Colette Hayman could be easily dubbed “Queen of Accessories” with her exceptional empire-building skills in retail and brand building. The polished brunette South African born, founded fast fashion jewellery chain Diva with husband Mark which they then sold at its peak in 2007.
In 2010, Colette Hayman then created Colette by Colette Hayman which boasts over 134 stores globally yet is proudly Australian owned. Colette by Colette Hayman was born out of the need to fill a gap in the market for rethinking designer handbags and accessories, without compromising on style and offering affordable price points.
Unlike Diva, the business started in much more challenging retail times yet has experienced rapid growth globally including stores in New Zealand, the UAE, South Africa and Singapore. If that is not enough there are also plans to expand to the U.S, Canada, U.K, Central Asia and Europe.
We took five minutes with Colette Hayman to talk retail and fashion accessories.
You have created an incredible accessory business, first with Diva and after selling Diva, now with Colette by Colette Hayman. What has been the key to the success of the rapid retail expansion in these challenging retail times?
The exceptional quality of our accessories compared to competitive brands will never be compromised. This coupled with opening stores in the best retail locations, offering great incentives in-store and online as well as my unwavering passion for empowering women – one accessory at a time – will ensure the brand’s ongoing success. Most importantly we are a wholly Australian-owned brand and even with the expansion have no intention of taking the company offshore.
What makes accessories such a great business?
Accessories serve so many purposes. They make a statement about who you are, can transform an outfit to look totally different and give you the opportunity to develop your own look and sense of style.
How often are you designing new collections for Colette by Colette Hayman?
My role as Creative Director allows me to develop and articulate key trends for our seasonal collections. I do regular buying trips with my team to maintain an international perspective and ensure I am driving the overarching creative vision of the business. My inspiration comes from everything; from designer and emerging trends, what’s happening on the streets, blogs, technology or art. The minute there is a trend – we will have it in our stores – we have to stay one step ahead and I have a fabulous team who help me do that.
Is there an art to retail? Any tips you could pass onto anyone wanting a retail chain?
I am very focused and very committed to my brand, I very seldom take a day off. Remember that nothing successful comes without hard work. I want to know everything about my business, this can be all encompassing so I have to manage my time really well. I visit my warehouse and stores regularly and my head office team are personally selected by me. I feel it’s really important to have like-minded people in the workplace, that doesn’t mean we are all the same but there’s a level of responsibility to one another that I look for when interviewing, there’s an element of humbleness and respect that is crucial to working for Colette by Colette Hayman.
To be successful at anything you have to give it 100 percent. I am my harshest critic, I continuously challenge my team with “How can we do it better?” Mark and I still work together all day and then at night in front of the TV where I will write my trend reports or maybe work on a handbag design. We are lucky that we love what we do.
Who is the Colette by Colette Hayman customer?
She is a mid-20s city girl with a strong sense of identity and style. Whether she lives in Sydney, London or L.A she’s at the forefront of everything that is now and lives her life to the fullest with a touch of glamour on top. Her schedule is packed, but she manages to squeeze work, family, friends and me-time all in.
She’s always onto the next thing and you’ll find her partying at the latest venues, reading the newest bestseller, listening to upcoming hits and wearing the latest trend but she’s as much about letting loose as she is about enjoying down time with her family and friends or powering through a hectic day at work. She’s independent yet extremely sociable and stays loyal to a small core of lifelong friends.
She’s that really cool girlfriend whose contagious enthusiasm can charm its way into anything and anyone’s heart, a woman to look up to, for life as well as style advice.
What do you love about your business?
I have been passionate about fashion for as long as I can remember. I love the way it transforms my mood when I feel good in an outfit. People say “Love the skin you’re in” – I say “Love the look you’re in”. My team and I care about the detail in everything, so we always push ourselves to provide the best product, the best experience and the best service.
How many boutiques do you have and any plans for more including expansion internationally?
Our vision for is to build Colette by Colette Hayman into a global brand, offering trendy yet affordable fashion accessories from the best retail locations world-wide. We take our inspiration from international fashion trends and our product would sit easily in any major city around the world. We have secured international partnerships and opened 15 stores across new territories including New Zealand, Singapore, the Middle East and South Africa. We are now planning to extend our footprint to the USA, Canada, UK, Central Asia and Europe over the next 5 years.
How do you spend your weekends?
I love spending time with my family, and shopping of course! We are very lucky to have a balanced life with lots of family time by the sea on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, days out on the Harbour and regular breaks at our holiday home on Hamilton Island.