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Launching at Fashion Week with Jameen Zalfen and Rachel Motteram, Founders of Dyspnea

You might have come across this brand in one of your Instagram trawl sessions.

It’s pink, it’s sequins, it’s sparkly and, I liken it to what happens inside my brain most days. I’m talking about the cult favourite brand called Dyspnea founded by two cute women, Jameen and Rachel.


We get real talking about the good moments and when things can be quite low, what happens when someone hacks your Instagram, how expensive fashion week really is to participate in and how sometimes it’s about going with the flow, starting small and scaling really slow instead of really fast.

Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!


So before we get into the origin story, do you want to give us a bit of a rundown of what destiny is for anyone who doesn't know, yep. Um it's pretty much just uh what do we call it, Rachel? I love, it's our baby, a love child where you're going with that. Yes, it was a child born oh, nearly seven years ago now I think, which is a bit scary, but it's also a fashion life.

00:03:22Edit Oh, like oh yeah, so to paint a bit of a picture for anyone who doesn't know the brand. What's it all about? Okay, right. We like to think that it is empowering women um to embrace whatever shape they are blessed with in the like nice sparkly way, I guess to really highlight the asset. Yeah. Hey, look at me. I'm a gorgeous human being. Exactly. Love it. Amazing. The Unicorn. Yes. The unicorn. It definitely is. I love all of your beaded products. Thank you. Do you want to tell me about the origin story and why you decided to start the business seven years ago? What's the background? We definitely didn't plan on it? Oh no, there was no planning. We just, we finished half and we had like a lull period I feel um where we don't really know where you're going or what you're gonna do.

00:04:30Edit But we party hard. We, we get and we needed some outfits for those times obviously and you know, I guess we just started making stuff. Um we used we used to do it in a this tiny tiny room in the back of my mom's stationery business and we would be there like all hours of the night making stuff. It was insane. Just amongst all the pens and pencils. You wouldn't even, you couldn't even picture it with the craziest fabrics. We would have this PVC plastic, which I don't even know where we got it from. Oh God. We decided that PVC and leather was a very good combination and the poor man. Oh yeah. And smashed marriage. I mean, don't forget the smash mirror and smashed mirrors and combined everything together and thought, well, yeah, let's go out. This will be company.

00:05:33Edit The Yeah. So, um, I guess that's how it started and then we die. What happened? We had, we were wearing out out I think and a friend or a stylist friend saw us and was like, oh, where'd you get that from? Were like, oh, we made it. But I think at the time she happened to be styling Perth Fashion Festival. Um, and she wanted some things made for the campaign and we're like, you know, if you like this, then we're happy to give it to you. And I guess they felt it was maybe odd that we were in the campaign and not showing. So I think that yeah, we showed some. Yeah. They asked us to show on the um per Fashion Festival, didn't they? I think they took over the campaign because we're in every image. Yeah. So they were like, you need to be in the show and yeah, we took it well, yeah, we're in the show.

00:06:36Edit Yeah, I don't know if I remember that differently to you jimmy, but that's how I remember it going down. Yeah. And so then you basically had this light bulb moment of like, okay, well, we should do this for real, we should start this and create a business. Exactly. Yeah. It was pretty fun. Yeah, it was it was a bit of an adrenaline ride and we're like, this is exciting, what can we do, how can we keep doing this? Yeah, so the Sydney was obviously the next kind of link. I think they noticed us with her fashion festival and they were like, do you want to join the new gen? And we'll like, obviously, yes, of course, let's do it. And the new gene was with 10, I think 10 other aspiring designers and you show just a couple of looks. So we were like, we have to go all out to be noticed. And yeah, I think we did. And so how did it start? Did you, did you have to get alone? Did you fund it yourselves?

00:07:40Edit What was the next process for actually creating the pieces and funding it? We had to get a loan out quite a big one. definitely. And that's quite a scary um prospect I guess because it's not your money all of a sudden this is something real. Yeah. You're investing now. Yeah. Now we actually have hyped this seriously and these pieces that we have smashed mirrors glued to them, it actually had a powerful and we had to start making some money and not just make art, you know that people could look out. So yeah, that's kind of when it flicked a little switch for us, I guess when it started launching into the Sydney Ish area and you know money that was an hour. Yeah. So after the Nugent show you guys went on in 2015 to do M. V. F. W. A fashion week um as a stand alone show that was tough together. Can you tell us about what the process is like?

