Get to know the business-minded creative behind one of Australia’s fastest-growing labels. Here is designer Ainsley Hansen, of Hansen & Gretel, in her own words.
“For me, Hansen & Gretel is all about community. I’ve never wanted it to be unattainable, I wanted it to be something for everyone—from your mum, to your sister… That’s been important for us—we like to be able to show all different types of women. We’ve just started this thing on our social media called ‘Gretel Girls’; I’m hoping to introduce more diversity through that as well.
“I never was fussed about fashion week. I wasn’t sure what I would get out of it… I didn’t have the capital to be able to fund something like that, and I always like to do things properly, so it was a lot to do with cash flow and a lot to do with time. I was doing everything from design to pattern making to cutting to being on the retail floor, I didn’t have a team behind me. That’s been a highlight for me, just being able to employ people, and have a sounding board and a great team.
“Opening a pop-up store two years after starting the brand was really me just deciding to take responsibility for what I created. I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to move some stock, I’ve got to really get to know my customer,’ so I opened up the pop-up store and it worked really well. And that fuelled me to open up my own retail store… and I think that allowed me to really understand who our consumer was. I was talking to them every day, so it was pretty awesome. I think I grew a lot as a designer from that as well. That was definitely a turning point for us.
“We we’re bending over backwards last year for all of our other retailers, and now that we’ve actually got a voice and a following it’s great to be able to keep it more to ourselves as well. Its so hard to make that call as well, to really back yourself.
“International growth is on the cusp. We’re not pushing it though, we’re pretty happy where we are here. There’s a bit more space for growth in wholesale, and also in our own retail stores. Hopefully we’ll open one in Melbourne in the next 12 to 24 months. And we just got an office space this year—we’d been operating out of an extra room off my house!
“Things obviously don’t go to plan all the time, so you have to be flexible with what you do, but we really work to our deadlines, it’s an important thing for us. It’s something that I’ve always worked with, and working in a faster retail trade you kind of have to be on the ball—you can’t get left behind. We’re not doing couture or anything like that. It’s something that I’ve always tried to be on top of. I don’t work well when I don’t have time. I always give myself a deadline of a week before, you definitely need that breathing space.”
Above: Models wear Hansen & Gretel backstage at the label’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia Resort 2019 presentation at Carriageworks in Sydney, May 2018.