The kinds of things that some girls would only dream of, Catherine Heenan has often achieved over an afternoon with a coconut and her laptop by the pool in Bali. Networking, learning about website coding, doing her own PR for her label Cantik; things that can take a huge amount of courage, hard work, and dedication.
Catherine spent her time growing up at the beach, surfing, and spending all of the money she earned working at a local café on bikinis. As she grew older, she began to identify a lack of swimwear that was made to truly fit the female form; swimwear that fit curves well, but still remained sexy. She loved Brazilian-cut swimwear, yet there was little range in the prints and designs available at the time.
A few years later, at just 22 years old, she decided to literally teach herself everything she needed to know about fashion and launch her own swimwear label, Cantik. It was challenging, but with the support of her family and friends, she managed to do it. She has forged a brand that is now taking huge leaps and bounds internationally, perhaps due to its risqué cuts and experimental styles. It could also be due to Catherine’s knack for social media and her uncanny ability to spot and set trends, having amassed a huge 18,000 followers on Cantik’s Instagram in just over a year. (Now at well over 90k!)
Catherine shares some of her biggest life lessons to date.
Motivate yourself: Catherine says “ I’m naturally a very motivated person, so once I’ve made a decision to do something I won’t do it half heartedly, I have to see it through. I have very supportive parents, who also own their own businesses. They have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, which gave me the confidence to set the wheels in motion to start my own label.”
Do your research: Catherine is completely self-taught. Even though she was undertaking a completely unrelated degree at the time at NSW University when the idea struck her to start Cantik, she taught herself everything she could. Design, technical drawing, import/export taxes, fabric compositions, and website coding, all self-taught at night, while trying to work and study for university.
There are no short cuts: Catherine says: “My dad has always said to me ‘effort creates luck’, and this has proven to be so true. You are not going to achieve good results if you are not prepared to put in long hours and work harder than your competitors.”
Network: “This is so important! You never know how the people you meet may be able to help you out and vice versa.”
Take risks: A lot of Cantik’s styles are experimental and innovative. It is not a typically “safe” brand, and this is what has given it its reputation as such an exciting, up and coming label. “When I first started designing my debut collection, Brazilian-cut swimwear was scarce on Australian beaches; I launched Cantik Swimwear right before the trend really hit our shores,” Catherine says. “Don’t be afraid to make a decision. The sooner you do, the sooner you know if you were right or wrong.”
Constantly evaluate and re-evaluate: When something isn’t working, change it. “Equally important to the perfect fit is good quality fabric. I did a lot of research on Lycra and realised I wasn’t going to get the level of quality I wanted in Indonesia so I sourced it all from Italy and then had it imported via Australia and then on to Bali.” Even though this was a time consuming process for her, it meant that Cantik had a solid foundation, made up of the perfect fits, styles and quality fabrics, made to last, which would start to forge its initial reputation as a reliable, yet innovative brand. Catherine also experimented with using a PR company until she realised that Cantik was a brand that spoke for itself, and that she could use the extra savings in ways that were more beneficial to the label.
Keep learning, and learning, and learning..: “Listen to others in the industry and never think that you know it all,” Catherine says. “Try to learn something new every day. I love learning. The process of starting a business and learning as I go has been so valuable in my own personal growth. I did a lot of learning through the whole process. I feel as though I have learned more in the past year and a half than I would have studying for three years at a design school. I think the experience of going through a degree which you are passionate about can be very rewarding, however, I would recommend doing a lot of research yourself, as well as reaching out to friends and people in the industry for any advice.”
Be patient: “You are not going to get results overnight.”
Love the process, and don’t be afraid to dream big: “For this collection we are branching into wholesaling, with some great International accounts on the horizon. As the brand grows my team will also have to grow as well; at the moment I am pretty much a one-woman team. I want to hire an assistant designer and a wholesale manager down the track. My mum and I are constantly sending design ideas back and forth for the Cantik design studio and showroom, but that will be a bit further down the track. Although Cantik has been quite successful in its debut year, the brand and myself as a designer are still very much in its infancy. I have many hard, yet exciting roads to go down, and I am very much looking forward to the future.”
Appreciate the little blessings that make it all worthwhile: I am very blessed to have had this opportunity come up in my life and I couldn’t have done it without the amazing support of my family and friends. Cantik means beautiful in Bahasa Indonesian (pronounced chun-tick) and as it turns out it has been the perfect name to sum up the last twelve months of my life.
Follow Cantik on Instagram so you can be some of the first to find out @cantikswimwear or check out http://cantikswimwear.com/.