Alana Smith is the visionary entrepreneur and creative force behind Kitten D'Amour, a beloved Australian Vintage Inspired clothing brand. As the founder and designer of all their classic garments, shoes, bags, and accessories, Alana has carved a niche in the fashion industry, captivating hearts with their exquisite designs.
During this interview, Alana shares how her work ethic and dedication to authenticity versus trend-setting have led to her success as a designer and creator of a successful brand.
Thanks for sitting down with Confidence Daily! Tell us about what you do.
I’m the founder of Kitten D’Amour, an Australian Vintage Inspired clothing brand, I am also the designer of all of the garments, shoes, bags, and accessories that we design and manufacture.
How do you cultivate confidence?
One of the greatest gifts of having any form of success is to have the ability to provide good advice to anyone just starting out on their journey. Mentorship is vital in helping others to succeed. I’d love it if everyone that has found success could inspire and assist others to achieve their goals.
What does being a woman-owned business mean to you?
I’m fortunate to be in a position where gender is not something that comes up very often, I’m a great believer that being successful and having the ability to run any business should not be something that depends on your gender.
What was your business origin story?
My first job, when I was 18, was working at Benetton as a salesgirl. As you might know, everything about Benetton is about attention to detail and quality, and I was shown at an early age the importance of merchandising. This is where I really started developing my interest in fashion. My next job was the one that truly set me on my path to creating Kitten D’Amour: I worked for a popular Australian clothing brand that was driven by fashion trends. One day the buyer for the company visited one of the company’s Brisbane shops where I was working. I remember it as if it was only yesterday. The buyer told me all about the current trends that were popular at that time in the US and Europe, and I instantly knew that this was the job that I wanted! Fast forward three years, I moved to Sydney and landed my dream job…the new buyer for the company! I would travel around the world buying samples and discovering the latest styles and trends in London, Paris, New York, and Los Angeles six times a year.
Okay, coming up with a great idea and actually taking the steps to become an entrepreneur and launch your company are two very different things. How d
When I wasn’t traveling on overseas buying trips, I also designed for the company and it soon became apparent that the styles I was creating would often out-sell the designs modeled on samples that I had bought on my buying trips. I then decided to start my own label. With no formal training, it was a real learning curve. I basically taught myself to create and grade patterns, cut fabric, sew and assemble garments and create clothing designs that I felt would be popular. I sold my designs to various clothing boutiques in Queensland and this gave me the confidence to open my own shop…I have never looked back.
Sometimes entrepreneurship can be a hard and isolating journey. How do you stay confident along the way?
We now have shops in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast and a popular online store where we sell to people all over the world. I feel blessed that so many people appreciate the designs we create. We recently had a popular Australian film called A Stitch in Time feature our designs as part of the story of the film. The director, Sasha Hadden, told me that he was inspired to write and make the film after visiting one of our shops. To think that the designs we create are now inspiring others to be creative is very exciting. There are so many wonderful stories that I would love to share with you, I think it’s important to grab every opportunity that comes your way….this is something we are always doing. Not every opportunity ‘pays off’ however you will be surprised at how many do! All of this positive energy and the wonderful feedback we receive from our guests tell me we must be doing something right!
If you had to list three traits or attributes that have been pivotal for your success, what would they be?
Over-deliver. The owner of the trend-driven clothing brand I used to work for in my 20s would often ask me to travel overseas on buying trips without much notice. I never questioned when and where I had to go, and I would "hit the shops" to gather clothing samples the minute the plane landed. I had no interest in finding my hotel and resting after a long international flight. I had a job to do, and that was my first priority. I soon discovered that the more I over-delivered, the more successful I became.
Intuition. We don’t follow trends at Kitten D’Amour, and I believe that you should never deviate from what your gut is telling you during the creative process. We do our best to always be original, we don’t create designs just to be on-trend.
Don’t get too comfortable. I have a saying: “I am only as good as my last collection!” The success of Kitten D’Amour depends on how popular each of my collections is. I never take the success of Kitten D’Amour for granted and I strive to make each collection the best I’ve ever created. We have adopted this philosophy in each department at Kitten D’Amour, our mantra is to deliver collections and products that continually inspire our guests to shop with us.
What's one myth you'd like to debunk about your line of work?
One great myth, in my opinion, is"It’s never sensible to micro-manage your team." Sadly this is not always true; my upper management team and I always keep a close eye on each and every department. At the end of the day, I believe that everyone needs guidance and no one has the experience and knowledge in what is needed to build on Kitten D’Amour’s success than me and my management team that has been with me for 15-plus years.
What advice would you give to burgeoning entrepreneurs?
You can do anything if you put your mind to it, however, it’s very important to present your ideas and business concepts to someone that you have no real connection to. Family and friends will often tell you what you want to hear and not what you need to hear. You can waste a lot of time and money developing a business concept that really has no chance of being successful. Talk to someone that will provide honest, real feedback.
What words do you live by?
”The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
We are fortunate enough to own a number of classic cars, including a 1956 Thunderbird and a 1959 Corvette, the cars were never created to last only a few years. I’d like to think that these cars are similar to the Kitten D’Amour designs we create. Our classic cars have been enjoyed and cherished by numerous owners over the years. The goal at Kitten D’Amour is to create clothing that will also be enjoyed and cherished by different owners over the years and not discarded after a few wears.
Any final words of wisdom?
“The harder you work, the luckier you become.” This is a very well-known quote, and at Kitten D’Amour we call this the Time Machine Theory. Basically, there is "time travel," however, time travel only works in one direction…forward. To make a difference in the time you experience in the future is down to you today! So, if you work hard now and put a lot of effort into making your brand the best it can be the "time machine" will hopefully reward you by delivering you a popular, successful brand in five to ten years. This is true for everything in life such as health and relationships. I just wish I could apply this principle and commitment to my exercise regime, haha.