth boasts some fantastic cultural events including street festivals, designer markets, pop ups shops and pop up events and the girls from On a Whim have been busting their butts to get in on the action. Since 2010 they have utilized what this city has to offer to generate a name for themselves, rising to local fame and becoming what I love to call “Perthonalities”. Having friends who can offer you their services or expertise also makes a real difference- I recently designed the marketing campaign for their Summer 2013 collection, The Spectator, which was then stocked in over 5 boutiques.



It’s a smart move. With the support of the community and with everything you need close at hand, there is no need to struggle with moving interstate to scramble for an underpaid job in a larger city, or having to intern for a chance to crack the big time overseas. Instead, you focus on utilizing the talent and opportunities you have right on your doorstep to get things moving.


I recently caught up with Kate Wilks to ask her about the benefits of being a creative startup in Perth;



M: Kate, when you and Erin decided to start making clothes together, how did you first approach getting your label into the public eye?

K: We started by selling at local markets, this was a great platform for us at that time as we were using pre-loved and vintage fabrics to create our collections. From there we threw ourselves in social media and networked to find new friends and other local creatives which we collaborated with on editorials and photoshoots.    

M: It seems like it is such a struggle to start up a fashion label- why do you think so many designers give up?

K:  Fashion is an extremely competitive market, I don’t know why so many designers give up but there is a lot of pressure when having a fashion label. It is hard not to get consumed with all the negative feedback you may receive, and you need to find the right fit for you label. Erin and I have been working on our label for a good 3 years now and we know how hard is it but the one thing I’ve learnt is to not give up on your end goal, if you loss sight of why you started your  business it will break you. Motivation is key.  

M: What do you think the benefits have been for you choosing to start On a Whim here in Perth?

K: We love Perth! Having been lucky enough to have grown up here there is no better place to start a label. One of the best benefits is that there is a large fashion network in Perth, which host events which allow you to meet and greet fellow creatives as well as make a few new friends. Another benefit is there are opportunities to grow your business by gaining support from the DCA (Department of Culture and Arts) and PFF (Perth Fashion Festival)  But the biggest and best benefit is because we have the support from friends and family who want to see us succeed you can’t ask for anything else than that.

M: What keeps you both going?

K: Each other! We have been (and will go) through a lot together. We bounce off each other and I couldn’t imagine doing On A Whim without Erin, it would be like a singing out of key.  



How about you, have you been keeping it local? What's your experience been like?

Leave a comment below.


Megan Guise
Megan Guise


Owner of Megan Isabella Design. I make original art cushions for the kind of person who swoons over the set design on Mad Men.

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