Abbey Rich explains how staying connected fuels her fashion label.

Abbey Rich didn’t set out to start a fashion label. Just over a year ago, the 22-year-old uni student put a few handmade pieces on the web, posted some pics to Instagram and people wanted more. These days, Abbey’s side gig has turned into a business that sustains her while she studies a bachelor of textiles at RMIT in Melbourne. When she’s not studying, Abbey’s screen-printing in the studio, shooting collections, snapping pics for socials and sending hand-stitched garments all over the world. This is how she does it.

Your side gig started by accident, right?

It was so unintentional. I had screen-printed and sewn a few pillowcases, a dress and a jumpsuit – I’m pretty sure that was it! I put the stuff on a Big Cartel store and got word out through my Instagram, but I only had about 400 followers at that time.

Now, you have over 18k Instagram followers, and employees, and interns. How do you manage it all?

It has grown quite a lot in a small space of time. It’s kinda crazy! Laura Clark is my right hand lady; she does all the sewing for the label. Another gal, Sarah Wincester, also helps when things get really busy, and we have about five interns. To manage it, pretty much everything’s done on my phone. We use Squarespace as our website base, which also has a phone app called Commerce that notifies you when an order comes through. It also sends the customer an automated email. It’s so easy. I’m also constantly taking photos on my phone because I like to document, obsessively almost, and those photos get used for our marketing, especially on Instagram.

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Photo by Abbey RIch

You study, too. Does this mean you’re working on the label outside of normal hours? Is it a 24/7 thing?

Pretty much. With your phone in your hand you’ve always got access. Instagram is 100 percent why we sell anything, really. It’s the easiest way to market, so I’m constantly managing that on the go. For me it’s somewhat simple to run. I mean, there is skill involved in the way I present what I’m doing, but I’m able to get it out there quite easily.

In the past, you’d need to have a stall at a local Sunday market to sell pieces or tell people about your label… things took a lot longer.

I’ve been able to bypass a lot of that, or speed it up and make it happen because of websites and apps and phones. I never did the small markets. My first market was Finders Keepers, which is huge. Also, I’ve made so many creative friends through social media. Some are local, but others are from all over the world.

What has surprised you about running this type of side gig?

So many things. When we get orders from Finland. Or Japan! I’ve never left the country. Ever. I’ve never travelled. So it’s amazing to know that someone is walking around in my stuff. Something I’ve touched, something I created from ideas in my head is now floating around all over the world.

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Upsiders is a collective that’s about celebrating, inspiring, and empowering young Australians to pursue their passions via side gigs.