Work from Home - Founder Ana at Kolona Boutique HQ

Online retail continues to grow in Australia with an estimated worth of $22.1 billion last year, a 7% increase on the year before thanks to successful online fashion stores like The Iconic, Boohoo and ASOS. 

As the market continues to grow it is also constantly evolving.

One of those players who is adding her touch to that evolvement is 25-year-old SUGA Ana Faavae-Ablett who only last week, launched her online store Kolona Boutique after years of envisioning her own fashion business.

“Clothes has always been my passion.  I’ve always tried to come up with looks that are different and unique so a career in fashion was a natural choice,” she says.  “ Even though, I’m not a designer, selling clothes was something I dreamt of – to help girls pick out styles for themselves.”

The trendy SUGA grew up in Leauva’a, Samoa before moving to Wellington, New Zealand for her high school education at St Mary’s.  From there it was on to fashion capital Melbourne, Australia where she currently resides.

‘Kolona’ named after her beloved late great-aunty, hints that her business and collection are influenced by a tinge of culture – one that she can use to differentiate from other online stores.

The beautiful Sahara dress – Kolona Boutique | Model: Manisha Solanki

“I think my fashion sense is probably edgy and church.  I like to go for those one off pieces and pieces I havn’t seen anywhere else.

“My target market are women from all different backgrounds.  Later on I’ll be looking into doing plus- size for curvy ladies when I find a good supplier.  It’s quite hard as most of the suppliers I go through don’t do plus sizes which is quite disappointing, but definitely on the cards.”

Like many SUGA entrepreneurs, Ana juggled her start-up venture with her full-time job, doing much of her planning after-hours and at lunchtimes.

Who said island girls can't wear indian-style pants? Ana's friends model Kolona Boutique clothing
Who said island girls can’t wear indian-style pants? Ana’s friends model Kolona Boutique clothing

“I had no idea how to start up! I was always dreaming about it but I was too scared to take that step until last year I decided ‘no more talk, just do it!’ So I started doing my research and applying for the right licences, finding suppliers and so forth.”

She says although capital took some time to generate, she is relieved that online stores are much more cost-effective to set up than a physical store.  She also enjoyed the process of sourcing and selecting outfits as well as organising photoshoots for her official website where her own friends modelled her clothes.

Ana at friend Sai Dobui doing what they love - attending fashion shows |Melbourne Fashion Festival
Ana anf friend Sai Dobui doing what they love – attending fashion shows | Melbourne Fashion Festival

“I think these days online shopping has taken over. People find it easy to shop online from the comfort of their own home as it saves them time.  Online also offers a wider range of different products that you don’t always see in shops.”

She is excited about her new winter range.

“It’s that time of long coats, long sleeve dresses and jumpers. I want my customers to feel good in them as it gives me joy when they are happy with my products.”

The Harlem coat is warm and sophisticated during winter – Kolona Boutique | Model Manisha Solanki

The online women’s clothing sales industry in Australia has thrived over the past five years as online retailers benefit from a substantial shift in the way consumers are conducting transactions.

Ibisworld industry analyst Lauren Magner says that many factors play a part, such as the convenience and ease of shopping online from home or work, social media and technology in general – all of which contribute to a surge in demand.

“Rapid growth in internet and broadband penetration, combined with greater improvements to security and payment systems, has encouraged many consumers to shop online, she says.

Traditional retailers are finding themselves setting up online operations to complement their existing in-store sales. Growth in online shopping through smartphones and tablets provide these existing retailers with the opportunity to reach a wider audience.

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