Spreading Joy For 20 Years — Australian Fashion Label Shona Joy Marks Anniversary

Joy by name, joy by nature, meet Shona Joy Thatcher who is celebrating 20 years of her namesake ready-to-wear label.

Rewind and the SHONA JOY story began in 2000 at the Bondi Beach and Paddington markets, and from there Thatcher designed a capsule collection of hand painted t-shirts for Belinda Seper’s Corner Shop in Paddington. These were loved immediately and Christy Turlington who while in Sydney, bought them in every color. CT has a good eye! From then on there was no going back and SHONA JOY became a fully-fledged brand stocked in boutiques around the country.

And how far Shona has come since the humble tee. The label has grown and now serves up 5 ready-to-wear collections every year that are stocked internationally at leading stores from Harrods, Revolve and Intermix to Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdales.

The great part? Shona kindly provides us with that easy, stylish glamour, the kind where you can throw on dress and immediately look (and feel) great, a special and rare quality indeed. So, as well as flirty silk dresses, expect gorgeous laid back jumpsuits, and skirts in mini to floor length to suit your mood. There’s also a wedding edit – only cool brides and bridesmaids need apply. There’s white silk dresses aplenty and complementary soft-hued silk dresses for your girl gang.

Shona Joy Thatcher shares her brand story and what we can expect as she evolves her brand further.

Felicity Carter: What is your first memory of fashion?

Shona Joy Thatcher: I think I just always felt connected and excited by fashion. I loved watching my mum get ready for an event or a party and I loved having my input into what she wore. I began collecting classic pieces at vintage stores and hunting for treasures at markets since I was a kid and I continue to be inspired by pieces of the past. I was always getting mum to make my clothes as a young teenager.

FC: How, when, why did you get into the industry?

SJT: I started the business in 2000 with market stalls at Bondi Beach and Paddington. Back then many Australian designers were carving their way and using the markets as a platform to test their aesthetic. I got my first big break at Belinda Seper’s ‘Corner Shop‘ in Sydney, launching a capsule collection of handprinted tees – Christy Turlington actually ended up buying one in every colour! 

Although I initially got into the fashion industry because of my love for the creative process of designing a collection from start to finish, I’ve grown to love the challenges, the excitement and surprisingly also the business side.

FC: How would you sum up the aesthetic?

SJT: Our brand embodies a neutral colour palette and natural fabrications that signifies a clear Australian identity – always with a hint of our signature 70s bohemian glamour. Our collections don’t generally follow the trends of a season, but remain true to our aesthetic. Everything needs to speak to natural, classic and earthy under tones.

FC: Who is your customer?

SJT: We represent the Australian girl – she is a global traveller who worships the beach, the sun and chases and eternal summer. She is smart, inspired and passionate. Her look is relaxed yet refined, feminine and natural.

FC: What are the cornerstones of your company?

SJT: Our passion is to design for real women and create dresses for celebrating life in. I believe our success is in our appreciation that you shouldn’t spend your life working, nor should your greatest celebrations break the bank. We don’t believe in disposable fashion, so our mission is to design the dresses that will be treasured as part of your wardrobe forever.

FC: Which was the first-ever piece that you designed and how did it come about?

SJT: Aside from the humble tee shirt, my first collection was sold into David Jones. We were a tiny team of just 2 and had a mix of silks and cotton voiles and customised prints in easy, voluminous silhouettes. We had a 94% sell thru in our first week with one of the styles – I found out about it through a friend who showed me that the the GM of DJ’s had mentioned in a story to the press – that was a pretty great moment. I suddenly thought; right, I can actually do this.

FC: How has your company evolved over the years?

SJT: The Shona Joy brand quickly became a market leader in the bridesmaid space, with our original focus on evening wear dresses, however over the past five years, the growth in our e-commerce business has allowed us to really come into our own. Our use of natural fibres and the growth in our resort category has seen the evolution and elevation of the brand – offering aspirational day and night looks that reference key international trends, while remaining consistent to our uniquely modern, yet bohemian and feminine aesthetic.

Growing the direct to consumer side of our business is empowering for financial reasons, but more importantly to allow us to connect directly to our customer. We now have a truer understanding of who she is, what she loves, where she wears our brand, where we want to go with the brand. Social media has allowed and opened up conversations – its exciting to hear directly from her – and also equally to learn where we have gone wrong and how we can be better. 

As a successful, self funded business we feel passionate about creating awareness to causes we feel connected to and being able to make small changes that matter – particularly those that affect women, children and the environment. It is of utmost importance for us to be striving to make a difference and to help our community thrive. We are now also in a position to be able to make small changes and to raise awareness to campaigns both environmentally and socially. We’re in the process of launching our new website, which will enable us to tell these stories and be more transparent with our customers about our ethical + sustainable roadmap.

FC: What’s been your career highlight to date?

SJT: Getting picked up by prestigious accounts like Harrods, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom have been momentous occasions. More recently I am really looking forward to our new site launching as it will showcase more of who we are and will be an amazing platform to showcase all areas of our brand. We will be showcasing journals and video which is really exciting – it will take our customers on the ride with us and give us an opportunity to share where our ideas and inspiration has come from as well as explain what we are doing to be better- much more than just an ecommerce store.

FC: What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve been given when it comes to handling the industry?

SJT: I actually have several- some of this advice I think I have given myself over the years, and am still reminding myself today:

  • You can’t be good at everything – find out what you are best at, then employ the best people you can to fill the gaps. Make sure you keep those people in your business through growth, up-skilling and internal promotions.
  • Trust your gut instinct – you shouldn’t let others to tell you how and why to do things, it should all feel right for you at that specific time. 
  • It’s only clothes – we’re not saving lives, so don’t sweat the the small stuff. Just do your best as there’s another challenge around the corner.
  • You need to quickly work out what sets you apart, what do you do best and what your customers are going to be coming to you for.

For us, this has been our bridesmaid business, which has continued to evolved over the years. 

FC: What does the future have in store?

SJT: Having time out of the office during COVID-19 has allowed more headspace to think about the direction and future of the business. We’ve focused on the areas we feel we can do better and have some exciting new categories launching soon!

Shop the brand on their website and at top tier stores including Harrods, Neiman Marcus, Revolve, Intermix, David Jones, Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdales.

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