00:08:45Edit Is it worth it? What's it like? Well, first of all I had to be an annoying bet to get into that. I remember calling God, what was her name, Rachel? Um Oh this poor woman! I called it every single day. I was like well yeah I think she could, you know, yeah I was like you can't not let us be in. We are going to do an absolute showstopper and I think she gave in, she did, she was very annoying. Yeah she was like all right fine, I'll give you a spot. So then we did uh yes, we finally got a slot and that was like did probably does it still my favorite Shard? It Was a Good one. Um And Rachel did this one dress which like looks really simple and easy and pretty. We called it the mother fluffer because it gave her a migraine. Um and she was up until like stupid o'clock the day before the show pinning these flops because she's so anal getting them perfectly.

00:09:58Edit You know, she wanted them specifically placed over parts of the body so it really shaped the silhouette and the dress was an absolute knockout when it came to it. But Rachel then got a huge migraine, and the day of the show I was left standing alone because she was suffering and she managed to crawl out two hours later. Um Do I get time in here? No. Yes, that that definitely happened, but that's how much time and effort we put into the show, I guess really showed, and yes, I came heavily drugged, and um we did the show and then I left and I feel like it seemed like that for a few years actually, what once we had one on a boat and I get very motion sickness, so I'm just like get useless. Absolutely a liability.

00:11:00Edit Really. Yeah, so I'm the sensitive one, and I like to have everything perfectly done for the show um which it probably doesn't go hand in hand, I need to be more chill, and then I can attend the show. No, it does make a great thing. I actually remember being backstage at that show. Um I was working for I. M. G. And the content team at the time, and I've told you mean this before, I was just like in or of what you guys were doing and what you guys were creating, because it was so different for Australia, and there was just such a fun energy around it. It was really something different to what I had experienced from fashion weeks before, so thank you. It was really cool. I really loved it. We do like to like include everyone and make it a fun atmosphere because yeah, it's very inclusive, We're not serious people, it would be so not us to have everything, you know, completely in line, But and and fashion weeks really expensive, right?

00:12:07Edit It's like 50,000 from memory. So I want to ask you, because obviously you've done a few of these kinds of things. Looking back is Fashion Week worth it. Like for other brands out there, who might be wanting to consider going into that journey in that path um and knowing the investment that's required, what do you think? Well, Um it is very, very expensive. I think it's more than $50,000 to be honest. Oh my gosh, and it was for us, such an awesome platform for us to get like internationally recognized recognized. Um and that and we did and maybe also taken a little bit more seriously because I think a lot of people, you know from vogue kind of thought we were, you know, just like, you know, we looked a bit like a kid's birthday party, but you know, we take our job very seriously and I think following through with Fashion weeks, is it such a costly expense?

00:13:17Edit I don't know, now with social media, there's so many other platforms that you can be recognized worldwide. Maybe you don't have to go to that extreme so much. What do you think Rachel? No, I I definitely agree with what you're saying. Um we've definitely slowed down on doing so many fashion shows just because we're trying to focus on the business um side of things and get everything running like a proper business and um so I guess that's our focus at the moment and it definitely takes a lot of our time to do a show. Yeah, big time. Um it's not just the week or it's like at least six months leading up to it. Yeah, so yeah, and I guess that's also money there. That's not even put into that 50,000 really say, I don't know, I we haven't done one for like 23 years, is it doing?

00:14:23Edit I think as a brand Yeah, you feel it out and um if you want to be taken quite seriously and that's your your vision then absolutely. Fashion Week is the way to go. I mean it's all changing now with Covid, is it even going to be is fashion like fashion week even going to be a thing really. It's not everything like Gucci just announced they're going seasonless, which we've been season since we started Yeah, it's gonna be interesting to see what, you know the changes that come from um Covid 19 and whether Fashion Week will live on around the world in the way that it has before, definitely. And so what happened after that Fashion week in 2015, you guys started meeting with buyers from nasty eagle? From what I remember we did we we did have a meeting I think straight off with nasty gal which was a bit scary and intimidating and we had no idea what we were doing.

00:15:27Edit No idea. No idea. Um But a really good experience. We are in a very wholesale driven brand though like at all I think we realize that pretty quickly and and wholesalers don't love us so much because we are such a risk. And so from there to now you basically realized you didn't want to really pursue the wholesale side of the business and you wanted to go to the D. C. Side of the business on the online store. What did you do to sort of find your first customers and acquire those people to the website what could be doing Rachel. Um um I think when it really focused on instagram yes. Hi I hate that thing. Yeah the answer to everything because it shouldn't be and you know once you get your account deleted then you know that it has to be other ways to sell your stuff but at that time it was so we needed it so much.

