To celebrate the first year of Canberra based fashion boutique Rebel Muse, Leiden wanted to find out more about the woman behind this successful business, Alicia Xyrakis. Warm, bubbly and with a killer laugh, Alicia has created a large and loyal customer base who are as eager to spend time with her and her team in store as they are to shop her edit of must-have clothes and accessories.
Emma: What made you decide to start your own business?
Alicia: I have wanted to have my own business ever since I was a kid. I think this came from growing up in a family that owns a business. I would look up to my dad and think he was so important because he was always in meetings, taking phone calls, had a brief case, had people who worked for him and was always so busy.
As a teenager I also had a love for ballet and pursued being a ballerina. In my mid 20s, after the dance dream had come and gone, I rekindled my childhood love for the fashion industry. This is what helped me decide what direction I wanted to take my own business in. Of course I was going to own my own store just like my family does!
E: What was your background in Fashion before Rebel Muse?
A: I studied Fashion business at FBI in Sydney and managed the White Suede boutique in Paddington. While at FBI I got to intern for Kirrily Johnston in both PR and sales. I moved on from White Suede to a role as an assistant merchandise planner for Diva (not to be confused with a visual merchandiser – totally different role). I was at Diva when the company decided to shut down all the Diva stores. I got moved from Diva to it’s sister company Honey Birdette, in the same role I carried at Diva.
While at Honey Birdette I decided I was ready to start working on my own business plan but it wasn’t something I was able to focus on with the long intense hours I was doing there. I went back to working on the retail floor as the womenswear manager for Glue Store at Bondi Junction.
E: The entire range of clothes in store blends well together, customers can mix and match between labels and still look cohesive. Describe your buying process. How do you seek out new labels and how do you edit a selection for the store?
A: I am a very big believer in good basics and staples that make the foundation for a good wardrobe. So just like my personal wardrobe, core stock at Rebel Muse will always, always have basic cotton tops, denim, shirting, leathers, cigarette trousers and a blazer; and always in neutral colours. Then I build up the wardrobe from there with more specific stylised items and bold statement pieces. But I think as long as you have those core basics you will find that you will always be able to mix and match your pieces.
Usually every brand will pick up on the colours and fabric trends of the season. This makes it easy to pull colours from a few different brands and know that they will all align.
E: What has been the most challenging thing in your first year of business?
A: Not being able to switch off or go “offline”. The store is open 7 days a week, so even on the days I’m not in store I have to always be contactable and available to support the store when needed. Also with the online presence we have through our e-boutique, Instagram, blog and Facebook, I constantly have customer interactions coming through at all times of the day! I make it a priority to make sure I get back to customer queries ASAP. Taking more than a day to reply to customers is not acceptable anymore. With how accessible internet, email and all the rest are, there really isn’t any excuse for customers to not be replied to in a timely matter. It’s what is expected now.
It is also challenging to work out where my time is most valuable. Where should I be focusing my time and energy and when I need to release control? When should I be delegating or outsourcing jobs and tasks?
It can also be tough to juggle the many hats I wear. It’s difficult to change quickly between roles. For example if I have spent the morning doing admin/bookkeeping, I then find it difficult to switch into customer service on the shop floor or my role as a manger and team leader. And then after the day’s trade is done, to be able switch into the creative space to write a blog post!
E: What has been the highlight?
A: Umm… I can’t say there has been just one highlight. Definitely having Australian Fashion Icons Pip Edwards & Claire Tregoning joining us from Sydney to celebrate our 1st birthday is one of the top!
There are so many highlights even in just my day to day roles! I love that I get to meet and work with so many amazing designers and brands. I have met so many great people in the industry and even just amongst my customers. Seeing the girls in my team learn, grow and form relationships with each other and customers under my guidance. And I love when I see how happy my customers are when they leave the store or when we receive such lovely feedback from our customers!
E: What is your favourite part about being a #girlboss?
A: Having full creative reign and being in charge of making my vision come to life! Seeing my vision unfold in front of me and knowing that I am living the life that I have chosen. And if I don’t like the way something is going I can change it.
E: What labels do you personally love to dress in? What are you go to pieces?
A: I love Macgraw, all their garments are Australian made and constructed so beautifully using the most amazing fabrics. Same with Georgia Alice, except they are made in NZ. Acler again always has amazing construction. I love Alice McCall for my statement quirky pieces and Faddoul, Nobody Denim, and Casa Kuma all have the perfect wardrobe staple pieces.
