At times it can be difficult to imagine creating your own designs or your own brand for the market place. You can think and plan for months (and even years) without ever really getting anywhere. I spoke to Simon Lyssiotis who’s recently launched his own clothing brand Fontaine.
Fontaine currently includes a range of T-shirt designs inspired by a love of nostalgia. Simon thought of this idea in his second year of university while studying marketing and communications at Monash. He says he always had the idea that he would begin with T-shirts as he loved artwork and design. He wanted to combine his interest in nostalgia with starting his own label from the ground up with its own identity and character.
Before getting started though, he wanted to finish his degree and gain some corporate experience. He did just that, working for a big corporate fast moving consumer goods company shortly after he graduated.
He made a definitive decision to break away from the corporate world while on annual leave in Europe in 2009. “I was in France, and when I was on the beach in Saint Tropez I didn’t think about my future in the FMCG company… instead I decided to think about my own ideas and figure out a business plan involved with funding and creating a company,” he says. “And I made a promise to myself that I would be out of there by 1 April 2010; and I was – I always keep promises I make.”
After Europe he put pen to paper and actually started formulating the business plan without having much brand identity or even a name at that point. He had a vision about the type of product he wanted to create. He felt that the market was saturated with plenty of options already and he wanted to give something different to people.
Simon chose the name Fontaine for the label as he felt that it fit with the nostalgic feel of the brand he envisioned – it’s an old fashioned name that was used quite often in the past. “When I think about that name, I think about elegance and classic looks and classic people, art, everything,” he says. “That’s the point of difference I wanted to give to the market and my work. I want a classic and interesting look – and that name painted it all for me.”
Interestingly, Simon says that Fontaine was the first name he thought of, he didn’t actually sit down and brainstorm any other names.
When asked if things have all gone to plan since August 2009 Simon explains that, “the intricate manufacturing process was more than I expected, as was the complex public relations and brand marketing,” he says. “I learnt so much about cotton for example – the different types of cotton available in the market place.” He learnt about how it was made, how it’s put together and that even with today’s advanced technology a machine simply can’t make cotton the way humans can. For Fontaine, Simon chose a premium Australian cotton which is better to print and feels better on the skin. “It’s nice and light-weight as well,” he adds.
For marketing and public relations Simon chose the marketing firm Spice and Soul. “They have worked very well alongside me to develop the branding and marketing of the campaign and to give it life,” he says.
Of course what a lot of people want to know next is whether the process has been costly thus far. “I knew what I was getting into, it’s certainly not cheap but everything is budgeted and accounted for,” he says. In terms of budgeting, he stresses the importance of budget forecasting, ensuring that you look at every possible outlet you’re going to be spending money on.“Whatever you think you need, try to have double that, because you never know – be prepared for anything.”
More than anything, Simon recommends that have to have passion. In his case, he truly believes that this is his passion. “I always felt that I’ve had that entrepreneurial side and I always wanted to combine the love of design and clothing with it – I’m now doing that,” he says. “A lot of heart and love has gone into this and I believe this will be the first of many projects I’ll embark on.”
The label launched in December 2010 with stores receiving the debut collection gradually. Fontaine will have two collections each year. The website was launched on 5 January 2011 and includes and online store as well as the full current catalogue.
Simon expects that in 2011 Fontaine will be distributed Australia-wide coupled with a significant online presence. He wants his customers to contribute to the future of the brand and T-shirts themselves. “I want my customers to feel that they can play a significant role in the future of where the brand is headed,” he says.
And finally, what tips would Simon give to someone wanting to break into the fashion industry as he is doing?
“I think you need persistence. You need a great deal of resilience. You need to be willing to work hard. You need a unique point of difference, why should people buy your product? What makes yours more interesting than anyone else’s? What spin are you giving on something that’s already been created? Where’s the gap in the market? I didn’t create the T-shirt, but I’m adding to the concept.”