00:16:36Edit Um And we took so long to actually build the following that we did that I just think that they were a real following that um they were like dedicated to the label and what we stood for and they they just wanted to keep supporting and buying. Yeah. Yeah. You guys have a really big following now. I love your instagram. I feel like there's a lot of hard work that goes into it because you guys post so much there is that's all jam. It's amazing. I want to talk about your influencer marketing because you guys obviously um work with absolutely everyone and you have major celebrities like Miley Cyrus, wearing you guys and all the cool girls. How how has that been going for you and what's the strategy there? Well I think it started we had a pr we actually started a brand when we started the brand. We've got a pr onboard ASAP which I don't highly recommend.

00:17:41Edit Very very high cost and it is very alluring to have these pieces yes, seen on famous people et cetera, but it's important to scales um slowly and that was probably something we just jumped on way too fast. Didn't need at the time. Yeah. And we got p. R quick, quick, quick um that was really really high cost for us and we didn't have to stop to, you know, if we did have all these celebrities where our stuff it wasn't going to benefit us because we weren't prepared for it really. I mean there was definitely good things that came out of it for sure and it's basically just like a fashion show where you know obviously cost us a lot in the long run but um we got some people saw us on people that they respected or they looked up to and gave us a bit more of a name and so I, I don't know how much what price you can put on that so much.

00:18:52Edit It is a tough one because like we say don't do it, but then we did benefit from it. I think what it is is we just did a little bit backwards. So you know, definitely introduce a pr agent once you're a little bit more established, you do have the stock if say bell headed walks down the street and is packed wearing your top, you've got the stock that important. Usually we didn't have it. Yeah and probably put like your logo across the chest or something. Probably the wise design option there. But I think you guys have such incredible pieces that really stand out. Um, and you know, they're so noticeable that people will be able to find your brand, you know, that's what we, yeah, we really hope that it looks individual. We do design with that much. And you mentioned the instagram deleted thing before, is that what's something that happened with you guys recently, like in the last week you got hacked right?

00:20:01Edit We did, what happened that happened? Yes, I think like just under two weeks ago And it was like 11:00 at night and it said someone has changed your password and I was like, Oh must be a scam. But no, it was real and we lost our account for a good 77 days, but there was honestly getting in touch with instagram was a nightmare and really, really hard. And the only reason we managed to even get it back was a friend of a friend knew someone that knew someone directly in instagram and um that's how should they push it for us? And what did they do, Did they post on your account or anything? Like who was it? Why did they take it? I don't understand all the questions we were asking. It blows our minds that people can do this and they had like still messaged us the other day like it's the same, same people I don't quite understand, I think they take it for ransom so and then they will try and get your bank details and everything inside so if they can access our email, that's when you're in real trouble because they've got access then to everything.

00:21:22Edit Um so that we had to put a like cut like block all our cards etcetera. It was, it was a bit of a nightmare but there was nothing we could do about it. So we just kind of switched off for a little bit. Gosh, that's terrifying. Is there anything that instagram told you that you need to do moving forward? Like two step authentication? Uh right gosh and so how did they get it back for you? Did they just be like okay that other person is obviously not the real account owner. Yes someone our friend of a friend angel. Yes, obviously realized it was a hacked account and yeah, the night we got it back, that was a good good time. Oh my God, we really noticed that there was a slight drop in sales and we just had a restock in all these new items and I couldn't quite um advertising it was really hard. I was like what? How do I tell our customers our 100 and 50,000 their favorite topic in stock.

00:22:30Edit And we had email. Yeah because No one reads the emails that no and as soon as we got it back up they flew out. So I was like wow, this is a powerful tool. Yeah, really powerful tool. Do you think it also made you think we need to work on building up our other channels so that we're not so reliant on 100 100,000 million%. I was like if we lose instagram one day we could really be screwed. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That's really crazy. I don't get to step everyone, I'm going to do that today. Yeah. Oh my gosh, I've been, I've been kicked off instagram now to just personally how we don't know if it's like connected, but apparently I've done something wrong in the instagram world and I'm just waiting to get it back now. You are a bit saucy on the gram Rachel look a bit foresee.

00:23:33Edit Yes, but I didn't think that was in the rules, you mean? I thought he was okay. I reckon he's okay, he's okay. I I think the female nipple is now free. Is it on instagram? I've got this information from a very reliable source of my sister. She said it was free and that that would be the only reason that mine would be a little bit sore. C is for the sheer outfits maybe. But then I would think that they just delete the photo. Yeah, I don't know how it works. Gosh, we haven't got to the bottom of that. Yeah, that's a bit weird. Bit weird. Where? Well I'm sorry to hear that. Gosh, and so how is everything going now? I know that you guys produce um, pieces sort of in small batches and sort of look to do things on a smaller scale and then just keep reordering, how is the kind of process and strategy behind that?

