AUSTRALIAN FASHION COUNCIL INTERVIEW

Tell us about ALEEM YUSUF?

We are a couture house specialising in wedding and evening gowns, based in Melbourne, where we offer luxe quality pieces, created with traditional craftsmanship in a modern context.

We value local and ethical hand-making of our gowns in our atelier. This is also a welcoming space for client consultations, fittings and showing our collections. We also strongly believe in nurturing our local talent and providing opportunities.

More than being a brand or business, doing what we do stems from an intense desire and passion of self-expression, celebrating individuality and creativity.

What are some of the key challenges that you are facing around Covid-19? How are you navigating these?

In January 2020 just before Covid-19 exploded globally, we had just shown our Spring/Summer 2020 collection at Haute Couture week in Paris.  We were planning our third Paris show for July 2020 when the world came to a grinding halt.

Our industry has been severely impacted by Covid-19. Overnight, the wedding and events sector was shut down with countless cancellations and postponements.  Consequently, we have not been able to see any existing or new clients during this time.  Speaking with colleagues in the industry, this has been one of the toughest years in all our working lives.

While we don’t know how the current situation is going to unfold in 2021 and beyond, it’s likely that it is going to have ongoing economic impacts across Australia and particularly in Victoria.

When things do start to reopen, because our industry functions on lead times of at least six months to a year, it will take some time to get back on track.

We have tried to use this downtime productively to further build our online presence and branch into other products as well as trying to engage and inspire our clients and followers, even a little, through beautiful social media posts.

What are some of the opportunities for our industry that you see coming out of this crisis?

The core of our business has always been focused on providing a highly personalised and relaxed in-house client experience from their first appointment until the delivery of their gown. This is a one-on-one journey that spans at least six months.  Now this has been interrupted by Covid-19.

As much as the interruption has caused challenges, it has also brought forth some new opportunities.  Having extra time on our hands made available a creative space to explore these opportunities for our brand story and experience.

Pre-Covid, we had been thinking about building an online boutique for some time. The shutdown provided us with the time to further grow our digital presence.  Our online boutique includes a diffusion range of wedding gowns, jewellery, homewares and even face masks.  We are continuously working on expanding our ranges to include other related categories.

Other opportunities for our industry as a whole are building partnerships with local supply chains as much as possible.  There are opportunities to reignite local manufacturing at a larger scale, creating a variety of technical jobs for fresh graduates, such as pattern making and sewing. At this time working together and supporting each other is more vital than ever.

How will you be passing the time during lockdowns?

Having time prompted some extra reading, self-reflection and kick-started French language learning for the next Paris show when travelling for work is allowed.  Zooming with friends and family was a new venture!

Attending AFC webinars during this time provided connectedness to the industry and were very informative, as we moved through different stages of lockdown.  Joining the Fashlab group on Facebook has also been very helpful in staying in touch with other industry professionals.

How can people get involved / support / find out more?

This is the time to support local designers and makers which in turn will support local communities.  Please visit our website www.aleemyusuf.com and join the VIP list to keep up to date with latest drops and invitations to (future) events.

Follow us on Instagram @aleem.yusuf.couture for a dose of much needed inspiration.

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