Interview: Marnie Goding of Elk Accessories

Elk Accessories has to be one of Australia's number one independent design success stories. From humble beginnings (and no formal training in jewellery or fashion design), Marnie Goding and partner Adam have built the business to release two collections each year covering clothing, footwear, accessories and a men's range in their unmistakably sophisticated style. I spoke to Marnie Goding, creative director and the driving force behind the Elk look...

Marnie Goding in Elk's Preston, Victoria store

What were some of the highlights for Elk in 2012? 2012 was a great year for Elk in general. The highlight was our launch into the US market in August which was received with an incredible response. We confirmed representation with a well regarded agency and opened a show room in LA. We have been preparing for this launch for a few years now so to finally have it behind us and to have garnered such great results we are thrilled. It does mean that 2013 is going to be even busier!

How big is your team at Elk and what is your main role? The team is 28 - made up mostly of full time. We have a reliable crew of casuals to call on in peak times which sees the numbers swell to 35. I am the Creative Director so am responsible for all brand and design direction covering creative, PR, marketing and advertising.

You started and continue to direct Elk with your husband Adam. What are some of the pros and cons of running a business with your partner? We are lucky to be able to work so well together and to really love doing so…we are quite blessed. Being so busy we often don’t get to see each other much. I travel often too so sometimes it feels like we actually don’t work together! We do make sure that we don’t allow conversations at home to stray into work territory - there needs to be an off switch where work is left at the office and we actually enjoy time together as a family.

The challenge now as the business is bigger and busier to find time to reconnect or to remember how we used to work together when we first started. We are both pulled in so many directions and that problem of not seeing each other much can cause additional stresses. We have agreed that in 2013 we must make some time away from the office together to make sure we are "steering the Elk ship" in the same direction. Overall though neither of us could ever imagine not working together.

The Elk range started with jewellery and accessories but now has a clothing and footwear range as well. How do you know when the time is right to expand into a new area of design? We have always tried to be proactive with our business but often it is a reactive process where customers requests will lead us in a new direction. We really feel our way too - meeting new suppliers and travelling to source raw materials often exposes us to new product lines.

There is always a temptation to do more, more, more however we always try to keep ranges tight and want them to "make sense". We design as a collection where every part fits like a jigsaw. It is easier to sell when you have a complete picture rather than a random selection of bits and pieces.

Which other Australian designers and labels do you love to wear? We are so lucky in Australia - and especially in Melbourne to have so many great labels to admire. Life With Bird, Gorman, Alpha 60, Zimmerman and Nique for casual basics are on the top of my list.

We love it when businesses are affiliated with not-for-profits. Can you tell us a bit about your involvement with UNICEF as a Champion for Children and what it means to you personally to support them? We have always personally and professionally had charities which we support. Travelling opens your eyes to different situations and opens your heart to experiences - many outside of your comfort zone. All of our suppliers are small family owned manufacturers and provide their workers with excellent working conditions. While their efforts make a great difference outside of their business' we see so many people in need. Children especially not only need the opportunity for education but even simpler needs for shelter, food, clean water and health care. We are so fortunate in Australia to live peacefully, freely and cleanly.

When we decided to align Elk with a charitable organisation it was a tough decision. Unicef is active in the main regions we work - India and the Philippines. Unfortunately corruption is rife in these countries and our suppliers give us first hand accounts of how much needs to be done to improve living standards. There are so many small charitable foundations in these areas but its so hard to administer where your money goes and how its used so we decided that it was best to work with a larger organisation such as Unicef.

To date we have donated around $26,000 dollars. Contributions from Elk customers are consistent and we are looking at new ways in 2013 to improve the campaign.

Any exciting plans for the label or new products that we can look forward to seeing this year? 2013 for us will be a year to "put our heads down". The US market is already growing at a fast rate and our presence in Scandinavia is also gaining momentum. We have always maintained a preference to do everything as best we can. So to ensure we look after our domestic market whilst growing the International will mean we need to keep operations moving at a manageable pace.

The collections will feature some new materials and digital printed leather which is lovely. I have also found some time to sketch some prints too which will feature for Winter 2013 - its been nice to get back to basics and actually draw again!

All products shown here are available online at Elk Accessories.

We're running a Membership Drive at the moment, and Elk have generously donated a $200 gift voucher for one lucky new member to spend in their Preston or online store! Find out more here.