Iconic Australian Fashion
View recent Country Road Collections on Australian Fashion Review Blog.
Since its inception way back in 1974, the ‘Country Road‘ fashion label has grown and evolved into one of Australia’s most well known and iconic brands, highly respected for top quality and stylish apparel (menswear, womenswear and childrenswear), accessories and homeware.
Following some turbulent years in the early 1990’s, a majority stake in the brand was purchased by Woolworth Holdings Ltd South Africa. Following withdrawal from the US and Asian markets, the brand entered into a new chapter. The label was relaunched in 2004, with a younger fresher brand image, opening up Country Road to a wider customer base.
As of 2012, the womenswear and menswear fashion label has over 80 stand-alone boutiques and over 100 concession outlets, as well as having over 3,500 employees, in Australia and New Zealand. The brand also has an impressive overseas presence, with a number of stand-alone stores throughout South Africa – a full list of boutiques can be found on the official website.
Country Road Fashion Label: Key Dates
- 1974: The ‘Country Road‘ fashion label is launched by Stephen Bennett, primarily as a line of women’s shirting.
- 1981: Department store giant Myer acquires Country Road, only for it to be sold on in 1987 and listed on the share market.
- 1984: The fashion label introduces its menswear line.
- 1986: An accessories collection was added to the brand’s product line.
- 1988: The expansion of Country Road fashion label continued with the addition of homewares.
- Early 1990’s: The Country Road brand begins it’s overseas expansion, with a move into the US market. Unfortunately, the move into the US market was unsuccessful and had an effect on the business as a whole – the Australian branch of the business suffered diminishing profits, until finally a loss was being made.
- 1998: The Country Road fashion label is bought out by Woolworth Holdings Ltd South Africa, which started a new era for the iconic brand. With a new vision for the brand, Woolworth Holdings completely withdrew the brand form the US and Asian markets, and started to rebuild the label from the bottom up.
- 2000: Baby and childrenswear collections were added to the brand’s product line.
- 2004: The iconic fashion label was relaunched with a new contemporary identity, greatly increasing its customer base. Wholesale operations are ceased and a range of new Country Road concessions were opened in David Jones and Myer department stores across Australia.
- 2008-2009: The Country Road fashion label expands into South Africa, and launched a sister brand ‘Trenery’.
- 2011: Following a messy legal battle with dismissed CEO John Cheston that resulted in a $1.1 million settlement, Country Road decided to further their South African expansion.
- 2012: The Australian brand looks set for further expansion with the $172 million purchase of the Witchery Group (which owns Mimco) – announced in August after months of talks, will create one of Australia’s biggest specialty apparel retailers in Australia with 517 stores and $679 million in annual sales. Although the deal is deemed to be valuable to both sides, 11.8 % Country Road shareholder, the Lew family’s Australian Retail Investments (ARI), were not so happy, disappointed that the enlarged company would be headed by Witchery Group chief Iain head. Just a few weeks after the announcement, ARI head Solomon Lew moved to derail the takeover by stating court proceedings against the company over its $92 million capital raising – Lew said he was seeking a permanent injunction to prevent the dispatch of the offer booklet to shareholders. The head of ARI claims he will be oppressed as a minority shareholder if Country Road’s takeover of Witchery goes ahead. Watch this space for any further developments in the takeover saga.
Aesthetic of the Country Road Brand
Country Road has the rare branding ability to attract a diverse target market that ranges from teenagers to mothers to business executives. The brand’s collections are particularly well-known for its staple timeless wardrobe classics that can be worn season after season. Each seasonal collection, features the signature brand silhouettes, a play on proportion, cut and colour, while ensuring the highest level of quality possible. A fresh approach to colour is at the core of everything collection, ensuring that the seasonal colour stories are consistent across all the brand’s product lines.
Country Road Sister Label: Trenery
In 2009, Country Road launched its sister fashion label, ‘Trenery’ after seeing a gap in the women’s and men’s apparel market, who are want on-trend design, with impeccable detail and a flattering fit. The Trenery brand focuses on quality, style and craftsmanship, to create collections that are both timeless and elegant. The womenswear line includes a smart/casual range, while the menswear range consists of smart/casual and work-wear lines. The Trenery product line is rounded out with seasonal accessories that compliment the menswear and womenswear ranges.
In August of 2009, the Trenery label launched in 16 Woolworths stores in South Africa, and in 6 standalone boutiques in Australia between September and November. In honour of its heritage, the brand is named after one of Country Road’s first commercial offices in Trenerry Crescent, Collingwood, Melbourne, Australia.