"You Look Fucking Amazing," the sidewalk sign greets me at AUST. on Abbot Kinney Blvd. I blush and walk in. aust.la
The lines are clean yet creative. The textiles are full of rich solids, stripes, animal prints and floral. Stacks of Vegemite wait for the curious pallet while a disco ball hangs in the window. Sitting behind the desk is Hannah Wang. She's pure Australian warmth and welcome and it turns out she owns the place. I wonder immediately if she'd be open for an interview on the blooming of her brand and so I ask. She agrees and I'm thrilled.
What follows is a dialogue on self care, keeping one's shit (a.k.a. perseverance and vision) together and waves that break to a really nice left. Hallelujah. Just when I think she can’t get any cooler we're talking about business planning in dreamtime.
Let this interview serve as a lamplight on your path to creation.
What song best describes your personality?
Diana Ross, "I’m Coming Up."
Do you have pets?
No. I foster. Rent-a-pet!
What was your first job?
I was an actress when I was seven and have been doing acting and TV since.
What word do you think is the strangest?
“Strange.” That’s a pretty strange word. “Aust” is pretty strange too.
Best Aussie saying?
“Old mate.” It’s a secret language. If one Australian says it to another they automatically know who in the room your asking about.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Anytime I close the curtains, bring out the chocolate, wine, never admit it, then put on a cheesy romantic comedy from 2007. That’s a guilty pleasure.
What’s your favorite dessert?
Love creme brûlée. Sticky date pudding. Chocolate. A cheese platter. I’ve got a whole menu.
Where’s your favorite place to surf?
Can I pick 3? (Of course). Breakwater, here in Venice. It’s shitty but on certain summer days it’s got a really nice left. In Australia it’s The Pass in Byron Bay and the point at Crescent Head.
What are your thoughts on mistakes?
There’s no such thing. It’s just experimentation. It’s a journey. I don’t even know if there are successes because you never know what’s going to happen. You could be having a hard time then things look up. Or things could be cruising then you get a big head and fall.
When are you most creative?
I need a LOT of space to be creative. It gives me a lot of guilt actually and it’s also very un-American which is work, work, work. I need to f*ck-off for a long time. Then, the best idea ever will come to me. Sorry for swearing so much. Just bleep it out. Another answer to your question is 3 am in the morning. I’ll dream about something. It’s how the whole business plan came to me.
Yes. About a month after I landed in LA I started having a recurring dream about AUST. I had no intention of opening anything. I got a year-long visa and just planned on traveling to see what happened. Then, one night, the dreams started pouring in. I dreamt about the marketing. I dreamt about the name. I started waking myself up to write everything down. It was the only way to sleep the rest of the night. I wrote the entire business plan at 3am. On and on it poured out, from the dreamtime into the waking world.
Brilliant. Let’s jump into business. Did you have the fashion lines all picked out? Did you try to cater to Venice?
I knew all that before the doors opened. It was less about what Venice wants and more about what I think people should be wearing (laughs).
What’s one unfair advantage and what’s one obstacle?
Money has always been the biggest challenge but I also think it’s been the biggest advantage. It’s kept us sharp and hungry. In some light, our advantage is that we’re hustlers. We’re not some huge corporation. We’re everyday people, the underdog. If we have a really slow month we can’t just put more money in, we’ve got to be discerning and really figure it out. Some of the corporate stores on the street can keep running at a loss. We’ve got to make it a viable business.
I used to be a skydiver. Since then, I’ve chased fears which brings me back to the unfair advantage: I’d say I have a really great relationship with fear. There’s really no difference between me and someone else except I said, “Fuck it. Let’s do it.” It’s about keeping the grand vision in the forefront and taking it step by step.
What’s your secret to 7k + Instagram followers?
Organic growth. We did one or two paid ads. Mostly it’s trying things out. Playing with it. Not stressing because it’s never perfect. I never want anyone to look at the feed because it never feels ready. People tell me I should do this and that, but I really believe in the mission of the store. We’re not just a shop. We are, but we’re a movement that’s bringing in Australian creatives and connecting the world together.
What’s been the biggest surprise in all this?
I thought the work of it would be the hardest part. In fact it’s keeping the mental shit together.
How do you?
It’s more of a human question than a business question: How does anyone keep it together when they are going through a hard time? There are so many times when it seems really difficult but you just have to take a bet on yourself. With that, I feel a lot of responsibility to those who have supported me and to the investment I made. Each challenge has been a bit more difficult so I learn to stomach more. Sometimes, it’s been useful for me to bottle it up and keep it in a corner in order to keep charging forward but that always catches up. So, in December I just chilled. I meditate. Exercise. Do things I enjoy. Snowboarding. Surfing. Adding to the self care in 2018, I’d like to talk to more people who have been through what I’ve been through.
Who is your mentor or muse?
My Mom. She came from a tumultuous time china, prison camps, then built a life as a single mom. She sent me to a private school, by herself. I’ve always been so proud of that, and from that I feel I can do anything.
Will you start your own line?
What fears are you chasing now?
Right now, the fear that I’m chasing is taking AUST. to every place I want to live: Paris, Tokyo and beyond. I’m planning to take over the world.
Step by step.
Written by Amy Zimmerman at World Brand Journal
@aust.la @abbotkinneyblvd @worldbrandjournal