“As a kid, there was never much emphasis on studies, but there was a lot of emphasis on working hard and chasing your dreams.”
Ebonnie Masini credits her parents for imparting the work ethic that’s been a big part of her success today. Her luxury sleepwear brand, Masini & Chern, is sold in five countries and she knows how daunting it can be to do business overseas. We caught up with the talented Premium member about her business hurdles and how she disrupted the sleepwear market with her luxury line of monogrammed and printed pjs.
How did you get to where you are now? Was luxury sleepwear always a part of the plan?
Not at all. In my early 20’s I studied fashion design at RMIT in Melbourne and then moved to Dubai and London where I worked as a buyer for five years. I travelled a lot for work and started looking for something stylish and comfortable that I could wear on my travels. I couldn’t find much and that’s where the idea started. I spent three years researching the loungewear/sleepwear market and designing the first collection and then in 2013 I moved back to Australia to launch Masini & Chern.
Tell us about the Masini and Chern story…
It’s still a young brand (three years in November 2016). In my first year I collaborated with the Art Series Group on a pair of pyjamas for The Olsen hotel. They were a hit and I’ve just launched another collaboration with them on their newest hotel, The Johnson. I currently wholesale to about 20 stores across Australia, New Zealand, UK, US and the UAE. I’ve had steady growth in Australia and feel so well supported by the Australian market. Now my plan is to focus on international growth and I can only hope that I can get the same reaction as I have in Australia.
What has been the most challenging experience you have faced in your career so far?
Manufacturing was the toughest hurdle for me. I was originally manufacturing in Bali which I found difficult because I wasn’t living there. They have some great factories but the pace can be very slow. It’s fabulous if you’re on holidays but not for business. I moved everything to China which worked out for a while but when you’re a small brand and you go direct to a factory over there, you risk a big brand coming in and taking priority. Which is exactly what happened. I now have an agent in Melbourne that does all my manufacturing. It’s still made in China but they have other brands (mostly larger) that they also represent.
How did you overcome this challenge?
Having the agent means that I’m no longer seen as a small dog. I used to stay up at night worrying that my manufacturing could just stop at any moment. The manufacturing process also used to take up a lot of my time. Now I can focus more on other parts of the business. This is a challenge a lot of small brands face and for some reason the fashion industry are very secretive about where they get their products made. I don’t understand the reason for this. I’m more than happy to share my contacts and I wish people would do this more.
What do you love most about your job?
The flexibility. I have a lot of friends that work for themselves and everyone at some point has gone through this strange stage of guilt that you must have a routine – get up at 6am, check emails, do yoga, meditate, drink smoothie, check more emails blah blah blah. I don’t see the point of being your own boss and having your own business if you’re basically acting like you have a 9-5 job. Some days are manic but some days are chilled. I try to have a good balance. I work smart and hard and I play even harder.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given (and by whom)?
“Don’t stress. Everything will be great”. My husband says it to me a lot.
What was the reason behind you joining Business Chicks?
I love what it stands for. It infuriates me that you go into these fashion brands (and I assume other industries) and most of the staff are women but the directors and management are men. Women need to look after each other more. We need to stop competing against one another and start lifting each other up. I think we’d see a lot more women in management roles if we all just showed a bit more respect to our sex and went out for Friday lunches together like men do.
“Women need to look after each other more. We need to stop competing against one another and start lifting each other up.”
What’s a great experience you’ve had with Business Chicks?
Last year Business Chicks asked me to take over their Instagram during the 9 to Thrive expo in Melbourne. I spent two days chatting with so many fabulous women and photographing anything that I thought looked aesthetically pleasing. I had a ball.
What exciting things are on the horizon for you and Masini and Chern?
I feel like after three years I’ve finally got through all the teething problems and now I can properly focus on the bigger picture. I’ll be showing in Paris twice this year and hope to spend the next few years expanding my international wholesale and retail. Although I like to plan and make goals, I also try not to think too much into the future. You never know the positive things life will bring and that excites me more than anything.