I started out my 2023 trip to USA with a super early morning start.
Left home in the dark, and was at the airport for sunrise. Gorgeous sunrise, you can really tell the seasons are changing here in Australia as we slip from Winter into Spring.
I always take this super early flight to Sydney from our tiny town of Coffs Harbour, because if there is a possibility of a cancelled flight, I don't want that to mean I miss my big flight to USA from Sydney. So even though that meant many hours sitting in Sydney airport, I would rather that than the stress of missing the connection.
It happened to me once before, where my Coffs flight was cancelled and that meant I missed the Dallas flight. Since I am due to arrive at midnight in Florida, the night before set up day.... I have very little room for error here.
I decided to wear the new linen pants in Periwinkle for the flight. I was unsure how the linen would cope for such a long haul trip but it was perfect. A little creased, but not too bad at all. Such a cute color!
So flying out of my little local airport we always fly quite close to my home, which is nestled in a quiet green valley just 10 minutes from the beach. So nice to wave goodbye to the kids as I fly over.
The flight to Sydney from Coffs Harbour is just 1 hour, and the small Dash-8 plane follows the coastline south. In the early morning light it looks gorgous. The east coast of Australia seems to be one long big beach after another.
Flying over Sydney is the icing on the cake.... she is spectacular, especially on beautiful crisp morning. Love it when the view out the window gives a clear shot of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. What a beautiful harbour!
And now for the long wait in Sydney for the next flight to USA.
Of course I fill the hours on the laptop getting things ready for the tradeshow that I am travelling over for. I have been exhibiting at Surf Expo since 2007, and it is at this show that I always launch the next seasons collection. So there is always a lot of paperwork that needs doing - pricing and line sheets etc.
Being the "creative" type, I always leave those things till the last minute.
The flight from Sydney to Dallas takes 15-16 hours. Its a long way.... across the Pacific Ocean, which is the biggest ocean on our planet. Then we cross over Mexico and make our way up to Texas.
All went well.... I watched 3 movies, slept a lot (as it was night time for us) and enjoyed the break from the internet.
So here I am 24 hours after I left my house. I had just gone through immigration and customs, and dropped my baggage off at the bag-drop for its onward flight to Florida.
Last year when I dropped my bag at the baggage drop I didn't stick around to watch if they put my bag on the conveyor.... and then my bag didn't turn up. So this year, I was not taking any chances..... I did not leave until I saw my baggage loaded. I wanted to do it myself, but the baggage handler was not having that!
30 hours in, and YAY I made it to Florida and so did my baggage. Phew.
Last year I had to do the show set up day in the same clothes I had travelled in, and believe me that wasn't a good look!
32 hours since leaving home and I have made it to my condo, taken a much needed shower and hit the pillow. Sadly only got about 2 hours sleep as the body clock is all outa whack, but thats ok. I got this!
Set up day !! This is how we roll ladies...
All of the new collection samples have already been sent ahead of me, and are with my Florida sales rep Nancy. Nancy has an awesome sales rep vehicle with racks in the back. So we park at the show, pull out the roller racks and then load all of the samples onto 2 roller racks.
We also have all the sarongs, all the beach bags, and a steamer balanced on them. Its a delicate balancing act to roll everything in, making sure that nothing falls off, that we don't run the wheels over the new maxi dresses and making sure we don't collide with anyone or anything, but we are seasoned veterans. We got this!
It takes us about 4 hours to offload those 2 roller racks onto the pre-built display units. This professional booth I had built right before Covid hit - it was my first "big girl" booth ever. Previous to this we had a system of balancing a giant banner across the back wall, using 8 foot bamboo poles and a whole lot of packing tape.
It was very "home-madey" and the professional show builders around us would laugh at us bunch of girls who could build a whole booth with packing tape !
So this professional booth is a game changer. It is stored in a storage facility near St.Pete FL, and the guys get it out twice a year and bring it up to Orlando and build it for us. So awesome.
Day one of the show, and I chose to wear the new Hibiscus Dress. Love the length of this dress on my 5'10 body. Don't feel like it is too short. I think you are going to love this dress too ladies... and I loved it so much I had to do it in 3 colors!
I think I may need to cut back on Sarongs designs..... my sarong display is just an absolute BLAST of island color, I love that we have so much to offer, and the collection is not just "blue" anymore.
Each year I submit 2 outfits to the Surf Expo fashion show people. Its always fun to see how they put it together and I just loved what they did with this tunic and sarong combination.
Meet our Mid-Atlantic Sales Rep Ann, she is just awesome, and really works hard to bring our line to boutiques in coastal areas of NC, SC, GA and all those states in the middle. Ann has been in the fashion industry as buyer and a rep for a very long time, so I love how I can really bounce ideas of her and draw on her wealth of knowledge. She is also super creative and is always texting me ideas in the middle of the night as she too lies away designing new garments in her head.
