Designer + Creative Director / OnceWas
There’s definitely something about Belinda Glynn. The former South African, now head designer of chic Australian women’s brand, OnceWas is poised, down to earth and dripping with talent.
Personally, I am obsessed with Belinda’s work. Perfectly on point, with a distinctive element of that special something that has engrossed women for years, Belinda is the perfect person to take us deep into the Australian Fashion Industry and how to master it. Trust me.
In my opinion, Belinda is the perfect woman to take us deep into the Australian Fashion Industry and how to master it. Listen up girls, this #careerstory is ferocious – I mean how else can you describe a babe that traveled across the globe to start her career?
In this interview, Belinda chats about life as a full-time designer, who her role models are and what her must-have tips are for girls wanting to get into the industry.
So excited for this one…
Hi Belinda, Welcome to The Cool Career. Can you tell us where you grew up and how your experience shaped the person you are today?
I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa and moved down to Durban (6 hours from Joburg) to study fashion when I was 17. I think moving away from home and all my friends and family, at a young age made me very independent and resilient – which are traits that have stood me in good stead in my career.
What an incredible start. So, where di you go to High School and how was that experience for you?
My parents wanted to give me the best start in life and sent me to an all-girls private school in Johannesburg. The school placed a huge amount of emphasis on sports, maths and curriculum that would earn them a high reputation amongst the top private schools – unfortunately, none of the art subjects I excelled in fell into this category.
Thankfully, my family always encouraged my passion for creative and artistic pursuits, even if my school did not.
Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?
Although I was never very competitive at school, I think being schooled in a competitive environment made me quite ambitious in anything I set my mind to. I can’t really say that my school played a significant role in helping me choose my career path as I pretty much knew that I wanted to be a designer from the first time I was able to hold a crayon.
Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.
I was fortunate enough to intern at one of the largest vertical clothing manufacturers in South Africa which gave me a great overall insight into the workings of the garment industry, from a sophisticated factory floor, right through to the merchandising team at head office.
Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
As previously mentioned, I moved across the country to study at Natal Tech. At the time, Natal Tech had the best fashion school in South Africa, only accepting the top applicants from around the country. Although it was daunting moving to a new city on my own, it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. They ran two fashion courses, one being design focused and the other focused on production and merchandising. I chose the design course where I knew I’d finally get an opportunity to focus on my creative strengths. It was a comprehensive 3-year course which balanced design with a strong grounding in practical courses such as pattern construction, garment manufacture, and textiles.
Tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights.
My first job when I arrived in Melbourne was with a small but rapidly growing wholesaler which taught me the ins and outs of the industry from the ground up. I started as a product developer and account manager working with customers such as Sportsgirl, Target and Witchery which gave me great commercial experience. Designing for OnceWas has definitely been my most rewarding role so far, with many highlights along the way, such as being selected as a finalist in the Saks Fifth Avenue Emerging Designer Showcase.
Congratulations Belinda, that is awesome. So how did you get the job at OnceWas?
It was at the first company I worked for that I met and worked with Emma O’Connor, the director of OnceWas and Mission Brown and how I came to design for OnceWas years later.
What is the hardest part of your current job?
To be honest, I find this one of the most challenging aspects – interviews and self-promotion. I would much rather quietly get on with the job behind the scenes but I’m coming to the realisation that marketing myself is almost as important as marketing the brand. Customers want to know who is behind the brands they buy and they want to be able to connect with the story just as much as the product.
Couldn’t agree with you more Belinda. As a consumer, I love to know the faces behind the brands. So let’s dive into your current day. What does a day a typical business day look like?
I very rarely know what each day has in store for me and gave up trying to plan my days a long time ago.
Each day is usually a juggle of fittings, following up with factories, working out marketing plans, budgets, costings and production schedules, accessing sales and inventory, planning photo shoots and designing everything from ranges to lookbooks and marketing collateral.
Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
I don’t think I had one specific inspiration but was always in awe of European designers such as Saint Laurent, Galliano, Gaultier and McQueen, especially growing up in South Africa which was so isolated from the rest of the world.
What advice would you give girls who are interested in a career in the fashion industry?
I would say that they need to be aware that this industry is not as glamorous as it seems from the outside. and you need to be quite tough and resilient to survive.
As my father asked me when I was trying to decide on a career path “What would you do if you weren’t getting paid for it?” If the answer isn’t fashion, this is not the career for you.
List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession?
- Favourite Websites: Moda Operandi; Vogue.com; Matches
- Name an Instagram Account that you can’t go a day without checking: There’s no one specific account I check. I love just falling down rabbit holes in Insta – searching for something specific and finding something completely different.
- Favourite Netflix Series: I don’t have Netflix but can’t wait for the next series of West World.
- Favourite all-time book/s: The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho.