There is more to our local fashion scene than shopping for pretty clothes. Take Carly Vidal-Wallace, the founder of Brisbane Fashion Month (BFM) for example. Vidal-Wallace has decided to swap a week of stiff and snobby runways for one month of non-confrontational networking and education-based, fashion events.
As an entrepreneur, wife and mother of two, she constantly has to balance family life and the demands of her Brisbane business. That might sound familiar to our social norms but what many don’t know is she is based in Los Angeles. Yes, an approximate 11,558km from the city of which BFM is based. She tells me that though things may look glamorous from the outside, there are also many less than fabulous moments in her daily hustle.
“Some days I totally nail it and other days I race up to school a minute late looking completely frazzled, but other days I’m just winning. It’s a constant juggle but it always comes back to having the best team who when I’m having that bad day, they pick up for it.”
Who is this superhuman? Well, she’s elegant, classy and gracious. Her warmth and down to earth personality has proven that her passion and genuine nature is authentic. Those traits combined with great style, a wardrobe full of local designer clothes and a thriving company that’s ruffling industry feathers prove that fashion runs in this prowess’ blood.
“I think it’s because I grew up in a textiles and manufacturing family. I was always surrounded by it,” she says. “I designed my own clothes growing up ... It was just second nature for me.”
Listening to her journey had me at attention. Though she’s slaying the scene by establishing a platform for emerging creatives, this business babe isn’t an overnight success. She’s been working in the industry for over a decade and while she has strutted down her path in high-heels, she has also worked extremely hard building her empire from the ground up.
“I went and lived overseas for many years and came back. While I said I would never work for the family business I ended up working [in it], and it was great. I took it from one level to the next. We really achieved so much and part of that was winning the Telstra Awards in 2014,” she says with enthusiasm.
She went on to explain that from winning those micro business awards she started to become a socialite within Brisbane. As the invitations flooded her way, she began connecting with the power players of the corporate sector.
“I thought this is so brilliant! It took our business to new levels having met these people.”
But though she was rubbing shoulders with the who’s who, it lead her to question, “Where are my people that get what I’m talking about - who talk about photoshoots, runways and new collections?”
At that time, the Australian Fashion Chamber (AFC) had launched nationally. Vidal-Wallace had a goal to build a better creative network in Brisbane so she fearlessly reached out to them and what happened next surprised her.
“Within a week I was in a lunch with Edwina McCann from Vogue Australia who is the head of AFC and Courtney Miller who is the General Manager.” She continues, “I was like, ‘what can we do in Brisbane?’ They do great events in Sydney and Melbourne across networking and education and that’s what I am interested in to help businesses do things better.”
It wasn’t long after her first meeting with the most powerful woman in Australian fashion, that Vidal-Wallace embarked on running her first Queensland event as part Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival Brisbane (MBFF).
“It was so successful. We had around 180 women there!” she explains.
After that event, there was no slowing her down. The next step would include partnering with highly sought after Brisbane stylist, Laura Churchill who together ran the Fashion Revolution. “This gave the designers a chance to meet people and talk about what they were doing and give them a place to voice who they are.”
In 2016, Carly was looking at what she could do next and considered joining MBFF Brisbane’s schedule. Sadly, it was revealed that the event would be cancelled due to funding. Little did she know, this would be the turning point where she would launch an enormous fashion, education and networking affair that would put our city on the nation’s style radar.
That June, Vidal-Wallace again approached friend and business colleague Laura Churchill to work together and turn October into a fashion month.
Brisbane Fashion Month Team: Laura Churchill and Carly Vidal-Wallace
“We decided with only a few months out to build a Brisbane Fashion Month,” she says giggling. “When it really got serious ... I reached out to all of my business contacts and gave them a call such as Australia Post and Wintergarden. They said, ‘Sure we’ll sponsor you.’ That was crazy! I had tears in my eyes,” she tells me in a heartfelt tone.
To launch an event is one thing but to develop a platform that gets noticed, has a strong point of difference and is attractive to the local community takes courage and guts.
“We tried to keep the heart and soul of BFM as giving people a place to meet other people to network and collaborate and for those business relationships to evolve.”
Back by demand, 2017’s affair leads the way with an impressive line up of events. When I ask her if it’s going to be bigger and better, she confidently replies, “It was so successful last year that I don’t want to morph it into anything too different this year.”
She adds, “It’s changed in a way that we have really listened to what everyone has talked about. ... We did a questionnaire after every single event and we’ve gone over that and looked at it in a lot of detail. So, I guess we are just trying to make sure that what we do is answering the needs.”
Whether or not Vidal-Wallace set out to be this visionary entrepreneur, she should feel confident in knowing she’s launched a platform that before didn’t exist in our state.
“The success of Brisbane Fashion Month isn’t because we’re trying to do a week of runways. The success is because people enjoy coming out and meeting, mingling and networking in a non-scary, social-like setting.” She adds, “There is a place for people to be there and we’re always welcoming ... and making sure everyone feels like they’ve had a great night. Brisbane Fashion Month is more than just a runway.”
To see the full Brisbane Fashion Month schedule and to purchase tickets visit www.brisbanefashionmonth.com.au.