If you’re after right-now trends, up-and-coming brands and a boutique shopping experience that gives you that high-as-a-kite feeling, there’s only one shop you need to know about. Rebel Muse. It’s in Braddon, it’s run by an amazingly cool young businesswoman and it’s addictive. One trip will not be enough.
The owner of Rebel Muse, Alicia Xyrakis, spent some time with writer Talia Liolios, chatting about what it’s like to open a fashion-forward boutique in Canberra and here’s what she told her…
While studying to be a journalist in Canberra, I was consumed by the idea that my only option would be to either write about the political scene, or move interstate. Thankfully, such drastic options are yet to be needed. Thanks, in part at least, to women like Alicia Xyrakis, who after migrating to Canberra’s bigger and more illustrious cousin-city Sydney, returned to give something back to the women of Canberra.
Alicia describes starting her own business as a process “you can never fully prepare yourself for”. Her notion of the business plan for Rebel Muse was born way back when she first entered the work force in her younger years, and stayed alive until she made her dream a reality at age 27.
So how did she do it? Here’s exactly how she made her dream a reality.
“Every step I took in my career was trying to place myself in industries and places which would teach me things I would need to know in order to run my own boutique,” she tells me.
Eager to gain experience in the industry before going out on her own, Alicia completed a Cert 4 at FBI Fashion College in Sydney, managed clothes stores, took on merchandise planning roles and completed an internship at Kirrily Johnston.
“Through going to FBI College, I started networking and got to know people who ran fashion agencies that represented brands,” she says.
The long road to success…
Working hard her entire life to save for her dream boutique was always a priority of Alicia, even taking on a nightshift bar role to save every last dollar.
Her dad is to thank for playing a key role in getting the boutique up and running. Firstly, he became guarantor for the loan Alicia needed to get started, and secondly he unexpectedly stumbled on the perfect location in Braddon’s Ori Building.
By this stage, the planning of the business had been going on for a year and as Alicia says “something had to give”, so she dropped back on full-time work to wholeheartedly concentrate on the opening of Rebel Muse.
“I was more set on Sydney than Canberra, but I weighed up the pros and cons of opening in each city and after noticing the void in the market in Canberra I saw there was really something I could bring here, especially to a booming area like Braddon,” she says.
Next step, buying the clothes. The fun part, right? I envision this to be a dream come true, a kid in a well-styled candy store, grabbing at every beautiful garment and taking it home to showcase in the store window… Turns out, not so much. Buying occurs six months before the store is ready to cut its ribbons. It was slim pickings for a boutique that didn’t even exist yet and had no leg to stand on in terms of a good reputation.
So, Alicia spent months approaching brands and pledging her case with the hopes of bringing exclusive brands to Canberra.
“To start off it’s hard to get brands on board,” she explains. “You’re having to choose the best from the brands that are keen to get on board until you have built a reputation and have brands approaching you instead.”
After a solid year of developing good relations with brands, some of the perks of being one of the few boutiques in Canberra have come to the fore.
“Labels will always protect their brand identity and make sure it’s not flooded in a certain area,” she explains. “They like to keep exclusivity so they will ensure all their stockists are a fair distance apart. Because there isn’t much of a boutique market in Canberra I get quiet a big pool to pick from in terms of who I want to stock.”
What you’ll find in store…
To name drop a few labels which Rebel Muse exclusively stock in Canberra: Acler, Australian brands Steele & McGraw, multi-tasking performance wear P.E Nation and my personal favourite Asilio.
Alicia says she’s often tempted to splurge on all the new season looks, however, she tries to focus on items that are easy to wear to work and can transform into something you would wear out.
As a general rule, she always stocks baseline products, items you build up in your wardrobe over time – such as your denims, leathers and cocktail statement pieces.
“Canberra woman are starting to get a bit more adventurous and creative looking for those one-off, out-there pieces. They don’t mind spending the money on good quality as long as the cost-per-wear is there. Also, the importance of buying locally is definitely noticed as we have about four Australian made brands which are really popular.”
Worth all hard work…
It’s the thrill of bringing designer fashion to the streets of Canberra, that first encounter with designers and fashion agents where she learns of the up-and-coming trends – Alicia says her passion for those moments is what keeps her motivated and outweighs all the hard work involved in being a sole trader.
“Canberra has been able to provide so much for Rebel Muse and we have been able to give even more back,” she says.
Her final piece of advice for anyone looking to take a leap of faith and follow their dream? “Never assume you know everything – surround yourself with people who you can learn from and take criticism on board.”
Great advice. And a truly fantastic shopping experience.
By Talia Liolios