Sunday, April 18, 2010

Natalie Denning


I still remember by first trip into a Natalie Denning store in my mid teens, Sass and Bide was still very new and only select boutiques were stocking the label at the time, Natalie Denning being one of them. The double denim combo was also big, only the coolest girls were wearing the sass and bide denim jacket and matching jeans or skirt. Obviously a lot as happened between now and then...

Say the name Natalie Denning to any Brisbane fashionista and they will know exactly who your talking about and perhaps even be able to retell a sentimental story or their own about their experience with one her stores.

Opening up the first Bessie Head store in 1998, Natalie has since opened six more. Bam and JuJu, Lotus76, Fallow, Bessie Head Black, Dirtbox and Angus and Black. I was lucky enough to chat to Natalie herself about her stores, online strategies, and things to remember when launching a brand or store.

All your boutiques have their own blog and facebook page, what makes these mediums such a great way to communicate to your customers?

Online interaction with customers is simple, cost effective and quick. The majority of our customers use facebook, so in a matter of seconds we can tell them that new season has arrived.
The same goes for our blogs, it not only gives us a chance to showcase the clothes, it allows customers who can't reach us for whatever reason, to see the clothes from their home, and order over the phone or by email instantly.

Do you have any future online/social media plans for your stores?

We really try to update the blogs/facebooks as much as we possibly can... but there are times when it's just not possible... so our plan is to make sure there is something posted on a more frequent basis in order to keep people coming back. In terms of social media, we won't be picking up on the twitter phenomenon.. because at the same time we don't want to suffocate our customer with information overload.

All your boutiques have a very focused target market, how would you best categorise them?

Bessie Head - A confident woman with an edge. She lives for fashion....

Bessie Head Black is for the girl that wants to look different at her formal...

Bamandjuju is the girl who reads Frankie and loves beautifully made clothing.

Lotus 76 is perfect for a woman who likes to dress for their body shape and feel vibrant at any age.

Fallow is a dark brooding character... an atypical neo-gothic hero who admires dark romanticism.

Dirtbox is dapper. A unique man who admires the quality of garments in the past, and appropriates that feeling to the way he dresses today...

Angus Black is a young man coming into his own... He doesn't follow the rules of dressing, but instead experiments with silhouette, colour and drape.

What work experience/study got you to where you are?

I studied Fashion Design at Moreton Institute before opening Brisbane's first Young Designers Showroom in 1996. The Bessie Head label was launched in 1997, and shortly after the Bessie Head store was opened in Broadway on the Mall. In early '98, the Natalie Denning store was opened, and a second Bessie Head in Elizabeth Arcade. Heaps and heaps of designers kept approaching me, so then I opened bamandjuju, and not long after came along Dirtbox... I acquired Lotus in 2007, and the Fallow concept was born in early 2008. Most recently, our formalwear store has evolved into Bessie Head Black and our younger men's store Angus Black opened on Brunswick Street.

Who does all your marketing and PR?

All of our marketing and PR is handled in-house. It is a collaborative effort between myself, our Business Manager - Laura, and our Marketing Manager - Austin. Each stores' Manager plays an integral role in the promotion of their store as well.
Occasionally, Graphic Design work is commissioned to the publication in which we have purchased advertising space, otherwise it is created by Austin, or my daughter Pascale.

What do you believe are the most important things to remember when launching a new brand/store?

-Have a particular customer base in mind - it's not so much an age bracket as it is a mind-set.
- A strong concept is a must. A store must reflect the direction of the clothing it sells.
- Always have a plan as to where you see the store/brand in years to come...

store blogs:

Bam and Juju
Bessie Head
Angus Black
Bessie Head Black

Image: Maggie Knitted Socks from the Karla Spetic's Autumn Winter 10 collection, currently stocked in Bam and Juju


  1. This seems fanatic dedication to fashion and apparel brands that drove fashion brands to the Web.


  2. A great read, I always want to to work at one of the Natalie Denning stores, or anywhere that stocked Sass and Bide. Strange that of all of the retail jobs I've had I never worked in a store that stocked Sass and Bide, it's certainly something i regret.