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How Melbourne label Bye Bambi went from a solo bedroom operation to a brick-and-mortar store

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RUBY RYAN
WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

“Even though your business feels like your baby and demands profound effort, time and attention, your mental health needs to be nurtured as the number one priority.”

Sustaining a small business – particularly an up-and-coming fashion label – during a global pandemic is no small feat. But being able to transition a label from your bedroom to a brick-and-mortar operation is particularly impressive (especially so at a time when the retail sector is in dire straits).

This is exactly what Andi Short, the founder of Melbourne label Bye Bambi, was able to achieve over the last year. A lifelong interest in fashion design, instilled in her by her dressmaker grandma, meant that starting her own clothing-based project was almost inevitable. After working in various parts of the fashion industry, she launched her ethical, slow fashion label in 2018, with a desire to, in her own words, “positively uplift the wearer, the maker and the planet”.


Discover more up-and-coming local designers in our Fashion section. 


Prioritising organic, recycled fabrics and ensuring those who bring Bye Bambi’s designs to life are paid fairly and have safe and fulfilling work conditions is incredibly important to Andi, and a core part of the label’s ethos.

Fast becoming a firm favourite in the Melbourne fashion scene, the label’s fans adore its tongue-in-cheek, referential approach – think early 2000s-esque silhouettes, fitted spray paint pattern long sleeves and brightly patterned corsets. We spoke to Andi about her early foray into the world of fashion design, the difficulties of being a small business owner, and the importance of prioritising your mental health when striving for success.

Tell us about you. What’s your fashion background?

I learnt to sew alongside my grandma Nini (or Lynette) who is an unbelievably talented dressmaker from Ballarat. As a young girl, I’d catch the V-line up to Wendouree to spend time learning from her and using her sewing machine. My fondest memories were having Nini drop me off at the local spotlight and pick me up three hours later. I’d make costumes for school dress-up days, for my friends to wear to themed eighteenths and then for myself to wear in general.

I always seemed to have an ideal costume or outfit in mind which perfectly fit the brief (or my idea of it), and could never find anything similar. This gave my hobby a practical outlet. My favourite memories of school were cultivated in the art room with my best friend Co, listening to music and discussing the minute dramas of the current moment, all while experimenting with paint, charcoal and gold leaf. For my VCE studio arts final my chosen subject matter was the ‘imagination’.

 

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This has always been a natural point of fascination for me and I’ve always felt very comfortable and compelled to test the limits of my own. My imagination has always felt like a safe and sacred space which I share with myself. I suppose that is my fashion background. I did continue to study a Bachelor of Professional Communication at RMIT where I learnt more about marketing and majored in film. I think I specialise more in coming up with creative ideas and communicating them, rather than in fashion specifically.

How did the label get started? Talk us through the process and the challenges.

I think I was approaching the last semester of my degree, I was working a part-time store manager/marketing assistant combo role at a Melbourne-based jewellery label as well as balancing three internships. One of those internships was running social media for jewellery designer Millie Savage’s clothing line MSL and through this, I gained experience in Shopify, customer service, photography and the daily running of a fashion eCommerce site. Luckily, Mille then opened a small ethical production factory in Canguu, Bali where I went on to have my first collection made.

I was able to fly over and stay at her villa while working on the samples in a hands-on capacity. I didn’t need to worry about fabric sourcing, MOQ’s, patterns, size grading or anything technical (thank god), as I had no idea or experience how to do any of this or in some cases what any of this even was. I was able to stick to what I’m good at which was conveying my ideas by providing sketches, annotations and reference imagery.

 

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Having acquired this little foot in the door, gave me the push I needed to just take the leap and commit to starting Bye Bambi. I had no money at the time so begged my mum to borrow some to start up my business, to which she said no. So I started making presentations and proposals to ask extended family members if they wanted to ‘invest’ – Mum was so embarrassed she ended up lending it to me.

From there onwards she was my biggest supporter, often helping me with budgets and all things accounting, coming with me to Bali for emergency meetings when shit would hit the fan (which it did extremely often back then), and even hand delivering late orders when I was away overseas. I started Bye Bambi out of my bedroom in my parents’ house and would book study rooms at the local library to try to add structure and discipline to my days. Actually, I was operating it from my bedroom until March last year… a lot has changed.

Where did the name come from?

I’ve always been enthralled by Disney and used to draw inspiration from its nostalgia and inject it into my early silk and corset designs. In parallel, I adore and have always adored the name Bambi – for some reason, this word feels like it encapsulates and summarises my style and energy. So, of course, when I purchased my cherished puppy at the age of 14, I chose to name her Bambi (much to the dismay of my family).

It then felt very natural to name my second baby (this brand), after Bambi my darling dog. I initially intended to call it ‘By Bambi’ but unglamorously the name was taken… so ‘Bye Bambi’ was the next best thing. I like the additional ‘e’, it’s more symmetrical and strong.

 

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What are you most proud of in your work on your label?

My heart melts the most when I see someone on the street or out wearing Bye Bambi. It’s just a beautiful moment I have with myself where I can’t help emanating gratitude. I am most proud of the time and energy I dedicated to personal growth and mental wellbeing, which allowed my brand to grow alongside me. I am proud of getting my first office in March 2020 and of the important lessons I learned there.

I am proud of expanding to my second office in September this year and of my first brick-and-mortar store which I am about to open on High Street [in Windsor]. I am very proud to have been invited to New York Fashion Week as part of the Flying Solo Emerging Designer Runway, which I am preparing for at the moment and will be attending in Feb 2022.

 

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What do you wish you knew when you started?

I wish I knew that mental health is the most important and sacred thing in the world and how important it is to protect it along with your energy at all costs. Even though your business feels like your baby and demands profound effort, time and attention, your mental health needs to be nurtured as the number one priority. I have learnt the more you look after and put time into your brain health and your personal growth, the more your business will naturally follow suit.

I wish I knew not to care too much about what others think. To practise being a good, caring and curious person and to know that that’s enough. To try find gratification internally rather than externally. To trust your gut, be proud of your self and if you get knocked down keep going, things will get better. To not be afraid of asking – ask people for help, expertise, advice, support. The worst they can say is no and that if they say no please don’t take it personally or [let it] deter you from asking someone else.

 

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Also that no one person is better than anyone else, so don’t be intimidated because at the end of the day we are all human. To be careful when ordering stock. To expect that many, if not most, things will go wrong when running a business. To try imagine any possible ways anything you are doing could go wrong before it does to then prioritise preparation, process and prevention of these things.

Who is in your wardrobe right now?

Gimaguas, Mirror Palais, Peachy Den, Eytys, Tyler McGillivary, Cult Form, Immoral London, Karla Laidlaw, Emily Watson, lots of vintage (lots from Stupid Vintage down the road) and of course Bye Bambi.

How can we buy one of your pieces?

At byebambi.com or in person at 214 High St, Winsdor VIC 3181, during store hours.

Head here to shop Bye Bambi.

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