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International Women’s Day | Q&A with our hero

Meet Amelia, our fearless leader who brought Havaianas to Australian shores 21 years ago. We are celebrating International Women’s Day by shining a spotlight on the amazing woman who founded Aqueo Import and Distribution (the official importer and distributor of Havaianas in Australia).

Havaianas were birthed in Brazil in 1962, but we can thank the presence of the brand in Australia to one inspiring woman, Amelia Maribondo-Aspden.

We admire her accomplishments and are excited to share her success story. Read on for a Q&A with Amelia.

Question 1: Tell us about your Havaianas journey.

[Smiles] Wow. Okay, this is a long story… how can I tell this story in two minutes…

When I first arrived in Australia in the 90’s [originally Amelia is from Brazil], I didn’t have a job or any qualifications. I borrowed some money from a friend and decided that I wanted to start my own business. I tried a few things and eventually landed on importing bikinis from Brazil to sell to Australian surf stores. Some of my very first clients were Surf Dive ‘N Ski and Beach Culture.

During a trip to Brazil in 1997, I re-discovered Havaianas. The brand had been around since 1962, but up until this point Havaianas hadn’t been available in mono-colour styles [Havaianas until 1997 were produced with a white base and coloured strap + sole]. I thought this was a big opportunity for me as the new mono colours were exciting and the brand couldn’t be widely found outside of Brazil.

I first asked Alpargatas [Brazilian company that owns the Havaianas brand] for a few samples to show my Australian bikini contacts and they sent me 200 pairs, which was the scraps of whatever they had left over from a previous summer! I gifted those pairs to every single bikini client and fashion contact I could think of, so that they could experience Havaianas first hand. They of course loved the product – it was good quality, comfortable, and available in amazing, bright colours that you couldn’t find anywhere else at the time.

After the positive response, I called Alpargatas again and placed a bigger order. I met with General Pants and they LOVED Havaianas – I’m proud to say General Pants were my first ever buyer! A few years later City Beach appeared in the marketplace and they too wanted to stock Havaianas. Part of the brand’s success can be attributed to our retail network and the support they have shown us over the years. Once I had retail support, I knew the brand was set - as we say in Brazil, it was like water running downhill - unstoppable!

I like to tell people that I was in the right place at the right time. If I started two years earlier or two years later, it might not have worked or someone else might have had my idea. I was lucky, but I also had the audacity to persist and get it done.

21 years later and here we are. Havaianas are loved by millions of Australians and available in the most amazing array of colours and styles!

Question 2: Did you ever think you wouldn’t succeed?

I always knew I was going to get somewhere because of how good the product was, but I never expected it to catch on so fast – within five years I was selling Havaianas all over Australia! The speed of my distribution growth far exceeded my expectations.

I was a one woman operation in the beginning, so it took a bit of convincing to get people to take me seriously. After a short time, the brand exploded and it showed the wider team in Brazil the immense potential for the brand globally.

Question 3: Advice to young entrepreneurs?

Follow your passion and don’t give yourself a chance to fail. You do this by backing yourself 100% - believe that you can succeed and have a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude. If something doesn’t work, something else will – it’s the nature of business.

The other thing I’ve learnt about business is accountability. If something goes wrong, find your mistake, own it and fix it. You will make mistakes and there will be all sorts of obstacles thrown in your way, but remember that everything has a solution. The lessons you learn from mistakes are invaluable!

Question 4: What inspires you and keeps you wanting to push for more?

The love of creativity and the thrill of exploring something new. I think it’s also important to have fun – without this you just have a ‘job’ and to me that is not fulfilling. 

Question 5: What’s the coolest place/adventure your Havi’s have taken you?

Good question. A hard one too as I’ve been wearing them for as long as I can remember. I’ve worn Havaianas all over the world and in every setting imaginable. It’s impossible to pick one memory as they are my life-long companion for adventure.

Question 6: Favourite pair of Havi’s?

I love the Slim style and I keep it simple - black, brown, white and sometimes a pop of colour. In saying this, I also wear wear Top occasionally, really I wear whatever I feel like at the time - I have a few pairs to choose from J.


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