The end is near. We’ve spent the last few days having our morning coffees in the studio, in disbelief that the year is almost over and pondering over all the good things that came our way this year. We’ll admit it, after coming off a stellar 2017, we were a little unsure of what this year had instore for Ashlee Lauren. New York Fashion Week in September of last year seemed a pinnacle in the journey, but we were clearly wrong in thinking this year would be any less crazy.
As we get ready to close the studio and take some much-needed time off over the Christmas break with our loved ones, we thought we’d share our list of 2018 highlights. Whilst we had the intention to do this merely as our Blog Posts have been a little MIA as of late, we found it so rewarding and humbling for us all. We often get caught up in the fierce whirlwind that is Ashlee Lauren and forget to realise just how amazing all the things we achieved this year were.
We started the year off with a bang, and the end of January saw Samantha Burkhart, a Celebrity Stylist based in Los Angeles, reach out for pieces to style singing legend Kesha for the 2018 Grammy Awards. We excitedly sent pieces off, awaiting to see them pop up on the red carpet. We sat in the studio, in our trackpants and with a champagne in hand, glued to the TV all day waiting for Kesha’s performance. She came on stage and sadly wore no headpiece. A little deflated, we went on with our day, only to find out at 10pm that night Kesha had actually worn a crown to the Grammy’s Afterparty – with Paparazzi fleeting everywhere. This exposure thrust a very excited and shocked Ashlee Lauren into the International Spotlight, and a week later another piece featured on internet sensation Poppy in the prestigious New York Magazine. This was just the beginning of a year we feel will go down in Ashlee Lauren history.
In February and March, our small Designer collection expanded, and we saw an exciting rise in sales in our fashion-based products, with Bridal taking the back seat for a while. We spent excess time refining the website and introduced an extensive Accessory range to include Designer Earrings and Clutches and developed the website to be more user-friendly. Our Online Sales saw a dramatic increase, and before long we began shipping not only to all around Australia but Internationally with clients in countries such as USA, UK, Argentina, Italy, New Zealand and even Indonesia purchasing Ashlee Lauren products. Our affiliated brand Designer Crown Hire also launched it’s very own website this year, meaning quick and easy rentals online for people anywhere in Australia, giving us another platform for Ashlee Lauren to be seen. This collection also grew from 15 pieces to over 100 rental crowns, ensuring customers could have access to Couture pieces for a fraction of the cost.
April quickly came around, and we finally launched a creative project we’d been working on since December of 2017 – our 2018/19 Designer Collections – Erté, Damselfly, Vogue and Fleur. These collections were an artistic showcase of Ashlee Laurens newest fashion-based pieces, and our biggest photoshoot of the year took place during the back end of the month, with a Promo Video of the day being viewed more than 3,000 times over Instagram and Facebook. These collections saw an increase in Wholesale enquiries, and later in the year we were fortunate to secure our first Designer-Wear Stockists – Coco and Lola in Perth and Melbourne. This gave our clients and potential customers in VIC and WA the opportunity to view and touch our product first-hand and easily purchase, and our online sales from WA alone saw a dramatic increase within the first 4 weeks.
Ashlee Lauren also expanded its team further, and we appointed our first ever Trainee, Dani, in June. Dani quickly became our go-to-girl for all things Social Media and tech related. With an eye for detail and knowledge well beyond her years, Dani was able to capture so much extra behind the scenes footage of Ashlee Lauren and gather Social Media content, something we weren’t able to allocate time to before, although a vital part of the business. In June, Head Designer Ashlee also participated in an 8 week Entrepreneur Accelerator program called Venture Dorm, run through Flinders University. This program gave entrepreneurs the chance to learn more about their business and goals and be mentored in developing their businesses growth. The conclusion of the program saw the Envision Limestone Coast Envies Awards, in which finalists that were selected throughout the program were required to talk about their business and growth idea in a 5 minute pitch to a panelist of judges. Ashlee was not only a finalist, but went on to be awarded the Gold Envie Award, giving her a large prize pool including a study tour to the US in March of 2019. This was again another pivotal moment for Ashlee Laurens success, ensuring 2019 will have a great kickstart.
The 2018 South Australian Bridal Industry Awards were pleased to announce Ashlee Lauren as the winner of Best Bridal Accessories at their awards night in August, which was a result of votes submitted by brides of 2017. This became Ashlee Lauren's third winning year in a row of an ABIA award, giving her the chance to attend the National Awards in Queensland in 2019. Our Bridal clientele continued to grow in the later months of the year, with Ashlee Lauren launching all new Bridal pieces in a Ready-to-ship category, ensuring brides could have an Ashlee Lauren piece quickly delivered straight to their door.
September is always a month we declare to be the calm before-the-storm in the lead up to Spring Racing, but this month was still nothing short of amazing with Ashlee Lauren products being viewed on the glamorous Red Carpet for the 2018 AFL Brownlow Medal. Demi Miles, partner of Geelong’s Mitch Duncan, wore an Ashlee Lauren designer clutch and Georgia Minear, partner of Geelong’s Mark Blicavs wore a pair of designer earrings, giving the brand some exciting air-time on the Red Carpet.
Before long October was here and so was the 2018 Adelaide Fashion Festival, which saw Ashlee Lauren’s newest pieces on the runway paired with other South Australian Couture Designers Eliza French and Lexi Bridal. The festival invited big name celebrity and media personalities, and we were excited to be showcasing our collections to the likes of Edwina McCann - Editor of Vogue, Lana Wilkinson – Celebrity Stylist, and Paul Vasileff – Designer of Paolo Sebastian to name a few. This festival also opened the door to working with Chris Kontos, the festivals director, and we’re excited to announce he’ll be leading the way for Ashlee Lauren in 2019 with some big creative projects.
Spring Racing didn’t leave a minute spare during the end of October and right through November, with Ashlee Lauren sending out over 150 headpieces across Australia for the Melbourne Cup Carnival. We got to work with some of our favourite celebrities again including Jasmin Howell from Friend in Fashion, Sheppard and Stephanie Chehade and were fortunate enough to be selected by the Channel 10 wardrobe team to dress all of their presenters and newsreaders across the carnival. Our headpieces were seen popping up all over the coverage, again giving us great exposure and an increase in sales even after the carnival concluded.
And now, somehow we’re here, in December still filling those last minute orders and wondering how we managed to cram everything in. But we owe it to you all. To all our loyal and loving customers. Without you, Ashlee Lauren is nothing.
We’ve seen an abundance of support over our journey, but especially this year. To everyone who has purchased something, liked or commented on an Instagram post, shared our successes, reached out to collaborate, worked with us or simply just watched from afar – we thank you. And to our families who’ve showed understanding and support when we’re working at a crazy hour or home late – we thank you too, because we love what we do and can’t wait to have another crazy, exciting, busy, wine-filled 2019.
Wishing you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year and looking forward to seeing you all in January to get the fun started again.
Love Ashlee, Chris, Kellie and Dani xx