My go to pieces are my leather pants or a pair of black jeans with a shirt, cami or basic tee. I will change this look up with heels or Superga’s and different blazers or jackets.
E: You have made a close connection with the designers behind P.E Nation. Why do you think their brand is such a good fit for you and Rebel Muse?
A: Who doesn’t love active wear, am I right? I think it’s so great that there is now such a big cultural focus on having an active lifestyle. Exercise is so important for your well being, health and brain. No matter how busy I am, I always make sure I make time for exercise because I know how important it is short and long term. It can have an instant impact on my productivity.
Pip & Claire and P.E Nation are all about being able to keep active in the face of the constantly busy and demanding lifestyle of today’s society. It’s about bringing leisure and work together into a balanced work/life routine. This is a philosophy that we also try to emphasise at Rebel Muse through our Blog page. Plus why not look good while doing it? What better inspiration than being able to dress up in great active wear pieces to get fit in!
Pip & Claire are both working mums. They are raising children and are still trail blazers in the career aspects of their life, being leaders in the Australian fashion scene. Their hard work and dedication can truly be inspiring for women all over the world. Which is what Rebel Muse hopes to be for women one day too.
E: Describe an average working day for you.
A: It varies so much! I usually wake up between 6.30-7am and get into the shop between 8.30 and 9am, unless I have gone to the gym or have been running errands in the morning. This gives me about an hour to do any work I want to catch up on before I open the store e.g. send off online sales, purchase orders, rosters, admin etc.
The store opens at 10am. So from the moment we open to when we close our main priority is looking after our customers. Throughout the day we will also be doing anything from receiving new stock and putting it out on the floor, re-merchandising, processing online sales, replying to customer queries, and taking images for our Instagram page. We close the store at 6pm, but it usually takes me an extra hour or so to finish to do a few last bits and bobs.
Depending on my work load, after work could be either a trip to the gym, followed by cooking dinner at home, or going out for dinner with friends.
I will usually open my laptop again in the evenings to catch up on admin, buying, and updating the website. I hit the hay between 11.30pm and 12.30am.
Every few weeks I will be in Sydney for a day of buying appointments. This is usually just a day of zipping through Sydney to see as many brands as possible between 9am and 3pm. I usually try to have them all wrapped up by 3pm so I can hit the road back to Canberra.
E: You mentioned before that wear many hats as a business woman. How do you maintain balance in both your work and in life?
A: It is definitely hard to make sure you maintain a work life balance, but it is so important to find one. I will write “go to gym” or “meditate” or “read” on my to-do list, and treat them like they are just as important as any of my other tasks for the day. I will even write small things down like, text such and such and see if they want to catch up this week.
I am also very lucky that I have such an amazing team! I can be away from the store for a couple of hours or two days and am comfortable knowing that the store is in trusting and safe hands. This makes it easy for me to have some time to focus on other areas of my life.
E: Your brick and mortar business is based in Canberra. Rebel Muse is one of a small number of boutiques bringing brands to the capital that we haven’t had access to before. How do you think the fashion landscape is changing in Canberra? Who are your core customers?
A: Oh I think its a very exciting time for fashion in Canberra. We are a very cultural city with our museums and art galleries and our ever growing (and amazing) dining scene. Fashion is an extension to this. Canberran’s are no longer happy with only mainstream, fast fashion shopping. When they are eating out at amazing restaurants and attending all the events that always seem to be on, they want to be able to have something special to wear! Canberrans also love to support local independent business, which is awesome! They have a real love for seeing local talent grow and evolve.
Our core customer is the 25-40 year old woman who takes pride in her appearance and appreciates well made, quality garments. They work hard and like to indulge a little too.
E: What can we expect next from Rebel Muse? How is your second year of business shaping up?
A: There is so much in the pipeline for Rebel Muse! No rest for the wicked! At the moment our main focus is growing our online store and our online/social media presence. We launched the RM blog earlier in the year, which isn’t just about fashion, it’s a whole lifestyle blog dedicated to the Rebel Muse women of the world. I want to create an online community where it’s an open and safe space for us women to discuss all aspects of our lives, from fashion, to career, health, fitness, relationships, travel and everything in between.
To find out more about the Rebel Muse first birthday celebrations click here.
To catch up on the style of the VIP guests click here.