Money & Career

How To Launch A Cult Brand, According To Five Women Who Have

From start-up to success

The founders of Bed Threads, State of Escape, and We Are Kindred share their secrets to creating a cult brand. 

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Three weeks after Genevieve Rosen launched her linen label Bed Threads, she sold out of stock. It was August 2017 and Rosen had spent the two years prior developing the product. “Selling out was so validating. Before we launched, I struggled with self-doubt and felt very vulnerable. I’d put my heart and soul into the brand’s vision and [selling out] confirmed we were genuinely servicing the market,” explains Rosen, 29, who had a specific vision – an honest, accessibly priced, direct-to-consumer, online, pure linen bedding brand with carbon -neutral delivery and plastic-free packaging.

Before the brand’s grassroots launch, Rosen and her business partner/husband Alan built Bed Threads Instagram following to 2000. In the first few months, influencers Carmen Hamilton, Jasmine Dowling and Emilie Ristevski of Hello Emilie all posted about the brand, building hype among their combined two million followers. Bed Threads now has 43,000 Insta followers, and a distinct aesthetic. “We’re very inspired by art, the modernist period and artists such as Picasso and Modigliani,” explains Rosen of her carefully curated grid and “luxurious but accessible” style.


While a solid social media following certainly helped, Rosen says her product is at the heart of the business’ success. “Since launching, I’ve learnt your product is everything. You can have the best photography, chicest stylist and the prettiest website, but if your product doesn’t serve a genuine gap, it won’t matter,” explains Rosen, who has expanded her signature bedding line from six colour shades
to 16, including turmeric and lavender pantones.

Year on year, the business has grown by 500 per cent and Rosen has had an overwhelming response from her customers, who are mostly millennial women aged 24 to 35. “We’ve shipped orders everywhere from Texas to Tel Aviv and Ohio to Ireland. We’ve had people buy bedding sets in every single colour, and at Christmas time people have bought a set for every single person in their family. It’s really humbling to be entrusted with someone’s sleep and let into their bedroom,” says Rosen, a sleep evangelist. “I think good linen is the start of a good night’s sleep.” And a great night’s sleep is priceless.



It is physically impossible to walk through Toorak or Mosman without seeing someone carrying a State of Escape bag. Even after seven years, the brand’s founders Brigitte MacGowan and Desley Maidment still get a kick seeing their bags in the wild. “We still get such a buzz,” says Maidment, 45. “It’s a huge compliment and one we never take for granted.”

Since taking over Australia’s most a affluent suburbs, the brand’s unique neoprene tote has also gone global. Having partnered with international retailers Lane Crawford, Neiman Marcus, Incu and Bassike, State of Escape is currently stocked in Asia, Europe and the US. Fans include style queen Olivia Palermo, comedian Celeste Barber and Hollywood legends Naomi Watts and Isla Fisher. Their signature Escape bag has evolved over the years with new styles, different colourways and even a men’s range (sold in Japan).

Despite their world domination, State of Escape has stayed true to who they are – and in true Aussie style, haven’t developed a big head. “We’ve worked very hard on the quality of the craftsmanship. We produce each and every bag by hand to order in Sydney; even after all these years the process has not changed,” explains creative director MacGowan, 46.

The attention to detail is what sets the brand apart, not to mention the product’s functionality. “The most consistent feedback we get is from customers saying they had no idea how much they needed a bag like ours in their life,” says Maidment.



Standing backstage at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia in a flurry of hairspray, paisley fabric and runway-ready models, Lizzie and Georgie Renkert are pinching themselves. The sisters, who launched the label We Are Kindred in 2013, list fashion week as the highlight of
their year. “To see all the hard work come together is so rewarding. Fashion week is the one time of the year we get to show what we do in its entirety,” says Georgie, 37, who showcased the brand’s Boheme Heart resort 2020 collection alongside Lizzie in May.

“The new collection uses a lot more natural fibres, and introduces duck-egg blue, soft mustard and paisley to our colour palette. We want to wear all of it, which is always a good sign,” adds Lizzie, 43. With its trademark oral prints and feminine designs, We Are Kindred has become a staple on the fashion scene and built a loyal following over the past six years, including Aussie Insta-royalty Elyse Knowles, Jennifer Hawkins and Erin Holland. They have more than 58,500 Instagram followers, are stocked in 60 retail destinations around the world including Farfetch online, Bloomingdale’s in Dubai and even Cherry Red in Mudgee. Their iconic Lotus design has a constant waitlist and has been recut every season to meet demand, in new colours and styles. “It’s a one-of-a-kind dress, and people just fall in love with it,” says Lizzie of the Lotus’ popularity.

As they prepare to open a store in Sydney’s Paddington and plan their expansion into the US, the sisters say knowing their customer is the secret to their long-hard-slog success. “We know who the Kindred girl is and we design with her in mind,” explains Georgie. And those girls just wanna have fun. “You can’t take fashion too seriously. We want our customers to feel amazing when they wear We Are Kindred. It’s like having a good hair day; you’re just a nicer person,” says Lizzie.

This article originally appeared in the August issue of marie claire. 

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