00:24:39Edit Uh, well, it's always, I think been apart when we started the brand right? And I um, when visited bali Indonesia and it took us a little while to find the right manufacturer. We had a few hiccups as you do. It's not an easy process and upon finding our dream match hand beating is a process. It cannot definitely be rushed and having just, I think being a smaller brand, you don't want to put all your money, it's like almost like gambling. Not that I know how to gamble. I don't, but you know, you think this is a really cute top, like let's just, you know, you know, try 30 units and if it does well we'll just, you know, get it again and if it sells it sells, so it's, it's a process that really works for us I guess.

00:25:41Edit Yeah, we've never done it any differently really and I think it's a really interesting thing to be like transparent about about that way of building the business because you hear a lot about brands who really by big orders and put a lot of money behind it, something that might not sell and then there's just so much dead stock and yet and waste going into landfill. We do not have it in me dead stock ever. Jermaine clears it out quite quickly. I am so on top of it, we have these instant sample sales that we run like almost monthly um and it just gives us space, you know, clears the mind or maybe more than that and no one can afford, maybe that usually can't afford, just can't afford it for the month. So Oh yeah, that's so nice and I imagine it's a lot of fun on instagram when the hype is going on kind of uh yeah, uh um and so what's next for the brand?

00:26:51Edit What are you guys working on at the moment, what's next year looking like, shall we announce it as well? Yeah, it's tracksuits. Tracksuits didn't even read about love it. Yeah. Loungewear, loungewear, Yes. Um were obviously very big fans of tracksuits ourselves, or we were as now we're getting into our thirties um so we wanna, you know, just put a little bit of a spin on a track suit. Um So the DSP girl can be computed that also fabulous at the same time. Um I love that. I I bet they're gonna be so amazing. Yeah, my vibe, I guess we've got a lot of things in the works that were just trying to perfect at the moment, before we really put it out there doing um uh you want me to tell you what, that a message.

00:27:57Edit It a bit more silky silky stuff. Um So that goes into kind of loungewear as well. Um I guess it's a bit comfy er than the usual deceived, so that's what it's loungewear. Yeah, I feel like launch was obviously a growing trend now that we're all doing this work at home exactly from home business. Oh, um I want to ask both of you what advice you have for women who are wanting to start their own business or have a big idea. Well, it's um I definitely think, although it's incredibly team up, Team up to have a buddy, because when once down the other ones up and vice versa, it really works. I can't imagine trying to do this alone. It would be mentally challenging. Like, it's not just the workload, it's just the like encouraging the other person that yes, actually we can't do this, it's not out of our reach.

00:29:07Edit Um wait, because you know, you do have doubts sometimes and you're like, what are we spending our money on? Are we gonna make it back? And yet one person is always like, course, no worries. We got this. Yeah, anything that's on the back, you know, you have to find the right person and thank God, me and Jermaine found each other. I don't know, but we really have any disagreements about stuff, like, I think we've had two fights and one of them was over a boy, so Oh God, the worst, the worst kind. Oh, well you're gonna have to let me know what that is. Doreen, who is that? I can't imagine we'd ever have the same taste. Never mind. Anyway, moving on. All right, we're at the point of our six quick questions. Who wants to go first. Oh, and these are the same questions each. I'm scared that if Japan goes first, I'm just gonna be like, yeah, that was my alright, okay, Rachel, you can go for.

00:30:16Edit So number one is what's your why? Um my why is That for Jimmy? And I I think it's not like going to work every day, it's not a 9-5 job um which I don't think that both of us are built for at all. You know, we can, we work for ourselves, which is really nice and we get to work with amazing people that we get to choose who we work with as well. We've been very lucky to get some amazing stuff and yeah, this is really nice to choose your surroundings I guess To enjoy your day to day. 100%. I agree with them. Um Number two is, what's the number one marketing moment that made your business pop? Number one, jesus. These are hard. Um I guess I would have to say it was one of the fashion shows that we did um because it is a show and you can see the energy, it's not just photos.

00:31:35Edit Um it's meeting people and them getting to see like firsthand exactly what you're trying to, trying to do what you're about. Um and because yeah, you see is so fun and crazy, but you know, we liked how people took it after our shows, how how energized everyone was about it. Yeah, I think it was really like an explosion like that was my memory of 2015. Like I don't remember any other show field. Um number three is where do you hang out to get smarter and that can be books, podcasts somewhere on the Internet. Oh well I'm dyslexic, so I find it quite hard to read, but I love listening, audiobooks is my jam completely. Um oh, like I haven't listened to a podcast in a long time, but I do, I do really like them.

