IT'S not often that a hair scrunchie can be credited for saving a business but that's exactly how things have played out for Newcastle-based lingerie and sleepwear label, Desvalido.
In May, Desvalido director and designer Alana Becker announced the label faced closure in the coming months.
Despite a successful period of growth in 2020 which had enabled her to move into a studio at Wickham and employ two part-time staff (Emilly Woods and Kathleen Kerr), Desvalido was running at a loss and in April the label's biggest retail stocklist closed, creating the "perfect storm".
"Like a lot of businesses who sold online, we had a bit of a boom when things started locking down last year during COVID," Becker says. "That boom dried up in about November, which was very weird. I thought, 'Oh no, this is supposed to be our Christmas trade, what's happened?'.
"What I thought was growth was actually just a boom."
Becker, who founded Desvalido seven years ago, felt the label was worth saving and took to social media to explain the situation in the hope that her customer base would throw their support behind the business.
She set a target to sell 1000 silk scrunchies.
"We were tossing up what would be the easiest thing we could make and the easiest thing we could sell," Becker says.
"We did the math and said, 'Well, we've got a silk scrunchie for $18, so a thousand of those is $18,000, so that would definitely make a difference'.
"We knew how many we could produce in a day and the whole team had the expertise to sew scrunchies.
"We were making scrunchies a full day each week and if we ever had a moment of panic thinking 'What do we focus on next?' we would make 10 scrunchies and figure it out after that. It almost became calming."
The post received an outpouring of support, which translated into sales, and four-and-a-half weeks after announcing the scrunchie drive, Desvalido hit its target on June 20.
"I thought we would hit that goal by the end of the year. It definitely gained a lot of traction. It was a very accessible way to help because it wasn't a huge output of money for people," Becker says.
"I wasn't even worried about the workload at that point. I was like 'Holy moly, we did it. People really want to keep us around'. I felt really supported when we hit that target.
"It felt like this was definitely worth continuing. I think most small businesses feel that way at some point and ask 'Why am I doing this? Does anyone care?' but it felt like people really did care."
I think most small businesses feel that way at some point and ask 'Why am I doing this? Does anyone care?' but it felt like people really did care.Alana Becker
Growing up at Lake Munmorah, Becker's passion for designing fashion began early on when she learned to sew bags and clothes on the family's sewing machine.
After completing high school, she enrolled to study applied fashion design at TAFE NSW Newcastle in Tighes Hill where she initially focused on creating cocktail dresses before eventually shifting into lingerie design.
"It was cocktail dresses for the first year or so and then they got shorter and more lingerie-inspired until I thought, 'No, I don't think this is a dress any more, it's lingerie," she laughs.
A week after graduating from TAFE in December 2013, Becker launched Desvalido.
Working out of the spare bedroom at her home, she started selling her designs at market events and online through Etsy before launching a store on the label's website, which now ships Australia-wide and internationally.
Desvalido is all about creating high quality, classic and versatile pieces that allow women to feel comfortable and confident.
Her vintage-inspired French knickers are the brand's best-seller and the item that has stuck around since she designed her first pair as part of her graduate collection.
"It's surprisingly flattering and it feels like just the right amount of cheeky," Becker says.
"Those have been a staple for us and they have always sold well. I think it's really comforting too that I have had the same style for the past eight years.
"It's there for the long haul."
The label produces luxurious lingerie and sleepwear in pure silk or satin in an extensive range of colours, catering for sizes from six to 24, and also offers custom-made sizes.
Becker is now setting her sights on growing the business.
"Closing is not really on the cards now at all. Let's see how I feel in three years [laughs]. But no, right now it feels good," she says.