INTERVIEW | STEPHANIE OF SAINT ELIA
Name: Stephanie Caltabiano Cherrington
Current Title / Company: Designer and Director of Sant Elia
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB OUT OF UNIVERSITY & HOW DID YOU LAND THAT POSITION?
Assistant Designer for a Ladies fashion brand, through many job interviews and a good portfolio. I studied Fashion Design at UTS, and was able to compete a lot of work experience during my studies which I think helped make me a well rounded graduate. The process of landing that first role was a hustle though!
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE YOUR BUSINESS?
I had been asked by friends and family to create looks for their special days and realised there was a gap in the market for Fashion-Forward bridal and event wear… I loved the idea of working for myself and decided to take the leap into following the vision. Its been a crazy ride!
TAKE US THROUGH A DAY IN THE LIFE OF YOUR BUSINESS
I wake up early, usually around 6am, to do some exercise to get my head straight for the day! Then after my workout I begin, usually with emails and posts on social media before heading in to the studio. I have a very varied role in the business, I act as creative director so I usually start the day with a staff WIP meeting where I plan, as well as oversee the design and production of every piece. The rest of the day is a balancing act between client consultations, fittings, emails, photoshoots, managing the website, admin and emergency Uber Eats orders!
HAS ANYTHING SURPRISED YOU ABOUT THE JOURNEY TO CREATE YOUR BUSINESS?
I always was prepared to work hard but I never knew how complicated it would be. There have been a few let downs, and big changes that I didn’t see coming. But all in all its taught me be more aware of all aspects of running a business, rather than focusing just on creative vision.
OBVIOUSLY, YOUR BUSINESS HAS GROWN! SO, LET'S TALK MONEY. TELL US ABOUT THE INTIMIDATING PROCESS OF FINDING FUNDING FOR YOUR BUSINESS.
ANY ADVICE FOR WOMEN WHO NEED TO FIND FUNDING FOR THEIR OWN STARTUP?
Firstly, it takes a lot of personal sacrifice! I don’t have a clear answer for this or where to get the money from. If you are looking to start up a self funded business I think its best to start with manageable steps and the knowledge that its going to be a long road until the money starts to come in. Don’t over commit to a massive rent or take really big financial risks, but also don’t be too scared to back your own ideas.
YOUR BUSINESS HAS DEVELOPED QUITE A FOLLOWING. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT MARKETING YOUR BUSINESS? HOW DID YOU SPREAD THE WORD?
I think time and patience is the biggest factor in developing a following, and I believe we still have a long road ahead. Social Media has been important, a lot of our brides find us through Instagram. Developing a visual language has been essential, selecting images to share that specifically target our dream brides and knowing their likes, lifestyles and wedding aspirations. We have worked hard to create amazing photoshoots and campaigns regularly to showcase our work and also collaborate a lot with like minded businesses in the industry. Marketing is hard, and there is no way to leap forward without doing the time. The regretful spends have involved believing other companies who say they can make your problems disappear or launch your business into the stratosphere overnight
(truth is they can’t and usually just want your money).
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE KEY TO THE SUCCESS OF YOUR BUSINESS?
For me, the best investment has been my team…. My staff are everything! They are the backbone of Sant Elia and make the magic happen every day. ONLY YOU and your own efforts can make your business grow, so surrounding yourself with your own team who is behind you and supporting you will be the best way to assist that growth, you can’t throw money at a problem to resolve it. This applies to accountants, social media, business development, advertising…
literally you need to be across all aspects.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST MILESTONE FOR YOU & YOUR BRAND?
As a brand, we have had a fair amount of editorial inclusions and it’s so fulfilling that the industry has embraced our look. This culminated last year when we landed the cover of Luxury Weddings Magazine, that was a special moment.
What makes me personally happy is every time one of our brides has her final fitting. The experience doesn’t get old… I still get Goosebumps when I see the happiness on our clients’ faces. Knowing we make people feel special and beautiful is the best achievement.
YOUR FAVOURITE BRIDAL TREND AT THE MOMENT?
BRIDAL PANTS ☺
TELL US ABOUT YOUR CURRENT COLLECTION
Ready-to-Wear Bridal Separates Collection is a celebration of our favourite pieces, we have created a classic range of pieces with a mix-and-match wearability. We kept the fashion-forward elements, couture finishes and fit we are known for, and put together affordable and effortless pieces to appeal to the cool,
no-fuss brides out there!
Our Bridal Couture Capsule will also be launched soon in time for spring! This Collection is called ‘The Divine Vision’ and it’s all about opulence, medieval architecture, texture and shape. We had a lot of fun with this collection, the team really enjoyed being creative and put a lot of love into the pieces.
YOUR FAVOURITE PIECE FROM YOUR CURRENT COLLECTION?
At the moment I am torn between the super chic Pants in our ready to wear collection, or the over the top opulent Olympia gown from our new Couture Collection.
BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?
Shape your workplace into a space you want to go to everyday... Having a calm, fun environment has been a pleasure to create. Being stressed doesn’t mean you are more efficient, so by adhering to a flexible and adaptable approach I’ve been able to maintain happy staff, cool vibes and a high level of productivity every day.
I wish I knew how to ... Do my own taxes ☹
What is your coffee order? ¾ skim milk strong latte
TV show do you wish was still on the air? Breaking Bad
Next travel destination? I have my heart set on New Zealand or Mexico
What advice would you give your 23 year old self? Trust your own instincts and stand up for what you believe in.