Asian Australians’ personalised leather accessories startup a huge hit, going from blog to business and making fashion models fans

The Daily Edited went from sideline to full-time occupation for two fashion-mad lawyers, racking up annual sales of US$24 million within four years and expanding to three continents. Customisation and limited runs are keys to its success

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2018, 6:17am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2018, 6:17am

By early 2015,an e-commerce start-up called The Daily Edited, launched a year earlier as a sideline by two Australian lawyers to sell personalised leather lifestyle accessories, was approaching half a million Australian dollars a month in sales.

Their accountant suggested to the pair, Alyce Tran and Tania Liu, that they might want to consider quitting their day jobs. A few months later – after having squirrelled away A$200,000 (US$155,000) in savings as seed capital – they did just that.

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“It wasn’t like we quit for nothing – we were both very senior lawyers at two very good law firms [Allens in Perth and King & Wood Mallesons in Sydney],” says Tran, The Daily Edited’s creative and strategic director, who is based in Sydney (Liu has since moved to Hong Kong to oversee production in Guangzhou, where she was born).

Three years later, with a staff of 130 and an omnichannel retail presence – it has physical stores in three countries – The Daily Edited, or TDE, is on track to hit A$30 million in sales this year, up 36 per cent from 2017.

“At the time we never had the intention to create what we have. It kind of kept on snowballing and then, well, ‘Oh my God, this is a thing’,” says Tran.

The Daily Edited offers around 600 lines, from leather bags to office, tech and travel accessories, which range in price from a A$49.95 phone case up to a A$499.95 calfskin overnight bag. Runs of the bags and clutches are limited – from as few as 50 to a maximum of 1,000.

To be honest – and people would think this is unusual for people in our position, since we’re both of Asian heritage – we don’t know that much about the Asian market
Alyce Tran

The company offers three-hour delivery in Sydney, Melbourne, Manhattan and Los Angeles – the wares presented in its signature pink TDE-initialled boxes. Its bestselling leather phone case with large monogrammed initials is probably its most high-profile product – often spotted in Instagram mirror selfies by Australian fashion lovers.

“We obviously have grown this brand a lot through social media, because when we started out it was just the two of us and what can you do? You can put a picture on Instagram for free,” says Tran. TDE has since tapped “It” girls such as American model and actress Hailey Baldwin and Rocky star Sylvester Stallone’s daughters Sistine, Scarlet and Sophia, for paid collaborations.

The Daily Edited started life as a blog, and is that rare thing – a business founded by fashion bloggers whose wild success did not hinge on the authors’ personal image.

Fashion-obsessed Tran and Liu met while they were both working at Allens’ Perth office. They started the blog in 2011 as a daily curation of their favourite things, from street style looks to restaurants and recipes.

In 2012, the pair sought to harness the platform’s growing popularity by launching a small fashion line called Edited, aimed at young working women building their corporate wardrobes.

In August 2014, they switched strategy, dropping the fashion line and releasing a trio of monogrammable leather accessories: a zippered leather pouch, a compendium and a card holder. The first order sold out within a couple of weeks.

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Fast-track to 2018 and 70 per cent of sales are through, with the rest coming from the brand’s growing network of bricks-and-mortar stores, most notably in the United States, where The Daily Edited opened a permanent concept store at the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship shop in New York in July and has held rolling pop-ups at other Saks stores.

The company opened its first small concept stores – there are now eight – in January 2016 within branches of the David Jones department store in Australia, offering on-the-spot personalisation.

Just over a year later The Daily Edited opened its first free-standing store in the Chadstone shopping centre in Melbourne, Australia.

The following month, Australia’s Oroton Group announced it had acquired a 30 per cent stake in the company for a reported A$4.5 million in cash and shares, valuing The Daily Edited at almost A$15 million.

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Its investment powered the company’s next moves, among them opening a US fulfilment centre and, in November 2017, a 120 square metre The Daily Edited “Apartment” in Westfield, Sydney. Modelled on a luxury city flat, it has a mock bedroom, bathroom, study and sitting room, decorated in soft nougat tones – and with The Daily Edited products artfully positioned throughout.

The company has made the most of the customisation industry, which is a hot category in luxury, not to mention the venture capital sector. According to Deloitte research, one in three consumers wants personalised products, with over half of millennial respondents in the US and Europe saying they are prepared to pay more for a personalised product.

Among the raft of customisation specialist e-commerce start-ups to have launched are two brands Tran considers The Daily Edited’s biggest US competitors, GiGi New York and Suki Waterhouse’s Pop & Suki. Four other Australian companies that have also attracted investment are Shoes of Prey, Mon Purse, Fame and Partners and InStitchu.

In 2017 The Daily Edited opened a concept store in the Robinsons department store in Orchard Road, Singapore. It has plans to open pop-up stores in other Asian cities, including Hong Kong, although not this year.

“To be honest – and people would think this is unusual for people in our position, since we’re both of Asian heritage – we don’t know that much about the Asian market and obviously everything we do we have to be very cautious about,” says South Australian-born Tran, whose parents arrived from Vietnam in 1985 as refugees, before establishing a strawberry farm in the Adelaide Hills.

Among the pair’s other medium-term goals is to double sales within the next three years. “How we do that may change between now and that three-year point,” says Tran.

“We’re constantly pivoting, reassessing our situation. We didn’t think, for example, that people would love the phone cases so much when we released them two years ago. We’re constantly trialling new products, new lines, new store formats.

“If things work we run with it. If things don’t we quietly shut them down. So really that is our over-arching goal and the path to get there [to a A$60 million annual sales turnover] is constantly changing.”