In conversation...

10 years of Calexico with founder Nicky Charman

127 international brands, a store expansion, a dedicated mens offering plus countless photoshoots, overseas buying trips, events, charity initiatives and loyal clients, Calexico has done it all – in the most stylish way possible. From its beginning in 2010 when founder Nicky Charman felt confident that Brisbane was ready for her global fashion house vision, to 2020 here on James St where two of Charman’s boutiques reside; Calexico and Calexico Man.

In light of Calexico’s tenth birthday, Nicky spoke with us about how the boutique grew in its first decade, what’s on the horizon, new labels (hello Jimmy Choo) and how she still gets goosebumps when customer pick an outfit she styled.

2020 marks Calexico’s tenth birthday, congratulations on creating a global fashion powerhouse synonymous with robust and confident style – when and how did the vision for Calexico come about?

Having worked in retail since I left school, owning my own business was a lifelong dream of mine. By 2010 I was confident that Brisbane (and James Street!) was ready for an inspiring global- feel boutique that had a fun variety of international labels that were hard to find. Believing in my vision, I took a risk and to this day I’m still fine-tuning every part of the business to adapt to the ever-changing retail industry. Looking after women and providing the utmost, honest service to our clients was and always will be my main priority. The Calexico concept is providing a one-stop-shop where you can buy everything from fragrance to lingerie, clothes for every day, clothes for your winter and summer vacations and absolutely stunning shoes to match! Currently, we have 127 international brands between the two boutiques. (Keeps me very busy!) Calexico Man is an extension of Calexico servicing the partners, husbands, fathers and sons of the Calexico woman. I think these guys are relieved to find a smart casual store where we don’t take fashion and ourselves too seriously.

How do you grow businesses like Calexico and Calexico Man and keep a personal touch? 

It’s important to keep it fun. Shopping should always be entertaining and enjoyable. Absolutely no pressure selling allowed at Calexico! I also like to be on the floor in both stores to really hear the feedback from our clients. That way I can hope to deliver what they are actually looking for. Special moments for me are when a client tries something on for a special occasion and they are immediately transported to the feeling of absolute joy and happiness because they feel so great in something I’ve selected for them! Yes, I still get goosebumps when this happens! My team have a major part to play in the business. They are professional and love what they do. I’m so lucky to have them.

At Calexico and Calexico Man, all of your staff in-store are personal stylists – what is exceptional service to you?

Once the client is in our store, it’s our job to edit the boutique for them. It’s the team’s priority to understand what the client is looking for and to tailor the service to their individual needs. Most of our clients are time-poor so we are there to help navigate the store and give them pure style point of view. Whatever our client needs we make it happen. From special tailoring to packing their bags for overseas business trips to restaurant reservations, there is nothing my team can’t do!

You travel the world sourcing and selecting products for the two stores – how do you narrow down the selection, it must be so tempting to pick one of everything?

I honestly go with a shopping list! I’m buying for particular individuals mostly and then the rest is a “gut – feel” I like to take a few risks when it comes to buying otherwise the collection instore would be too predictable! I buy clothes and shoes that make you feel good. I don’t believe in trends. I want you to be able to buy an investment piece that adds value to your wardrobe that makes you feel amazing every time you put it on for many years to come.

Calexico has recently undergone a huge expansion – tell us about the new fit-out? Can shoppers expect any new labels? 

We are so excited about the new look! Now we really have the space to showcase our designers in how they deserve to be displayed. We welcome over 11 new labels this year. So many incredible ones that will be in Australia for the first time first for Australia. February marks an exciting launch of iconic shoe designer Jimmy Choo. You will have to come in and see for yourself at just how magic his shoes really are!

What’s are you looking forward to in 2020?

After the recent extension and the launch of our online store this year we are focusing on what we can do within the local community. We have always partnered with amazing charities such as Drought Angels and Suited for Success. This year I will be giving workshops to women who are getting back into the workforce and helping them with their confidence and style for job interviews and employment opportunities. I am very excited about this.

We would love to learn more about you, what does a day in the life of Nicky look like?

With two small children, our household is wide awake at 5am so my husband and I tag team a gym session. I prefer a boxing session or Pilates. Making brekkie and answering pressing emails (with the time difference with the US and Europe it can be tricky) , I also scour international online stores and fashion websites to see what’s going on in the fashion world then drop the kids to kindy and school then I’m at work around 8:30am. We have a team huddle and work out what’s the priority for the day. Preparing for deliveries are exciting and so I might style one of our email photos shoots and run my eye over our social platforms. Being on the floor is my favourite thing to do as it keeps me connected to my clients. Some clients have been shopping with me for over 18 years in Brisbane (Wow, I do sound old!) so the relationship I have with these women is really something special.  After the working day, I come home and spend time with my 4-year-old daughter Lenny Grace and 2-year-old son, Joe. We might read, play puzzles or just hang about – they are at such a fun age. I love to cook, and I find this really separates the working day. It’s also an opportunity for my family and I to be together and enjoy creating a meal while listening to music and having a laugh. After the kids have gone to bed it’s a special time where Jamie and I can debrief our day over a glass of wine or a cup of tea.

What’s your style motto? 

Style is a form of expression. I love how you can change your look depending on how you’re feeling.  I can be tom-boy prep one day or rock chic glam the next. But remember to always do you. Fit and fabric is everything!

Heels or sneakers?

Sneakers by day (because I’m running after my kids or running up the store stairs 100 times a day) and definitely heels by night for sexy date night or girl time!

We’re giving you the weekend off – where are you heading? 

Jamie and I like to grab the kids and take an hour drive south to Mermaid Beach where we have a holiday spot, it’s a great place to escape and switch off. Bike rides, the beach, finding new breakfast spots and road trips are on the agenda for our days there!

What advice you would like to share with upcoming entrepreneurs entering the fashion industry?

Get on-the-job experience in a workplace that is supportive of your career growth. Surround yourself with friends and mentors that want to see you succeed. Don’t focus on what others are doing. Follow your own vision. Also, nothing comes to those without a lot of grit, hard work, stress and perseverance.

Posted on

February 20, 2020