Here are a couple of boutique buyers looking at the sarongs collection and trying to decide where to begin. Too much choice!
Here are some customers from the St.Pete FL area, who also stopped by to see the line and place their orders for Spring.
Meet Nancy, our Florida and Bahamas sales rep. Nancy is an awesome sales rep, she does a whole lot of miles in her trusty Rep-mobile visiting stores from Key West, all the way up to the Panhandle. We often have calls and meetings to talk about how things are going, so that I can hear her feedback from the boutiques, whats selling, what they like, what they don't. Feedback is crucial to the designer on the other side of the planet. Well you guys know how much I love that!
Here are our new sarongs on display @surfexpo. Everyone just loved the colors !
Then 3pm rolls around at the show, and I suddenly dip into jet lag tiredness. I don't know why but all 3 days of the show, it always seems to hit me at the same time. I mean 3pm Florida time is 5am the next day in Sydney, so I guess it feels like I have just pulled an all-nighter.
So after 3 busy show days, followed by catch up with so many friends, dinners, laughter, hugs and business, everyone goes off in different directions. Ann to the airport, Nancy back home to Fort Lauderdale with all the samples on board her show mobile, and I go back to the quiet condo all alone, and contemplate the last few days of FUN. Giggle to myself at the jokes and fun we had, and try to get some sleep before heading off to the airport the next day myself for the flight to Nashville.
Flying to Nashville this year was easier than previous years, as my travel agent found a direct flight from Orlando with Spirit. Amazing... just a few short hours and I was there. Whereas previously I have had to fly via Charlotte or other outa-the-way places.
Once in Nashville I rented a car. Now I chose the "wild card" and had no idea what I was getting, but I ended up with cute little Chevy electric vehicle. Loved it. Very zippy, and had over 200 miles of juice in the batteries, so I didn't even need to recharge it. FUN!
I took your advice island girls and stayed in Franklin, the cutest little town just outside Nashville. I loved it, it was quiet, and had the most adorable quaint little downtown area, I felt safe, and I found a Mexican restaurant and had my favourite tacos. Happiness !
Next job.... 3 days in our warehouse to have a look at our boxes, and snoop around and get in everyones way! The warehouse is enormous and houses 100 different vendors. This is how they organise things.... There are different sections, and then all the rows in each section are numbered. So here we are in Section 5 (home of WIW) and row 13.
Once in Row 13, you head down to the bay numbered G - and the top shelf is G01, next shelf down is G02, G03 and G04.
Makes it incredible easy to find anything at all.
I discovered that some of our items were being stored in multiple locations, and that happens because each season I airfreight in a small number of units so that our Caribbean Accounts can start their winter season with NEW things.... and then when the ocean freight shipment arrives 2 months later the warehouse puts them all into a new location. So we end up with some in both locations.
I spent 3 days in the warehouse going down each row and checking inside every box. If I found more in another location I consolidated them both into one box. Time consuming, and very dirty physical work.
This was the boxes I cleared out on day 1. Its a lot right!
After 2 more days everything was hurting haha, and I was relieved I could now go home. Trouble is that I only got through about half of our rows, so that means there is a whole lot waiting for me next year.
Its always interesting to see how they pack our orders. As I was organising boxes in the rows, the warehouse people would come by me picking things out for orders they were shipping. This is Bree's desk. She ships a lot of your orders, and I loved how she had the post cards and little business cards on hand.
So after 3 days hard work in the warehouse I drove back to the Nashville Airport, returned the rental car, and checked in for my 30 hour journey home to Australia. I was hoping to get a shower in Minute Suites in Nashville airport, but alas this facility did not have showers. Oh well !
So quick flight to Dallas, run to my next flight and made it just in time. I was one of the last people to board, and the staff told me they didn't think my luggage would make it as apparently AA take 45 minutes to offload the baggage. Oh well, doesn't matter if my luggage doesn't arrive on the way home!
This is the last flight in a 6 flight journey. Love flying out over Sydney. This is the stunning Hawkesbury River, just north of Sydney. Look at all the little yachts down there. My parents sailed a lot there with us as kids. Happy memories.
Here is my plane coming in to Coffs Airport. My mum sent me this photo as she waited for me. She was happy to have me home.
And just like that I am back home in my green valley. Phew. A nice cup of tea and it hardly feels like I went anywhere. Except for the jetlag and the very sore muscles from all that physical work in the warehouse haha. I am feeling a little older than I normally do.
Thanks for having me USA..... Its always wonderful to visit, but also wonderful to come home to my babies.