Penny Brown

Female Leader, Penny Brown, Ryder

Penny Brown, Founder and Designer of the Ryder Label, draws her creative inspiration from her childhood family holidays on the Australian coast. Her Melbourne born women’s clothing line evokes a relaxed, country aesthetic. Ryder was founded in 2012, originally as a diffusion line from the Arabella Ramsay collection, based on denim and leather.

Penny has taken Ryder on an incredible growth trajectory in five years, and the label is now stocked internationally, having expanded into the USA. Penny’s design philosophy is based on vintage inspired, wardrobe staples, and unique seasonal prints. The collections are intended to be enduring closet ‘favourites’ rather than one season wonders.

How did you raise the capital to start Ryder and bring your relaxed and unique Australian style to market? 

The launch strategy for the brand actually enabled us to self fund our first few seasons. With strong key wholesale accounts including Myer for season one, we were able to have a solid base to run the brand online, with limited overheads. I actually ran the first few seasons from my parents spare room to alleviate those initial financial strains.

You started working for Arabella Ramsay when you were studying Nutrition and Dietetics at university. How did this professional relationship influence your career path? 

Working with Arabella had a huge influence on my career path and has led to what I am doing today. I was lucky enough to be heavily involved in keeping a small operation ticking over during my studies. It was a huge learning curve and a very enjoyable one. I loved health and wellbeing as a career path, but I fell in love with the creativity and the intensity of running a label and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else today. 

How did you first make in-roads into the US market? 

It was luck and timing! I was consistently emailing a few retailers in the US that I felt aligned with what we were doing. I didn’t hear back for a few seasons, then luckily enough an Australian buyer at Urban Outfitters fell in love with one of our lookbooks. After a couple of collaborations and trips to the USA, we quickly saw there was a demand for what we were creating, and as a result we had to quickly learn about a very different market to Australia!  

We know much about your fashion style. What is your leadership style? 

I love to be on the same level with everyone I work with. A key driver of our team is sharing a passion and working towards the same goal. I try to keep the workplace engaging and dynamic – and involve all my staff in the evolution of the brand. 

How do you make time to fuel your creativity? 

It is tricky to take time off when there isn’t really a quiet period in the year. The best way for me to get time off is to see an little opening in my schedule and jump on a plane! I am usually booking a few days rest and relaxation with 24 hours notice. I trust my staff implicitly which helps me to take some time off every now and again. 

What’s been your greatest challenge? 

Seasonality! Especially being a Melbourne brand I am finding the length of the seasons and the late “seasonal” change-overs quite a challenge. We are moving towards more trans-seasonal product and focussing on the months we are confident in. This becomes even more of a challenge when selling in the northern hemisphere, where winter has another meaning!

What are you most proud of? 

Creating a brand that has consistently remained true to itself. In such a fast moving industry and shoppers becoming more and more savvy it is easy to lose track of what you are doing. My hope is for Ryder to still be relevant in ten years and not to follow fleeting fashions. I think our organic and controlled growth has allowed me to maintain a sense of control and hopefully this continues for many seasons to come. 

What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders? 

There is always something to learn, and always someone who has done something before you. Talk to people, find people who inspire you and continually have an open mind. You never know what will come your way. 

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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Founder

Mother, wife, daughter, determined dreamer. Lover of books. Background in Human Resources leadership in global organisations.