Gillian Corban and Amanda Blair, cousins and Co-Owners of Corban & Blair are continuous innovators, who have ridden the stormy waves of business together for thirty three years. With a keen eye for future trends, allied with a focus on sustainability and local production, the unique Australian products they create through various artistic collaborations continue to delight corporate and retail customers alike.
Bushfires, floods and a global pandemic were merely the most recent of many significant challenges this intrepid duo have faced down and weathered along their business journey. We caught up with them to hear how they adapted their approach to keep surviving and thriving in business, through an unprecedented year.
How did changing Corban & Blair’s direction in response to the bushfire and floods, put you ahead of the curve in responding to COVID?
We had been working on scenarios to manage the effect of bushfires and floods with a mindset to adapt to unforeseen events. We had no idea that COVID-19 would be our challenge. We had planned to move our warehouse closer and start making more products in-house (going back to our roots). So, we moved more quickly to do this; shifted and organised a new warehouse and set up small manufacture and sample making in our building.
This enabled us to meet the changed needs of our customers, who wanted items that were personal, authentic and Australian.
How have you collaborated with suppliers and artists over the last year?
A new initiative was to create a Window Gallery in our next door premises. This was to support local creatives. We started with large canvases by Naomi Simson (Red Balloon), and supported the Australian Design Centre’s Design Isolate Project and Craft Week with an exhibition of artworks.
For NAIDOC week we exhibited our Indigenous collaborators and sold a large painting for Thomas Avery. These were just some of the exhibitions we have had. We are located by the entrance to Lewisham Station, so we have people passing by.
What are some of the changing trends you see in consumers and businesses purchasing behaviour?
Our business clients are keen to support locally made and owned businesses. They need something authentic to communicate their values and messages to staff and clients that are thoughtful and personal and not wasteful.
We have also increased the type of information and stories we add to our products, to help people understand the design and making process and their provenance.
How does Corban & Blair live its values?
We have always made products in Australia and are now increasing this by manufacturing in-house. We are using our Window Gallery to communicate how we can all support the environment, installing Solar on our building, supporting other creative initiatives with artists, writers, poets and young business people starting out.
We mentor for Mentor Walks Australia. We also continue to collect boxes to reuse from local businesses and in our neighbourhoods. Neighbours continue to drop newspapers for us to use as packaging. We label our orders with this message about how we recycle boxes and newspaper for packaging.
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