The Heart of Retail

Claire FI

by Claire Cau-Cecile, original co-founder of Life Instyle

As the creative co-founder of Life Instyle I am excited to share with you my return to the event industry which comes at a pivotal time for retailers, wholesalers and event companies alike. The Sydney event is not far off and brings with it, the excitement of summer, a promised nourishment of your inner creative and allows you to set your wholesale and retail year on the right track.

When we began our small event in 2002 there was no Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or selling platforms like Etsy for young creatives.

Imagine starting a business based on reputation, with one on one meetings and word of mouth being your major marketing tool.

Large ads in established publications and shared communication with our exhibitors meant that many of these relationships were based on trust and good judgment, and there was a naivety to our plight that was also most respectful to our larger counterparts who knew how to pull together an event with great precision.

For many young importers and wholesalers, Reed Gift Fairs was impossible to get into. During a season where retail flourished and event companies didn’t have enough floor space to accommodate their existing clients, we had no other choice as wholesalers ourselves, than to find a solution to our problem.

Inspired by visiting overseas exhibitions like Maison & Objet there seemed to be at that point in time, a demand for a new way of doing things. The formula that we created with introducing Life Instyle was indeed based on being pioneers for a new way of trading.

We really catch phrased the words “curated,” “like minded” and “boutique.”

The growth was organic and authentic. Starting with a mere 5 people in a hotel room, one of them being the now international brand Kikki.K, we grew, small steps, never compromising our quality and always keeping our exhibitors informed on our decisions – asking them for feedback so we could grow together and indeed we did. To watch brands that started with Life Instyle evolve at the same time as we did was to be celebrated – ranges like VincentSaison, Milk & Sugar, Bianca Lorenne, Play Imports and Alan Myerson Jewellery, just to name a few, that still exhibit with Life Instyle today. Many friendships have formed through this creative community and these are the added bonuses that none of us expected.

Today we are spoilt for choice when it comes to trade fairs, exhibitions and design markets. Beautiful spaces that house upcoming designers selling their wares, whilst we sip on our lattes, order from food trucks or share a craft beer with friends. We could literally spend every weekend market hopping, and each one holds great credibility and has something unique to offer.

But going back to the formula that made Life Instyle so unique in 2002 was that it was the first fair of its kind, that we broke tradition and we maintained a level of caliber with both our exhibitors and our staff that was respectful to the arena we put ourselves in.

We understood our position in the game and we played by the rules.

We also realised in 2010 that it was time to hand our baby over to the big boys, not because we didn’t love what we did, but because we knew it would then have secured longevity as an event being in harmony with Reed Exhibitions and the industry calendar.

To work with Life Instyle again in an advisory role, presented an opportunity that had me initially curious to discover just how far the brand had come and what it may have grown into from the foundation I had created, yet my thoughts were soon put to rest when upon meeting the Life Instyle team, I realised how much they all understood what we had created with Life Instyle all those years ago and how respectful they were to the story behind the brand.

How their commitment to the brand is obvious in the continuous efforts to be at the head of their game, and to have the forethought to invite my feedback and input. The fact that the event is no doubt still the leading boutique trade fair on offer during the busy gift fair week.

I will finish sharing this personal story on the naming of Life Instyle.

It was 2005 and we were still trading as Trade Secrets. I was 35 weeks pregnant during the event and perhaps working a little too hard, so when my waters broke 2 days after bump out and I had to give birth to my second child, 5 weeks early, I was tired, emotional and still taking calls about the fair! After a short hospital stay and a premi baby in my arms, I opened up a legal letter from a large corporation stating we could not trade as Trade Secrets and it was in this very sleep deprived moment that I came up with the name Life Instyle. The brand name is so strong now, I sometimes forget the personal and professional growth that this business was formed on. With the birth of my daughter came the rebirth of the business and I am proud that I was a major part of this now well oiled and well-respected machine.

So once again, this coming Sydney February, I will walk the halls of the Hordern Pavilion and Royal Hall of Industries seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones. Don’t complain to me about the air conditioning or that the music is too loud – this is no longer my domain! However please do share your story with me as I have with you. As my dear friend and fellow Life Instyle supporter Kylie Lewis from Of Kin says “ when we share our stories we unlock stories in others.”

See you in Sydney!

Claire Cau-Cecile


FEATURE IMAGE AND HOME PAGE IMAGE CREDIT – Claire Caucecile, photographed by Claudio Oyacre at Plug2Studio.

1 Comment

  • Reply December 16, 2016

    Helmuth van Es

    Hi Claire Nice story to read!

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