Sister Style: Meet fashion entrepreneurs Caroline & Alyce Tran

When it comes to the business of fashion, these sisters really are doing it for themselves – meet Sydney-based entrepreneur Alyce Tran, who began a career in law before making the leap to accessories and decor, inventing her own niche start-ups along the way. Then there is Caroline, a stylist and brand consultant, also a formidable dynamo, and someone that believes confidence-building is as crucial a component to fashion as its colour palette

You’re both so successful in your respective fields, style is a key element. How did you come to fall in love with fashion?

Alyce: “Our parents ran a newsagency and I remember Caroline and I would sit in the backroom flicking through magazines and pouring over Vogue. You could also say that [our mum] liked to shop for sport on the weekend, this was a Sunday ritual, we’d have dim sum and then head to the department store. Mum was always carting us around the shops. Caroline and I loved that time together, our parents worked so hard and this was our treat. So I think those moments formed part of our passion for style and a love for the whole shopping space.”

We know that you have always been close. Can you tell us a little bit about your relationship and how you supported each other throughout your careers:

Alyce: “We have never been competitive, I think that’s the biggest thing. I’m the older sister and as a child I was enamoured with Caroline, quite protective. In terms of our careers, I lean on her a lot when it comes to keeping my finger on the pulse and remaining in tune with what’s relevant. Caroline is very much in the zeitgeist, so she’s able to keep me on my toes.”

Caroline: “And I feel that Alyce is always pushing me, in the sense where I tend to hold all my work close to my chest, I find it hard to let go, she will always just push me to move forward. Alyce is very good at ticking off all those practical things, she’s not one to procrastinate, so I lean on her in that respect.”

Let’s talk about careers – Alyce, you studied law and went on to build your own accessory start-up, what motivated you?

“I was worked at a law firm and began working on this business idea with another lawyer, with no intention of anything really, the goal was just to make some extra money so we could buy the designer handbags we liked. It was meant to be a hobby but in the end that business caught [the consumer’s] imagination and grew to a size where it made sense for us to leave our jobs. It was an enormous amount of work but I've always had a lot of ideas going on at once. Now, having sold out of The Daily Edited I'm currently working three jobs trying to figure out which one will stick. It's a constant juggle but I like the work.”

Work ethic is such a constant theme throughout your career stories. Caroline, you also created a niche for yourself styling magazines. Can you tell us what drove your success?

“I was at Harper’s Bazaar for seven years, and in that role I wore so many hats, you had to be a chameleon in the sense that you get pushed in so many directions, it’s this wonderful crazy world. I'm so grateful for the experience and the discipline because I had the opportunity to work with the most incredible people, stylists, editors, photographers, and so I found myself really striving to be my best. Now that I am working freelance, I feel as though nothing's ever impossible, I always push everything to the limit.”

What life lessons have you learned from each other?

Alyce: “Caroline's very considered. She has a strong point of view, but she also holds back and allows a creative team to do their thing, and then she’ll come in with an overriding guiding opinion. I think that has been a wonderful lesson, you have to trust in the people around you.”

Caroline: “A lesson that I’ve taken from Alyce, and one that I really wish I'd practiced more in life, is just to get things done. I have an endless to-do list that never seems to go away, whereas Alyce just actions things. She would never leave someone waiting if they’ve reached out for help. I wish I could embody more of her motivation.”

Was that work ethic something that came from your parents, did they help guide you in terms of ambition and goals?

Alyce: “Definitely. They were always very supportive – but they're also equally very unimpressed. I think they always wanted us to keep pushing, to keep striving. It's not like they put any pressure on us to achieve specific things, certainly they themselves retired quite early in life, but I think they did constantly push us to think about what more we could do in life.”

Can you talk us through your edit from the OROTON collection, which pieces were you drawn to:

Alyce: “I've been buying a lot of OROTON pieces recently, I think [Creative Director] Sophie Holt has done such an incredible job, I'm really excited about the brand and her vision. The pieces are so easy to mix in with the clothes I've bought from previous seasons, and also so easy to match with my existing wardrobe. I feel like the life that I lead now is just super busy, a lot of it is in front of a Zoom screen, so I’m looking for pieces that look good on top, but also I am having to meet with clients in person more and more, and I don’t want to have to think about what I’m wearing in the morning, I just want to be able to quickly pull a suit from my wardrobe and go.”

Caroline: “I think OROTON has really successfully filled a niche, creating clothes to suit our Australian lifestyle, the mood is relaxed but still polished and effortless in terms of styling. You feel pulled together, but there is a certain ease about the clothing and accessories. Also, the fabrics are of such a high quality, the tailoring is impeccable, it all just melds seamlessly into one wardrobe. When you spend all day styling other people, you barely think about what you’re wearing. I just gravitate towards blazers, shirts and trench coats. And I feel that Sophie really understands that, she has this incredible aesthetic and has pushed the brand into the next generation.”

What are your thoughts on the new work uniform and the idea that we are dressing differently now for the office?

Caroline: “I think you need to throw out that whole idea of what a traditional work wardrobe looks like, we’re no longer off-duty or on-duty, I think it’s about finding pieces that work for both. Perhaps a blazer that you can wear to work, but then also pair back with jeans or a dress at the weekend. I think it's important to invest in those pieces that blend seamlessly in your life. There’s this sense that people are really into dopamine dressing – it’s all about individualism. I think OROTON appeals because of that, all the art prints and the colourful sets, the really great dresses. We are breaking down dress codes after spending time in lockdown, and I think we’re seeing this emergence of individual style. You want your clothes to embody your personality, fashion has to work harder these days.”

Alyce: “It's interesting because we're coming out of this strange period in time, two years of relaxed dressing. Now that things are slowly returning to some kind of new normal, I think there is this sense that it’s almost quite joyful to dress up, to embrace a more formal way of putting things together. I’m suddenly excited about investing in suits again. I think it’s interesting, too, because our sensibility has probably changed – I won't be choosing a dark suit, but rather something pale, or a colour, something uplifting.”

Can you both share a few tips in terms of dressing to feel good?

Alyce: “I definitely think, for me, it’s about looking neat, streamlined, pulled together. I'm not relying on getting a blow dry or my makeup done everyday, so my clothing has to be neat and tidy, it has to be my clothes that pull me together.”

Caroline: “I feel best when I feel like I am looking like myself – that means comfortable in my own style. I love a tailored trouser, a tank top, a blazer. I like to keep an eye out for those key pieces and remain true to my personal style, that’s when I look and feel most confident. For me, jewellery is also really important in terms of elevating and pulling a look together, and I’m the first to admit that I do now have a bag and shoe obsession. You can update any outfit with a great new heel or a really fun, colourful bag. I think that’s where your personality can come in and you can be a bit playful.”