On a mission to lace women everywhere with confidence and comfort through its fiercely feminine lingerie styles, Kat The Label is taking the world by storm eight years after its humble beginnings in Melbourne.

Founder, Kate Nixon started out by hand-sewing her designs and posting them on her Instagram account back in 2015. Never with the intention of starting a business, she quickly started receiving purchase requests from people who had come across her page. 

“Kat the Label was founded in 2014 from my bedroom. I was studying fashion design and I’d been researching the lingerie industry for a university project. Through this research, I fell in love with vintage lingerie and specifically the bralette era from the 1920s,” Nixon told Retailbiz in a recent interview.

“I did market research into the industry and nothing like the lingerie from that era existed anymore; the industry was focused on styles for the male gaze, rather than pieces to make oneself feel beautiful. During the research stage of my project, I started making lace triangle bralettes on my sewing machine and posting to Instagram. I hadn’t set out to start a brand, but when people started to enquire about custom orders – I got straight to work.

“During this period, I moved up to Byron Bay for a role in production where I learned the ins and outs of small business and how to manufacture offshore. Using this knowledge, I was able to send my handmade pieces to a factory to begin bulk production. Meanwhile I’d whipped up a website and done a photoshoot, and by then my businesses’ Instagram had grown substantially and sales came through straight away.”

Kat The Label market stall at St Kilda Festival.

While the growth on Instagram gained further traction through influencer marketing, the brand was contacted by multiple big brands to wholesale Kat The Label, growing brand awareness even more.

“Eight years on, we have an amazing team, we’ve opened a second website for the US specifically, as sales gain traction over there. We stock to some huge names including David Jones, Revolve, Urban outfitters and ShopBop. We’ve opened a permanent retail store in Cremorne Melbourne and a new office. A huge goal most recently was featuring on Kylie Jenner as her Coachella outfit.”

The power of social media

Social media is where it all began for Kat The Label with customers taking notice of the brand’s Instagram account. Having this social proof before starting a brand was an opportunity because there wasn’t a huge investment with associated risks, according to Nixon.

“I was doing influencer gifting and marketing early on when it wasn’t as common, so it was an easier time to get your product in the hands of big names on Meta platforms. Within the first year of having the Instagram account, I had gained over 10,000 followers alone,” she said.

“Getting this sort of traction on Instagram meant that other people, like buyers from the stores we ended up stocking would find us. I think also having a unique and beautiful product like lingerie was a huge factor. Shipping was easy and the product was photogenic either while being worn or as flat lays or off the body.”

Test and be persistent

When asked for advice to other business owners building a brand from the ground up, Nixon recommends testing products first. “This was a huge help for me early on because without going into debt I could test and see if this was a product that people wanted,” she said.

Kat The Label founder, Kate Nixon.

Persistence is another big one – it took 4.5 years before Nixon quit any other work to focus on Kat The Label full time. “It also took me six years before I hired any staff to come on board. Being savvy with money meant I was always able to invest in the biggest areas to grow the business, including paid marketing, more product, and better photoshoots. Do not give up,” she said.

Nixon also believes content is king. “Do a proper photoshoot. If you have a shoot that is not professional looking, it loses trust for customers. My first campaign was just three of us on a beach, but the content was so stunning, so this helped.”

Her last piece of advice? Just start. “A lot of people chat to me about wanting to start a business – do it! Words I always lived by were ‘A year from now you’ll wish you’d started’ and that’s still so true today.”

Expanding abroad

The US market was picking up organically for Kat The Label because the brand secured Revolve as a wholesale account.

“It was then when we decided to give the US a go. We built out a US website specific for that customer and after a couple of years opened fulfilment over there to offer quick and cheap shipping and returns. Since then, growth in the US has been incredible. We invested more into personalised ads on Facebook and Instagram, influencer gifting and even a pop up in LA to help generate buzz around the brand,” Nixon said.

Being sustainable

Sustainability has been important to Nixon throughout the brand’s progression.

“Starting as a small business it was tough to add the extra expenses, so I am proud that we now have all biodegradable packaging, carbon offset shipping for all logistics, funding environmental initiatives in Vietnam, and when designing I always keep in mind products that people will cherish,” she said.

“We focus more on slower core styles along with inspiring pieces customers will love for years to come. I know it’s not an industry that’s ever going to be perfect, so taking these steps as we evolve is something that we will continue to do.”