The Swish Insider: interview with Anita Carmody - founder, owner and managing director of Swish Fashion Clothing
Posted on July 03 2019
Hello Anita, can you please introduce yourself to our readers? Please tell us a couple of words about you, we’d like to know more about the person who founded the Swish Fashion store and has been running it ever since.
Hello! I’m Anita Carmody and I have had the pleasure of being the owner of Swish for the past 19 years. My humble beginnings started 40 years ago when I was an enthusiastic 19-year-old receptionist and house model for the fast-moving young fashion brand.
However, soon after I started, they recognised my love of chatting and fellow human beings, so I was quickly moved into a sales and marketing role. It suited my personality perfectly and I absolutely thrived and I knew I had found my life long career. To this day, I am delighted to say that I am still solely responsible for the wholesale sales and marketing for my Swish brand. I have been dealing with many of these retail customers since I was first in the industry so its more of a friendship now than a business relationship and I always look forward to catching up with them.
Swish Fashion store has been operating since 2001 - that’s an outstanding outcome for an independent fashion brand. Do you mind telling us how it all started?
I moved on from being a receptionist in fashion to become a wholesale fashion agent. There was a time when one of the companies, I looked after decided that they were going to close down. That was my main line of fashion I represented and that was a plus size fashion company.
I had actually encouraged that manufacturer to go into plus sizes because she only did the regular ones. But I kept saying: there’s a big market for plus size, you should be doing it. She took my word for it and became a plus size manufacturer, designed a small plus size collection and it got picked up immediately by the all the plus size boutiques that were out there at a time and David Jones as well. So it became a big success very quickly and it took over her other brand.
But then she decided to close down because she had three little children.
But I just saw this glaring need for plus size shirts in the marketplace and was asked repeatedly “where do you think I should buy some?”.
So I thought: maybe I should give it a go? Maybe I should try and just manufacture a few by myself?
So I gathered the knowledge and information very quickly, having never done that sort of work before. And again, very quickly it became a success straight from the get-go. Everybody bought it, everybody loved it, it retailed really well. It was a small collection of maybe 20 different shirts… and then it just grew and grew from that. So every year, every season I’d started off just doing shirts and then I’d added a couple of pairs of pants, and a skirt and a jacket… and before I knew it, it was a fully coordinated fashion brand for the women over size 12. But we’re a generous cut, so our size 12 is not like a size 12 you find in the regular sizes. Our size 12 is more like a 14 - and that’s what you call a “plus size cut”.
So, that's how I started and here I am, nearly 19 years later.
As a business owner, what are your thoughts on what’s changed throughout the years? Was it more difficult back then or is it more challenging now?
I do believe it’s much more challenging now.
The economic climate and general cost of living is making clothing less of a priority for some. It’s well documented that people are more likely to spend on experiences such as travel and eating out. For the first 10 years of my business, I was solely a wholesale manufacturer and supplied both the Australian and New Zealand market. However, as many of the retailers either retired or closed their stores, this made for a shrinking market. For this reason, I am extremely grateful that nearly 10 years ago, I decided to open my first retail store in Mosman and then proceeded to gradually roll out the rest of my stores that I still have today.
Finally, with great trepidation, I ventured into my online store and I am so grateful that I took the plunge as even my more mature market is happily adopting this new way of purchasing their latest wardrobe.
What’s the origin of the name of the brand?
Oh… that’s so funny!
I rang my sister, Chrissie (who is now our Online Manager), in Queensland and I mentioned to her the idea about starting this new label and about what the name could be. At the time my sister was browsing through a magazine and a word popped out of the page at her. She then said “you could call it Swish” And that’s how we came up with the name.
So I’d like to give a more exotic story but it was really an off the cuff decision.
It wasn’t like I sat there and did this huge business plan and strategized it - it was off the cuff, which is how I run my life, really.
“This is my idea, I’m going to run with it and see what happens.” - and it just did work, so I’m very lucky.
The biggest challenges you need to face as a fashion brand owner are…
Constantly reinventing the wheel trying to come up with new ideas whilst staying true to our market.
The search for the beautiful fabrics we use is also an important part of the Swish design, so the overseas travel to source these fabrics (although sounding wonderful) is a very busy time.
And again, years ago, there was more choice on the market, because there were more manufacturers in Australia, so I was given a much wider choice and much more variety and interesting fabrics.
Now, because there’s only a handful of people left in this country that are still manufacturing, they don’t have the diversification, because they can’t afford to be carrying all that stock… or they don’t carry stock and so you have to go out and buy your own. I do go overseas to source the fabrics and accessories because often you can’t find it here.
What’s the most memorable work-related moment or a milestone you’ve had since you’ve brought Swish Fashion to life?
The business has had many great moments but I suppose the one I will always remember is back to the very beginning of Swish when I first started up. The opening season was fantastic and far exceeded my expectation. This gave me the confidence and knowing that what I had believed in for so long was not going to be a fantasy but could actually be a reality.
Seeing the business grow from just me managing most of the day-to-day activities too soon thereafter, employing several staff to get the job done was so exciting. The business had legs!
... now 19-year-old ones to be exact!
As an owner, you must have some favourite picks from the Swish Fashion store. What would they be?
Of course, I do! Here are the 7 must-haves I’d recommend to stock up on this Winter:
1. 40030 Peony Long Top (ON SALE now! https://www.swishfashion.com.au/products/40030)
2. 46000 Quilt Vest (https://www.swishfashion.com.au/products/46000)
3. 44004 Denim Jacket (https://www.swishfashion.com.au/products/44004)
4. 44017 Check Coat (currently ON SALE: https://www.swishfashion.com.au/products/44017)
5. 44052 Hazey Jacket (currently ON SALE: https://www.swishfashion.com.au/products/44052)
6. 44047 Printed Jacket (currently ON SALE: https://www.swishfashion.com.au/products/44047)
7. 1031 Slim Leg Ponti Pant (Available here: https://www.swishfashion.com.au/products/1031)