Margie Woods is one of those effortlessly stylish women you can’t help but admire and immediately want to emulate.
And it’s no wonder, as the founder of the contemporary clothing line, Viktoria & Woods, and THE LOFFT, a fashion agency representing a mix of Australian and International labels, she lives and breathes fashion.
While running one label might be enough for some, Woods launched two businesses in the same year. Read on to discover how this Premium member started her label, her advice for breaking into fashion, and how she balances owning two businesses with a young family.
What were you doing before Viktoria & Woods and The LOFFT?
I was the Marketing & Sales manager for Metalicus Australia. It was an incredible stepping-stone. Being a small to medium size business at the time, I was able to get involved in many parts of the business. From product development, strategy, financial performance, sales and marketing, managing a big team, and opening retail stores.
What was the catalyst behind both your brands and why start them in the same year?
It was probably my entrepreneurial roots; I always knew that someday I had to work for myself. The rest was a mix of vision, timing, networks, knowledge and bravery that allowed both brands to launch simultaneously. The LOFFT is a fashion brand management agency that represents approximately 16 middle to high-end emerging and established brands. It’s a B2B setup. Viktoria & Woods was a vision for a product brewing over a few years. The concept centered around timeless and contemporary wardrobe essentials for stylish and busy women. It was a gap in the market and it took off immediately.
What were the early days like? Take us back …
The Early days were a dream. The market was full of gaps, the competition was smaller and the pie was in a kind of way bigger. The overseas competition was virtually non-existent. Social media was not even a word and email marketing had only just started to take off. Everything was probably a little less complicated and a little more profitable. Independent boutiques were thriving and business was a little simpler and life more balanced. Today, the rewards are greater; though I think it comes at a price. It’s harder switch off or pause.
Change is relentless and competition is fierce. I have always believed in staying true and disciplined with a brand’s direction and voice, whilst continuing to evolve. I think this discipline has served both LOFFT and V&W well and helped us cut through the noise somehow. It’s important to know when to pause, take a breath and stay quiet for a while. It helps you get heard when you have something of value to offer and helps our team remain focused and united in the journey.
Did you ever have a moment, where you felt, ‘wow, this is really going somewhere!’
I was really lucky. It was the right time, product, message and right place. Both brands just took off day one. Literally! I know it’s crazy but it really did. From that day, I don’t think that failing was ever an option. Although I did watch many brands and agencies come and go in my time.
How to you split yourself between the two brands?
Both brands, although different offices and teams, run from the same building. We occupy the whole top floor of a beautiful building in Richmond. So that helps!
My role is to set the tone and direction of each brand with a vision of what the next 3 months, to five years might look like; then surround myself with inspirational, talented and passionate women who make it happen. Its’ pretty much been like that from the beginning. I am not overly operational or technical, though I am hands on in the design and direction of each collection we create and the marketing side which I still get so excited about. I have my incredibly talented General Manager, Natalie, at The LOFFT who keeps the team and day to day running smoothly. My business partner, Lisa at V&W is my rock who keeps the operational side going. Plus, a strong team of incredible managers who just get it done!
What are you and your business partner, Lisa like? Two peas in a pod, or opposites?
Lisa joined Viktoria & Woods in 2011, and we are complete opposites yet very united. We have defined roles and functions. There is a lot of mutual respect for each role, which is why it works. Lisa loves the technical side and execution, I on the other hand love building and telling the story and leading the team forward. Lisa and I are a balanced team and very lucky!
What do you look for in the people you work with?
I look for inspiration, a perspective, and drive. I struggle with people who feel entitled.
If we asked you to look back when was the hardest time in the business?
There have been so many hard times in business. I could talk about challenges from each and every year, including 2017! But the one that stands out the most is 2014, a year, which really tested us all, but also clarified so much. I think that was the year that it finally clicked that we are no longer a small startup, but a serious business with a significant amount of stakeholders relying on us; including family, employees, suppliers and customers. It was also the year I started taking leadership a lot more seriously and probably started becoming a lot more assertive in my decision-making where it counted most.
Who do you turn to when the going gets tough? Who do you lean on?
I have a handful of incredible people on speed dial or in my life who I turn to depending on the situation. You can never undervalue experience or intelligence! No matter what industry they are in. I have over 20 year’s experience in the industry and still feel like a beginner most times. I am also part of a new and private peer-to-peer networking group. Most of us are from varying industries and it’s basically a confidential forum to share, help and listen to other women who are running a business.
Why is being Australian made important to Viktoria & Woods?
It’s part of our heritage, our point of view and point of difference. It matters and hopefully will continue to for a long time.
With two businesses and a young family, I bet lots of people ask you ‘How do you do it?’ What’s your secret? How do you make it work?
My husband David has always been my biggest supporter. He takes care of most pickups, drops offs, dinners and the day-to-day at home. Staying healthy and fit keeps me mentally and physically ready. I think what I value most are my weekends. Heading down to our beach house on Victoria’s beautiful surf coast. It’s where I take a deep breath and recharge.
How did the way you work change when you became a mum?
I became better at it and more balanced. I always say to friends and other women in business in my network, that kids will make you more successful.
For women who want to start their own brands, what’s the one thing you would tell them that you don’t think people would expect when they go into business?
Ask for advice. Most people are so happy to share their experiences. It’s incredibly enlightening and will empower better decision-making.
What’s next for you?
A second studio in Sydney for The LOFFT opens in February this year, and hopefully a few more retail locations for V&W.
Photographs: Lisa Dieu.