Sarah Saxty and Lauren Kozica have travelled similar paths. Both grew up as beach kids in Australia. Both started working in fashion more than 10 years ago. And both were drawn to New York as one of the biggest fashion powerhouses in the world. This week, AWNY Start Up Stories catches up with Sarah to learn more about how the pair came to launch their very own accessories label, OVERT.
How did you meet Lauren and when did you both decide to go into business together?
We were brought together by a mutual friend in New York City, and over a coffee became friends instantly.
Both working from home we started to co-work together, and found ourselves often brainstorming creative ideas together; the OVERT concept and “city life” was one of them. It stuck.
What should we know about Overt?
Connection is one of the most important parts of OVERT. We always consider the reality of the story we are telling, representing the women in the city, and the daily challenge of “doing it all”. We hope that we identify with real women doing real things and connect with the emotion of being a woman doing it all.
Your website says you were inspired by the ever-evolving essence of New York City and girls-on-the-go, tell us more about this?
We started to recognize how busy our lives were in New York City. It’s not rare to leave your apartment at 7am and not get home until 1am the next morning. One day, we listed all the things we do in a day and what we carried around with us in our multiple bags – it was excessive and ridiculous! We knew then there had to be a better way and that we wanted to create products that allowed the ‘city girl’ to transition from day to night with style and practicality.
The Noho bag was born from the fact that for a city girl, life is always on the go, on the commute. There’s a term: the New York bag ladies. We wanted our bag to combat that, and if the number of emails we get from girls that have newly converted to the Noho are anything to go by, it does.
What have been the hardest challenges you’ve faced in starting a business? What have you learned?
The design process for the Noho was an intense one – there are 62 pattern pieces! I remember countless nights brainstorming the design over bottles of wine in our apartments. We were very proud to see the first sample from the first factory. In fact we nearly cried – it was our baby come to life. We often felt like we were in a real life scene of “How to Make it in America”, which was kind of cool, albeit exhausting schlepping around the Garment District day after day. Sourcing the materials and finding a factory were some of our biggest hurdles.
I think as a new brand, one big obstacle is getting out there – standing out among the array of talented new designers and brands on the market.
We have learned that our belief in ourselves and our vision – and staying true to it – really does help.
Do you have any mentors? How have you found people to be with sharing information, advice and their networks?
We don’t have any “formalized” mentors as such. We do have a couple of people that we have turned to over the years though. The sense of community in New York is like no other – there is the reputation of New Yorkers being “rude” I still to this day do not understand where that came from! We have found the community here very nurturing; everyone is open to a new connection, or to share their expertise. The entrepreneurship community and platforms to learn from are bustling.
What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a business in New York?
There’s no better city in the world than New York to launch or expand a business. New Yorkers are hungry and optimistic. They’re willing to give you a go and listen to what you have to say. Be prepared to network and make the big asks. And be aware it is a full pool already. You need to stand out, be clear on what you want and why you exist, be strong.
What is next for OVERT?
Where do I start? There are so many wonderful ideas to be explored. The best part about being such a young company is that we are so agile. It could be all about building our website one week, and the next we decide it’s all about designing a new collection of products, or building out networking events for our girls. All things we are working on day by day. Right now – our biggest focus is definitely to share the love, spread the word and help ‘city girls’ over the globe stop being bag ladies.
AWNY readers are in for a Treat!
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