00:32:42Edit I just, so I much prefer just getting lost in a book. Um and I guess that's my spare time walking and stuff is Yeah. Yes, audiobooks, audiobooks, yeah, nice Number four is, how do you win the day and that's around your AM and PM rituals that keep you feeling productive and happy and successful? Successful. Well I don't, well actually, no, I feel like wine could definitely answer all those questions. Um I agree there is nothing better than just finishing your day and having a wine or like even in the middle of the day, if you need it, if you need to keep going. I agree to that. I'm all about that vibe. Yeah. So I think I'll stick with that. Okay, great win the day with one. Love it. Question number five is, if you only had $1000 left in your business bank account, where would you spend it?

00:33:47Edit And it's kind of a question to show you know where the most important, um like where would you allocate the most resources towards? Right, okay. So it wouldn't be just like me and jams just go to the casino and just like we're just going to read it meant to be, it's meant to be because I feel baby take a Chance at that point. If we're at $1,000 in your bank account but I think we would put it towards stock as as boring as that is. It would definitely have to be our best sellers. We would just by as much as we could and be on that instagram posting away selling out in a hot second. Yes, exactly. Uh question # six is how do you deal with failure? And it can be around personal experience or it can be around just your mindset and your general approach to failure. Um I guess I I like to think that I really take it.

00:34:55Edit I take it on board. I can't I'm trying to think of a time that this has happened and I'm sure it's happened a lot but I've obviously blocked it from my memory. Um Just remember the good times obviously. I mean that's a great approach to. Yeah, I think so. But no, there's lots of obviously upset downs as well doing this like lots um where you do get pushed back. And Jermaine was saying that before that she just she's ringing every day to get this slot and that's not me so much so thank God she's the pusher. Um But I think I like to I like to take on board with the person is saying to me or whoever, however it's the failure. Um And like to take the learning from it or find a learning from it. Yeah I'd like to think I'm that mature but I don't know already jimmy.

00:35:58Edit Are you ready? It's hard to stay quiet. Yes, I'm ready. All Right, No one, What's Your Why? Definitely just waking up every day and enjoying what you're doing And just it's just it's not a holiday. No, but we're, you know, we're enjoying it. It's a it's a good time. It isn't a 9-5. That's a 24 seven. It's an all it's an all consuming commitment. Number two, what's the number one marketing moment that you think made your business pop? Yeah, definitely. Fashion week for the business. But seeing an item's on Miley Cyrus was a pretty fun, exciting pinch pinch this moment. I think personally that was like, oh my God, but for the business it was fashion week. Number three is where do you hang out to get smarter? I would say.

00:37:04Edit Honestly I think I need a calmer mind to collect my thoughts and that's when I can really get them um back. That's when I can think clearly, so like a hot shower or a long walk and then I've got a clear head and I think I swear I'm smarter after that. You can take it all in. Yeah, I'm not a fuzzy head. Number four is how do you win the day? How do you win the day? That's like a barista made coffee is a great start. Oh and a positive mindset and not looking at your phone the first thing, as soon as you wake up because as soon as you wake up and if you look at your phone and there's a ship email, like it sets the tone for the day and it's slightly ruined. So trying to avoid the phone for like I know it's hard but maybe a good hour, just get up, have a shower, start your day, then you've got a good time, you can tackle everything else from there on.

00:38:17Edit Yeah, I really struggle with that phone thing in the morning. I'm definitely instantly look at my phone kind of person and it really sucks and I know it's not good for my mind. I really need to work on that notification now. We're just too easy because we didn't find, so you know you look at your phone you but all your notifications right there instantly telling you everything in a second and your brain processes that as soon as you wake up and you're just like it gives me anxiety. It really like sets me off having that like feeling of like I mean this sounds extreme, but that feeling of having a heart attack were there To nightmare. Bloody nightmare. Um Question number five. If you only had $1000 left in your business bank account, where would you spend it? Same deal, pop it on our best seller I think and prance around and get as much content as possible.

00:39:18Edit And so the last thing we've got uploaded on the ground and final question, how do you deal with failure? I'm obviously a little bit more like Rachel does take failure a lot calmer than I do and I, I think I react quite instantly to it. So it's, it's just accepting it, have a hot shower, it's happened. You can't do anything about it, really accepting that you can't like it happened, you have to move forward. Like keep moving on. I'm, I'm the same. I can't entirely think of the failures at the moment, which is a good mindset to be in, but it definitely happened. And if you need to switch off a little bit to accept whatever has happened, then be it, so be it amazing.

00:40:22Edit Well, thank you both so much for being on the podcast and sharing your story. Thank you. Thanks for having us. I hope will help someone. I love this episode, lots of giggles.

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