A little black dress – in fact, the ultimate black dress – turned into a big success for Paddington-based fashion designer Sacha Drake

Paddington-based designer Sacha Drake celebrates 10 years in business this year; a milestone for any entrepreneur, let alone in the fickle world of fashion. “On one hand you feel very experienced and you’ve learnt a lot of lessons, and on the other hand it’s quite humbling when you look at other brands in their third and fourth decades,” says Drake.

The early days were typical of any struggling start-up but, for Drake, sheer determination has seen her reach 150 stockists around the country in addition to her Paddington boutique, online store and, more recently, a regular segment on the home shopping network TVSN. Drake’s strategy to find her first stockists was simple. “I used to drive around in my beat-up old car, hide the car a block away from a shop, put on my happy face and walk in and introduce myself. I would even offer to model my clothes!”

But it was a chance creation in 2003 that became Sacha Drake’s solid foundation for success – the Ultimate Black Dress, which can be tied and worn more than 20 different ways and she sells for $289 ($299 for the maxi version). “I was making a skirt. I pulled it off my head and realised the top layer could be tied. I suddenly realised I was on to something,” says Drake.

“For International Women’s Day lunch in 2003 I booked a table of 10 and bought all the girls lunch as long as we all turned up with the dress on, tied a different way. From then on I got appointments in my studio and learnt how to interact with the dress. I developed an instruction manual for it then released it. It’s become very successful.”

Drake is just as passionate about keeping the local manufacturing industry alive as she is about her designing. “It’s only since I’ve had a lot of years in business I’ve really come to appreciate what keeping jobs in Australia means. More than 94 per cent of clothing in Australia is manufactured offshore. We’ve got to keep the manufacturing skills alive so new talent can come through and know how to do a rolled hem on a silk dress.”

Drake admits the last 10 years has been both a trying and rewarding time and hers hasn’t been an overnight success. “At the heart of what inspires me is designing clothes that are flattering, to inspire confidence in women. If I can make women feel good in what they wear, I’ve done my job. It’s just a lovely thing to be able to do with your life,” she says.

“It’s just a lovely thing to be able to do with your life.”

Find Sacha Drake at 3/208 Given Terrace, Paddington. Call 3368 1801.