With killer looks and a style to envy, we caught up with one of our favourite women for our next Ladies We Love series, owner of the highly popular fashion boutique that is Argentina, Maria Alejo.
Thank you so much for featuring Margie! Can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you grew up, your passions & hobbies?
So honoured to be featured!
I grew up in Geelong, I loved playing netball all through my primary and high school years, I have a visual arts background and also loved photography.
My passion has always been fashion, as a young teenager I would keep magazine clippings of supermodels walking down the runway and my mother taught me to sew so I was forever trying to replicate clothing, which of course was a massive fail!
How did you venture into the fashion industry? What were you doing before you started Argentina?
My first job at 15 years old was in a shoe store, then I went on to work at Sportsgirl while finishing high school and stayed there while studying in Melbourne.
Before Argentina I was living overseas and travelling around Europe for a couple of years working at Zara in Edinburgh.
I returned to study Fashion and Textile Merchandising at RMIT, and it gave me all the tools to start preparing for my store.
Argentina is well-known as the only real boutique available around Geelong (and is our lunch time pit stop at least once a week!) Can you tell us how it came about and when it first opened?
While I was living in Edinburgh my friends and I were sitting around brain storming ideas, like many young 20 years old we were desperate to find our perfect career!
We were busy writing what we loved and what we were good at. I then had my light bulb moment and I realised that owning my own business was my dream job!
In 2009 I launched Argentina. I wanted it to be a destination store (hence the name, which also happens to be my middle name).
I wanted to create a unique space that showcased Australia’s top labels that were only available in Melbourne.
Argentina is now 8 years old and I’m super proud of how far we’ve come!
Talk us through the brand and products you can find in Argentina…
Argentina is a one stop shop where you can find the perfect dress, shoes & accessories to match.
What do you love about owning your own business? What are some of the challenges you face?
There’s nothing more rewarding than working for yourself, knowing you can give it your all and reap the rewards.
Being in control of my work hours mean that I can still do the school drop offs with the kids and never miss out on any really important days as I can organise time off, being a mother is my greatest priority so a flexible work schedule and to be present for my family is the greatest reward.
The flip side to all of freedom of owning my own business is that the responsibility lies with me and there is a certain vulnerability and pressure in making all of my own decisions to keep my business current.
The nature of retail has changes to 24 hour sales and customers instant gratification, which means working unconventional hours and being in constant demand of customers, staff and sales reps. So, it can become difficult to balance work and family life and finding the time to “switch off” and relax is something that is a contestant learning curve. I have made it a goal to find more balance between work and life.
Who are some of the clients you’ve dressed over the years? Is there anyone in particular that you loved working with, or a certain style that was your favourite?
Over the years we have been fortunate to dress many unique and beautiful women for various events. It’s especially fun to provide inspiration for events like the Spring Racing Carnival as it allows us to add some extra glam to the looks.
Renee Enright has been a close friend and long time supporter of our store, she is such an open and warm person and this comes through in her style. She is definitely one of our favourite stylists, we love her confidence and she’s not afraid to think outside the square when putting looks together.
What do you love about Geelong? And why did you choose Pakington Street for Argentina?
When I was growing up, Geelong was a much smaller town and and I felt limited in terms of what it offered, but after travelling and working overseas and Melbourne I learned to appreciate my home town and what Geelong had to offer.
Its close to the beach and only an hour away from Melbourne.
In particular, Geelong West, is where our kids go to school, where we have our business and where we live.
The community feel in Geelong is great, we all know each other, which makes it home. Pakington Street has an evolving food and retail scene and over the years I’ve realised there is no place like home, so it just made scene to be here.
What does a day in the life of Margie look like?
5.30am: Roll out of bed.
6.00am: Go to training at the Training Room Geelong.
7.00am: Sneaky coffee with a girlfriend.
8.00am: Kids ready for kinder & school.
9.00am: On the road to Melbourne for my first appointment at 10am, I like to be back in store by the afternoon.
3.00pm: Check in on the girls in store and catch up on the week.
5.30pm: Pick kids up from Grandma’s, catch up for a family dinner (spoilt that dinner is cooked)!
7.00pm: Bath kids, snuggle in bed and read books.
8.00pm: “Try” to get the kids to bed!
8.30pm: Catch up on emails, update online store and social media.
10.00pm Bed. I’m buggered!
If you had a bucket list, what would be number one on your list?
Sailing around the Carribean, family in tow- cocktail in one hand (on a luxury yacht, of course!)
Lastly, what’s next for you?
Both kids are at school next year which allows me to focus more on work. I would love to look at expanding, so watch this space!