Award-winning designer Christian Kimber aims to change the global image of Australian men.
“We are trying to redefine Australian men’s fashion with clothing that’s based around our climate and our lifestyle,” he said.
The softly spoken 31-year-old’s impeccably tailored clothing can be worn either to the office or social events.
“We do well overseas because we are selling the concept of the Australian lifestyle, and everyone wants the Australian lifestyle, right?”
Demand for his label, which sells alongside some of the world’s top brands, is rising among leading department stores in Hong Kong and mainland China, Europe and the USA.
Christian Kimber grew up in the coastal town of Hastings, south-east of London, in a bed and breakfast run by his mother Annamaria Del Lucia. He learned at an early age about the importance of friendly retail service.
“My mum always made people feel good, and they came back because of that feeling,” Kimber said.
“If you’re going to a shop you want to have a good experience.
“Even if people just come in to buy socks, we want them to leave feeling loved.”
Christian Kimber learned his trade in London, studying at night school while working days in the industry.
In London, Christian Kimber met his future Australian wife Renuka.
"When Renuka had to come back to Australia, I decided to come with her,” he explained.
Arriving in Melbourne six years ago, Christian discovered men’s fashion was at a cross-road.
“I felt Australian men didn’t have an identity in the way they dressed, and set about changing that,” he told SBS Small Business Secrets.
“Everyone wants to look like 35-year-old James Bond,” he said with a trademark smile.
Christian Kimber’s first foray into Australian fashion began with a line of footwear, including some with hand-painted soles made from recycled rubber.
“When we started, our shoes were sold in some of the biggest chains,” said Kimber.
“Slowly we’ve grown into clothing, it was a natural progression.
“I like to do top to toe, so our client gets a complete look.”
Christian Kimber operates from an eponymous menswear store in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy. His clothing range is made by small family-owned factories.
“I [work with] a factory in Brunswick, 10 minutes from the store. We have another factory in Bulgaria, Sofia and three or four in Italy.”
“Most of our fabrics are sourced in Italy, which makes the best fabrics in the world.”
His focus on quality is paying off.
Christian Kimber won the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival National Designer award in 2019.
The award recognises designers in their first five years of business who excel in areas such as creative design, fashion innovation and manufacturing standards.
Christian Kimber has slowly grown international networks, after being introduced to foreign buyers and journalists by Global Victoria global.vic.gov.au
“We get online orders from countries like Taiwan as well as Japan and Singapore,” Kimber said.
Advice from Global Victoria’s has also helped to protect his brand.
“Global Victoria put us in touch with a lawyer because I was asking a lot of advice about trademarks.
“Now we are registered in China, and globally.
“It’s a ripple effect and it helps to have Global Victoria mentors [available] to ask questions. They will advise on structures and tell us who to speak with [in various countries] and that is invaluable for a small business.
“If anyone had told me as a kid that I would be selling things globally I’d be pretty happy with that.”
“Business Victoria has also been incredibly supportive and they helped put us on a pedestal, and helped customers discover what we do business.vic.gov.au
“As a small business based in Melbourne with customers all around Australia, Business Victoria has been massively supportive.
Kimber also says his clients come from a variety of backgrounds.
“A lot of guys in creative industries, architects and a lot of finance guys who are dressing a bit more casual now or if not, wear our clothing on a Friday,” he said.
“Each day we have a 65 or 70-year-old come in and a 25-year-old and they are so different in what they need [but] they all react the same way - they like beautiful things.
Christian Kimber has a new Melbourne CBD shopfront opening soon, and steady growth projected for 2020.
“It’s definitely not an overnight success. It’s been a five-year journey to get to this point, a lot of hard work and a lot of late nights.
“Anyone who runs a small business knows that it takes grit and determination to keep going.”