How Misha Collection grew from a $100 side business to a multi-million dollar global fashion icon

The fashion brand has enjoyed 50 per cent growth year-on-year. Here its founder talks about the influencer marketing, social and editorial strategy that helped drive success

From an at-home side hustle started with $100, to a multi-million dollar, international fashion brand, it’s not every business that can claim Misha Collection’s exponential growth over the past five years.

The fashion brand has enjoyed 50 per cent growth year-on-year, and is now sold by 100 stockists internationally including SAKS, Neiman Marcus and Myer. But it hasn’t come without its challenges, as Michelle Aznavorian, creative director and founder of Misha Collection, freely admits.

Aznavorian started Misha aged 24 as a way to supplement her income. What started as a Facebook-only business importing and selling jewellery from China swiftly took off.

But as wonderful as 50 per cent year-on-year growth sounds, Aznavorian was not prepared for the responsibilities this would entail – from warehousing, to marketing, to selling internationally and banking and currency issues.

“I started off importing products from China. But my passion has always been in the fashion industry, as I’d studied at the Melbourne School of Fashion,” Aznavorian told CMO.  “I was advertising through Facebook and set up a Facebook store, which was new back then. I started with $100 and any money I made I reinvested into Facebook. I didn’t even have a website.

“I did this until I got to a point where I wanted to explore other opportunities. I looked at what dresses I could import. The trend at the time was the bandage dresses - celebrities were wearing them - so I imported them and that was extremely successful.

“I accumulated the money so I could design my own collection. I started with three styles, and they sold out in two weeks, so I did a larger collection of 12 styles.”

It was about that time Aznavorian realised she needed a website. Fortunately, clear brand vision meant marketing efforts resonated with the right customers, at the right time.

“My whole strategy has always been shoot campaigns, use models and ensure the packaging and labelling - even down to the execution of the swing tags - creates a feeling of elevated luxury,” she said. “It should feel as if customers are buying from a premium store, but surprise them with the good price point. That’s where the success came from. I have a passion for high-end fashion, which helps me execute my own brand at that level.”

Building an influencer strategy

With her mum’s house entirely filled with fashion, Aznavorian used influencers to market her brand, which very few brands were doing at that time.

“I’d use bloggers, and was making $10,000-$15,000 a night when they’d post. That was great money considering I was still living with mum and dad,” she recalled.  “At that time, I had no overheads at all. But it got to a point where mum couldn’t stand the house being a pigsty anymore, and so I took the leap of hiring a warehouse and quitting my full-time job.

“It was extremely stressful and difficult working full-time and doing the business at the same time. I also got my very first employee, a warehouse assistant who would pick and pack the orders so I could have more time to focus on product development and marketing. Mum was working with me on customer service, and still is.”

As the brand took off, Aznavorian started getting a huge amount of wholesale inquiries from those wanting to stock her label. Still doing all the marketing herself, she hired a design assistant and a wholesale assistant, and commenced showings to potential stockists.

But such exponential growth in only a year became unmanageable. Aznavorian also realised she needed more staff, and relocated from Oakley to Melbourne city.

“I was 24 years old, making millions, and I just didn’t know what I was doing. I had started to sell to international stockists, and so I had different currencies and currency conversions, and I had no idea about banking, which needed doing,” she said.  

 “Processes and systems were not in place, and if you don’t have those you miss out on a lot of opportunities. I had no mentor and I had no idea of what I was doing. I was going with gut feeling and what I thought the market wanted. I had found a niche in what I design and what the customer wanted.”

Through the issues, however, Aznavorian was always steadfast on what her brand should represent – luxury at a reasonable price point.

“I value high-quality, amazing marketing, and an editorial approach to campaign, inspired by Vogue and the like. Even the packaging is impeccable. All my manufacturing is done by those who do high-end fashion,” she continued.  

“We had an amazing milestone with Bella Hadid wearing the label, and we were invited to New York Fashion week as result, which was a huge honour.”

Fine-tuning online engagement

Still using influencers, Facebook and Instagram advertising, Misha Collection approached Impress!ve Digital when online traffic started to plateau, and global brand awareness and conversions had become stagnant. The brand’s new website also had site redirection issues, which meant shoppers had trouble completing purchases.

“Plenty of fashion labels use influencers and celebrities to increase exposure, but this style of promotion doesn't always result in sustainable sales revenue,” said Impress!ve MD, Robert Tadros. 

“One big mistake fashion brands make is focusing on capturing a Kardashian wearing their label on Instagram without creating a strategy that focuses on attracting and nurturing the ideal customer. The success of such a stunt lies with what you’re doing to leverage it both at the time and after. If you’re not focused on engaging your audience and strategies to convert, then you’re most likely to fail.”

The agency tackled the redirection issues and overhauled Misha’s online user experience across 42 countries.

“Then we took a three-pronged approach to revamp the brand’s online presence: Search engine optimisation [SEO], pay-per-click advertising [PPC] and Facebook advertising. We implemented short-term fashion activation campaigns to find the most relevant new customers that were most likely to convert and engage with a new brand,” Tadros explained.

“The objective was to find relevant new customers, so we ran a multi-channel digital strategy which was geared to find people who were likely to engage with a new brand. This extended Misha's global reach to more countries. We also set up Google Tag Manager, so the team could track success and monitor customer journeys, supplying data about where these leads were originating.”

Over a period of six months, the cost per acquisition on Australian campaigns dropped by 77 per cent and at its peak, the return on ad spend was 31-times.

“SEO efforts alone resulted in a 200 per cent increase in organic traffic and 76 per cent increase in organic search. Add to that an 87 per cent increase in social traffic and the label returned to the global spotlight. And it wasn't just traffic that received a boost; the value of each individual order rose 35 per cent and the return on ad spend was 23-times,” Tadros said.

Aznavorian said after identifying the issues making it difficult to expand the business internationally, and capitalising on celebrity endorsements, Misha’s year-on-year growth continued. 

“Instagram advertising was super new five years ago, there were not a lot of fast fashion brands on it. Now everything’s completely changed, so you really need to keep evolving and being on the front foot and knowing your customer, and capitalising on opportunities to keep giving your customers what they want,” she said.

“You need eyeballs on your product. Maybe using influencers means you don’t convert as quickly as you used to, but still, if 10,000-20,000 of their following see your brand, it’s like advertising on a billboard, but it’s on social media and global.”

Yet Aznavorian admitted to more competition now. “What’s important to us is celebrity seeding, collaboration, ambassadors, role models, as well as core lines, intros into new categories, and having our customers come to us for other occasions as well, so we are a one-stop-shop for apparel,” she said.

“SEO does work, we only started it in the last six months and it helps with the conversion, but what really works for us is celebrity and PR.

“Facebook and Instagram campaigns are also a necessity for us. I’d rather spend the money on that and get eyeballs on it from all over the world than on print advertising and only have a small amount of the market viewing it.

“It’s about how you are going to be creative, how strategic you can be, how able to stand out in the market.”

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