It might be hard to imagine life without the internet and the ease that technology has brought to our lives. But being connected has its pros and cons and New Zealand businesses are not immune to the pressures of being part of a global market - especially in the fashion industry where digital technology and social media now plays a major role in success or failure.
In this episode of My Heels are Killing Me, Sonia Sly talks to three fashion designers about a changing world where businesses need to be agile in a volatile marketplace.
Before the Rise of Digital
Tanya Carlson is an fashion industry veteran who has been running her label Carlson for more than two decades. Tanya started her business at a time when technology was just emerging.
“It was really easy [when] I started in the 90s and it was the heyday of Made in New Zealand. There were very little international imports unless it was something that was coming in from a European designer, and you didn’t have fast fashion. There was a wealth of incredible machinists that were still around with the women that had done tailoring apprenticeships...rent was cheap. And there were very strong wholesale accounts where people paid on time.
"[Today] we are completely exposed to [the volatility of the global market]. We live in the bottom of the world. We’ve experienced huge changes in terms of bricks and mortars and our tariffs coming off with Made in China clothing coming into this country, which obliterated our shoe manufacturing and most of our clothing manufacturing. So there were massive adjustments that had to be made with the change in wholesale versus buying online."
"The key for us is to keep it very lean and to to be more specialised...to offer more of a service to our customers. [In the past] we stocked David Jones with, thirteen stores, 33 wholesale accounts, but ten years ago we downsized the business and now it’s just me."
Branding through Social Media
Kelly Coe is the founder of womenswear brand Augustine, which operates four stores in New Zealand and runs seven labels under its umbrella. Kelly came from a marketing background and since launching in 2007 she has successfully used social media to sell and promote her brand.
“Social media for us has been huge...we grew our brand on Facebook and our customers grew with us."
"We were so different at the time because I was the only person who put myself out there as a the face of my brand and said, ‘this is me at the playground with my kids wearing my clothes’…and then everyone else wanted to buy them as well. That really resonated with my customers, because my customer is not high-end fashion."
Maggie Hewitt - The Instagram Generation
Designer Maggie Hewitt is the founder of sustainable luxury label Maggie Marilyn. Launched in 2016, the womenswear label quickly gained momentum and is now stocked in exclusive boutiques and department stores around the world, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Lane Crawford, and online designer boutiques Frafetch, Moda Operandi, Net-A-Porter, Shop Bop and more.
“I feel like there’s always been volatility. And I think we live in a time where there’s so much change, but I’m a brand that really champions change. I think it’s really exciting in terms of the discussions around sustainability that are more prevalent now than ever."
"I don’t think that even ten years ago I would have been able to do what I’ve done with my brand so quickly. We’re so connected now through social media; it’s so easy to jump on a Skype call with Neiman Marcus or Net-A-Porter and to be based in New Zealand. I think I’m lucky to have launched my brand at this time."
"I find social media hard because I’m quite a private person, so it’s something that I’ve really had to utilize and understand the power that it has, but I don’t think you can’t really underestimate the power of something like instagram for a young brand now. You see young brands coming out of nowhere because of their following on instagram. It’s a pretty important platform for us even with sales and directly reaching our customer because we don’t have our own stand-alone stores."
To find out more about growing a business, opportunities in Asia and the importance of brand identity listen to the full-podcast episode of My Heels Are Killing Me recorded in association with FashioNZ and NZFW.