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Leona Edmiston is one of Australia’s most iconic fashion designers, and the label baring her name has grown to become a stalwart on the retail scene.

Together with her husband Jeremy Ducker, the brand now encompasses 31 stores, as well as being stocked nationally.

Ducker shares their business journey with Dynamic Business.

What convinced you to start the business?

Ducker Edmiston trading as Leona Edmiston was established in 2001. My wife Leona had previously run a successful business with Peter Morrissey – Morrissey Edmiston – and was ready to go out on her own as a designer.

We saw a real opportunity to introduce a dress label into the market – the dress hadn’t been a stable category since the 1970s. I suggested at the time I would help her for a couple of weeks and here I am some 13 years later.

How did you manage the capital in the beginning?

We don’t have any business partners and the business was self funded. Leona and I decided that it was best to go slow and steady and build the business that we wanted to build rather than be answerable to anyone else.

How has the business evolved?

The business was built on the back of a dress range, and as the years have gone by we have broadened the offering to include footwear, handbags, jewellery, sleepwear, hosiery, children’s wear and most recently homewares.

We have gone from having no retail stores to over 30 nationally, and have become a strategic partner of Myer who produce exclusive Leona Edmiston ranges for their stores. Leona Edmiston is currently stocked in over 67 Myer department stores nationally.

What challenges have you faced along the way, and how did you learn from them?

The GFC has been demanding, as well as online shopping for competing international brands, the low Australian dollar, and consumer confidence and spending has been at an all time low during this economic cycle.

Leona and I decided the best form of defence was attack and we opened more stores – which has proved successful. We have had to put our energy into areas that best advance the business and constantly negotiate better rates with our suppliers.

How have you balanced your personal time and the time you’ve put into the business over the years?

Leona and I are very conscious about our time – we try not to work longer than eight hours a day as we don’t think we are productive if we work any longer than that.

We wouldn’t be able to do this however without the support of our hard working staff. The studio is never open on the weekends and we insist that staff leave by 6pm each day.

We believe that it is better to be fresh rather than overworked as this leads to a more productive work environment. Work smart, develop good systems and rest leads to growth and stability.

What relationship do you see business having with the community?

Leona designs with her customer in mind. She sees herself as a facilitator for all women to feel beautiful and good about themselves. Leona believes that it is her responsibility to serve her customer.

Not so long ago brands would dictate to their customers their ethos nowadays the customers have a much greater input into their brand of choice.

What tips or advice do you have for others looking to start their own business?

Have a five-year plan, set achievable goals, be patient and never give up!