‘I was that kid who was hustling from an early age and had my first “business” at 14,’ says Cassie Byrnes. She even had a ‘very short-lived but very lucrative’ eBay business selling vintage clothes in the early days of online marketplaces.
A fascination with vintage fashion prints spurred Cassie to make the move from Brisbane to Melbourne in 2012 to study Textile Design at RMIT – despite having never been to Victoria before! Luckily – it was the right move. She quickly fell in love with textiles, and threw herself into her studies, working super hard to excel in her course. Then, in 2016, not long after graduating, Cassie launched her own brand, Variety Hour, working freelance on the side to prop up her new business.
‘The year I started my business, my parents were on the verge of bankruptcy after working incredibly hard in their small business for the past three decades,’ she says. ‘It was heartbreaking, but I also knew I was completely on my own, there was no safety net and no one to fall back on. I definitely get my resilience from them. It also taught me that just working hard does not guarantee success, and you have to remain nimble and adaptable to change.’
Today, Cassie manages a team of five people, working from their dreamy Gertrude Street studio above the Variety Hour retail store! In-between designing new ranges for Variety Hour, and managing her retail store, Cassie still regularly collaborates with with big brands, designing prints for the likes of Nike, Anthropologie and Uniqlo.
Cassie has big picture goals for the future of Variety Hour. She wants to get her team up to full-time hours, experiment with new applications like jacquard weaving and embroidery, and do more to celebrate body diversity (VH clothes now go up to size 22!). In doing all that, Cassie sees the domino effect it has on supporting local manufacturing, creativity in the textiles industry, and promoting size inclusivity among Australian women.
Imagine if every day was as colourful as this!
I wake up around 7am to the soothing sounds of my daughter either singing or yelling from her cot – my alarm now for the past 18 months.
I pretend I am asleep long enough for my husband to get Lottie up and start breakfast, then I lie in bed contemplating my existence in the world. Eventually I accept my reality but like clockwork it’s way too late and it’s a mad rush to get out the door within 20 minutes (in case you didn’t realise I am definitely not a morning person). Having once worked a solid decade in hospitality, I will forever be a night owl, unfortunately my daughter has still yet to receive that memo and I have to find a way to function in the mornings.
After getting into the car and breathing a sigh of relief, I turn on ABC Melbourne and listen to Virginia Trioli on my way to drop Lottie off at daycare in Fitzroy. I usually get sucked into hanging out with her adorable baby friends and chatting to the teachers before grabbing a coffee at Gabriel and making my way to the Variety Hour office, just around the corner on Gertrude Street.
The morning is a whirlwind of emails and planning out the day. I am a meticulous planner (because I am also a meticulous procrastinator) and have forced myself over the years to get more organised.
The team arrives between 9-10am and we gasbag about life, which eventually turns into chat about this week’s production dramas and what content we have on the horizon. Penny and I spend the morning creating content, today we are filming our monthly vlog. We finalise an upcoming photoshoot and go over our plans for socials for the week. Our office sits above our shop so I might head downstairs to check in with Hayley, our shop girl.
I don’t really eat breakfast so by midday I am starving. I love having lunch with the team so I usually see someone start to prepare their lunch and I tag along for the adventure. Having lunch together means we can chat freely about non-work stuff and we always have interesting convos. It gives me a chance to let out all that pent up conversation that I have pushed down all morning while trying to focus on work.
I spend my afternoon bouncing around working with the team. I spend some time with Jess – our production manager. We currently have three collections on the go: finishing winter and getting the last production run from our manufacturer; sampling our Classics collection; and designing new cuts and finalising prints for summer. There are always a billion things to decide on, from choosing zip colours to how many centimetres we need to take off a sleeve.
I spend time with our designer sarah on our homewares collection, which is a work in progress at the moment. We feel a bunch of fabric strike-offs and look at samples. There is a lot of time spent in the office touching fabrics and discussing details people wouldn’t probably think about. Today Sarah and I had a great chat/debate about what is the perfect shade of olive.
At 5pm I clock off for the arvo and go pick up Lottie and make our way home. Between 5-8pm is baby/family time and I let myself have that and try to put work aside. My husband has become a domestic goddess since Lottie was born and normally cooks us all dinner. We have a pretty boring but delicious roster of favourites that are quick and healthy. We both play sports so sometimes one of us runs out of the house if it’s an early game.
After Lottie goes to sleep, I go up to the home office and start the night shift. I always get my creative work done in these hours because it’s quiet and uninterrupted. I still have not mastered getting print creation done while at the studio with people around, but I am sure that will come with practice.
I put on some terrible but fab TV like Real Housewives and paint in my sketchbook or work on a new print. This week I am deep into our new summer 2021 collection. I have to be asleep by midnight because anything later I am an actual mess of a human the next day and get nothing done. I wrap up work around 11pm.