Huckleberry Lane - Our Story - Chapter 1

Eliza Karak - Founder of Huckleberry Lane

What started out as a dream back at high school sketching and drawing designs of pyjamas later turned out to be a reality!

Over the past 20 years, I have worked across a variety of different industries and gained inspiration working in fashion, radio and film. My experience as a fit model for several of Australia's leading fashion brands sent me across the world giving me an insight into clothing production and design.

In 2002, I married the man of my dreams and we soon started a beautiful little family. I decided when my children were quite young that I wanted to be a "stay at home mum" . I then looked for something I could do from home, to give me the flexibility to run a household, family and earn an income too!

With no textile, design or sewing background (yes I couldn't sew to save myself!) I saw a gap in the sleepwear market, as at the time there was little choice in stores or on-line. I was looking for classic sleepwear that wasn't black or had scary skulls! I loved my son in classic stripes and basic prints.

Little did I know this was going to be the start of one MASSIVE journey!

In 2007, I had an idea and was motivated to put together a small range of sleepwear for children to sell at local markets across Melbourne.

I soon realised that this was a HUGE project...

  • where do I source fabrics locally in Melbourne?
  • where do I find a pattern maker?
  • where do I find a manufacturer?
  • where do I find a graphic artist?
  • where do I get wash tags made?
  • and the list goes on!

I had a two children under 3 and to be honest, this was one of the most challenging aspects of starting my business. I had already spent endless hours driving across Melbourne sourcing the missing pieces of the puzzle and I soon realised I started my apprenticeship in fashion design & textiles!

In the meantime, I was telling a girlfriend of mine who at the time owned a little childrenswear boutique in Port Melbourne and she suggested to contact a kids tradeshow to try and launch my brand there!

Well at the time, we thought "why not - let's give it a go". So we approached the organisers of the event and showed them the collection and they accepted us into the show!

We put pen to paper and designed a collection with 6 styles all in a size 2 to showcase at the Trade fair. So there we stood, as pretty as could be... fake tans, manicures, new outfits for everyday and I must say we were looking dapper! No idea of how to be a sales rep while still learning about the textile industry.

After the first day, we just smiled at all of the buyers and said hello. It was only until, our next door neighbour at the trade show offered some positive advice. "Why don't you invite the buyers onto your stand to come and have a look at your range?"... WELL THAT WAS THE START OF SOMETHING HUGE!!!

We finished the tradeshow after 4 days and had sold our cute little collection into 30 stores Australia wide. Needless to say, we were thrilled to bits & celebrated with lots of champagne - as our dream was fast becoming a reality!

From then, we quickly realised... we've only made pyjamas in a size 2. We need to make sizes 1 - 6 years!! Oh my, how much fabric do we need to order to make this bulk production?? Obviously math came into the equation however this was not my forte!

So in came my intelligent husband who calculated fabric orders and a list of 10 million other things!

I quickly had to coordinate ordering and get this production into full swing! yikes!!

I soon realised that local production in Melbourne was extremely challenging. We had pyjama tops and bottoms outsourced to different sewers. All leaving and arriving in dribs and drabs. OMG it was a logistical nightmare!

The business continued to thrive and grown and within 3 short years we supplied to nearly 100 stockists worldwide!

This was NOT EASY!

I was working 7 days a week and my kids at the time of starting the business were 3 and 1- and not in childcare! They spent most days running to the factory in Thomastown with me, glued to the hip! Now with production running more smoothly and a better grasp of the business and textile industry we had the energy and capacity to take on the world!!

We attended a trade fair in London to pitch the range to a wider audience. We sold our collection into Harrods which was incredible! I remember doing cartwheels in my backyard when I got the order together with stockists across several UK stores!

Now trading internationally, AusTrade -the Australian agency for Trade became involved and assisted us with our business and international trade. We also sought advice about off shore production as regrettably we could no longer sustain local production due to the volumes we were now producing.

This was most distressing at the time as I thought... "how on earth am I going to do that?". I can't go to China and leave my family!

We initially requested samples from several off shore facilities. Communication was difficult and the quality was poor. It was extremely important to source a factory that would continue to produce the high quality sleepwear that we were proud of in Melbourne.

As a result, I found an agent who travelled to China with me. We travelled extensively throughout China. I visited various factories and explored their facilities, workmanship and quality. By the end of the trip I found an incredible factory who produces high quality garments and specialises in Childrens fashion.

We have now been working closely with this factory for just over 5 years now and every season they continue to produce high quality sleepwear which we are renown for and I am very proud of.

In 2012, we decided to expand our operations and open our very first concept store in Hawksburn Village, Prahran. This is now our "hub". We showcase the entire range and have been retailing in this location for nearly 5 years. It has been incredible.

Stay tuned for Chapter Two of my story...

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