Goal Digger Series - Kylie Zerbst

Posted by Adam Jelic on


Meet our next goal digger, Kylie Zerbst, Founder and Creative Director at Obus - a much-loved Aussie brand known for its original prints, timeless clothing and unique accessories. What started as a ‘one-woman show’ over 20 years ago, has now evolved into a small but dedicated team, with two brick-and-mortar stores in inner Melbourne, a busy online store, and a bustling head office and design studio in Northcote. The secret to their long-term success? Strong community values, an unshakeable vision and a focus on quality and considered design for the people who love it. 

We’re excited to chat to Kylie about what inspires her, her proudest moment and how a copy of Lonely Planet (India) changed her worldview. 

Tell us about your "aha" moment with OBUS. 

Gosh that's a hard one to start! Given that Obus has been around for more than 20 years, there have been many aha-moments. Obus has grown in a very organic way, so the twists and turns have been many. Probably the two biggest things we realised was that we were better off vertical (rather than wholesaling) and also learning that the team is EVERYTHING.

2020 has been challenging so far, how do you stay focused and what keeps you inspired? 

I feel very lucky to be able to run my own business. It's super stressful a LOT of the time, but along with that comes a lot of creative freedom, and also the ability to work in a way that suits me. We work in a totally collaborative way at Obus, which is inspiring in itself -  one of the best things about my day is working with an amazingly diverse group of smart and dedicated women. We don't always get things right, which can be disappointing after so much hard work, but a lot of the time we do, and the collective feeling of being proud of what we do is really something.

What does your morning routine look like? 

I'm not the bounce out of bed type, so it starts with as many cuddles with my son Orlo as we can (literally) squeeze in before my partner Simo drags us out of bed. A quick brekky together and then one of my favourite parts of the day is to walk Orlo to school. We are out of the house and the morning scramble is done - so it's fresh air and taking in the sights and sounds together - which feels like such a good way to get the day going for me.

Give us three of your best work from home tips. 

Luckily we have a new work area at home - it's tiny but feels fresh and focussed. It’s not part of our living area which helps for switching between work and home vibes - I used to work in our kitchen which made me feel hungry all day!

  • For me having a handwritten list of my to do’s for the day is a total must for staying focussed, and ticking those things off - big or small - feels the BEST. 
  • I like to break up my workday at home with short breaks of getting stuff done around the house. This might not be the best advice for most people but for the days when I'm feeling less motivated, this helps me get motivated!
  • Plants and a few of Orlo's drawings are a must within my work space - both of these things make me happy and remind me of the bigger picture no matter how I may be feeling.

Podcast or playlist - what are you currently listening to?

Orlo is seven and pretty into music so we've been watching a few music documentaries together. He currently loves the Beatles, which I've been listening to as well. 

What's the best advice you've received and who was it from? 

I literally cannot think of anything right now, but I have a super bad memory so I'd better not stew on that! I guess anyone who has ever told me to "Chill out" or "Relax" has probably hit the nail on the head there.

What's your proudest achievement? 

We’ve manufactured the majority of Obus products locally since we began, and it’s not always been easy - but ensuring high ethical standards and minimal environmental impact at every stage of production is getting easier as brands and customers demand it. It's important to us that we are helping to support the local industry and economy, and it’s something the entire team at Obus is very proud of.

What's the first book you read that changed your worldview?

I would have to say Lonely Planet (India). I took my first trip overseas - to India, when I was 21. For someone who had barely travelled out of Victoria, let alone Australia, spending those months in India totally blew my mind. It changed the way I thought about pretty much everything and was a real turning point for me.

How has your definition of success changed from the start of your career until now? 

In the past, success at Obus was more connected to ego - things like how many stockists we had in Japan or USA. To be honest, I'm not great at linking success with financial goals, to the endless frustration of my amazing business manager Nat. For me, personally within Obus, it's measured by how much I love our collections, how much time I get to work on the creative parts of the business. And bigger than all of that - how much I manage to switch off from Obus (which is often all-encompassing) to really focus on life.

What are the three things you’re grateful for today? 

As a result of COVID, I really have a sense of how extremely loyal our Obus customer is. This is something that has been so heartening and inspiring, and I'm feeling grateful for that every day right now. Also, on the home front - knowing our little family of three is healthy, and that Orlo is happy to be back at school!

Check out obus.com.au and follow @obusclothing on Instagram!

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