Share the business spotlight

WHILE the focus of Byron Fashion Week might appear to be all about designer clothing, it's really about exposing and promoting local small businesses to a wider audience.

Lismore's Business Enterprise Centre estimates there are about 10,000 home-based cottage industry businesses operating between Lismore and the Tweed.

The brainchild of Glynn Anderson from the fully self-funded Byron Community and Cultural Centre, the fledgling Byron Fashion Week is poised to take flight next year with invitations for designers around Australia to take part.

During the weekend, the second Byron Fashion Week showcased 13 designers with two slickly produced catwalk shows and a trade expo promoting designers of all kinds from garments to jewellery.

Ms Anderson said the expo stallholders were happy with their exposure, making new contacts, handing out business cards and selling items.

“I think it opens the window for them, people come and see them and things can take off from there,” she said.

Ms Anderson said events such as Byron Fashion Week are important to boost the profile of young businesses which might be selling at markets and wanting to get into retail outlets.

She said the catwalk show judges not only took into account the garments but looked at the label's presentation more broadly, including their website and branding.

Karyn Knight, the only designer at Fashion Week not from the area, is based on the Gold Coast. Her label, Racefree Couture, specialises in lingerie, including a special line for women who've had mastectomies.

“I had a fantastic time during Fashion Week and opportunities just landed in my lap,” an enthusiastic Ms Knight said.

“I had so much good feedback about my show and it created a lot of interest for my label.”

She said being part of Fashion Week had also given her publicity opportunities, such as being interviewed on radio and liaising with photographers.

As well as being impressed with the fashion designs, she was bowled over by the professionalism of the young models, most of whom had never been on the catwalk before.

“The young boys and girls were just wonderful. Some of the boys were a little worried about wearing some of my off-the-shoulder designs and the radical disco trousers, but once they'd got up and strutted their stuff, they were really happy with their performance.”

One of the other Fashion Week designers, Rowie Designs, is a tenant in the Byron Business Incubator, a not-for-profit centre which provides cheap rental space for start-ups and businesses which have become too big to remain at home but were still establishing themselves.

Incubator manager Paul Jameson said the centre tried to create business synergies by taking on a few businesses of one type. Current tenants include a potter, glassmaker and Byron Bay Bread Boards.

“We make it easy for tenants to come in and out - there are no long lease agreements, they only need to give two weeks' notice and every cubicle is equipped with broadband,” he said.

“We also have four clothing designers, making things from baby slings to kids' dance wear. The beauty of being at the Incubator is that as well as having contact with other start-up businesses, there is a business advisor on hand and business mentoring available.”

Mr Jameson said there were a couple of vacancies available at the Byron Bay Incubator and if business owners were interested they should phone NORTEC on 1800 667 832.

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