United we Stand
When the going gets tough, resourceful creatives join forces to bring us fresh fashion retail...
Three years ago Maaike the label didn’t exist. Abby van Schreven and Emilie Pullar were working at taylor boutique.
The girls launched their label in the New Generation show at NZFW 2010 and wholesaled for three seasons, and in March 2012 they opened their store “Maaike + Co” in St Kevin’s Arcade off Karangahape Road in the city. The store opened with labels who neighbour Maaike in the showroom at Ciel PR: Kowtow, Nyne and Chaos & Harmony, as well as Holly Howe and Cheryl Sills jewellery. “It’s really hard for us to find stockists in Auckland and we knew there were other people in the same boat,” says Abby. “We wanted to house labels that we really liked, and make the store a hub where people could go to see good New Zealand brands.”
A couple of months later sees Abby and Emilie launching their online store, and pulling in a big name to boot - they will stock Nom*D tees. Abby explains “We have both done work experience at Nom*D and we both love the brand and wanted to have it in store. It’s a reason to pull guys into the shop as well - we already do a bit of unisex and we are thinking about doing a bit of menswear...This is the beginning of making Maaike + Co a menswear store as well.”
Over on Ponsonby Road, Six is a true collective. Harriet Falvey, Chelsea Gale, Hannah Morgan, Ribbon On A Bombshell (Brigid McLaughlan), Selector (Sera Mitchinson) - and jewellery designer ‘Andrea’ have banded together to lease a store next to Ruby on Ponsonby Road.
The sextet had worked together for many years at the Aotea Square Markets and the City Designers markets and from there they decided they wanted to trade seven days a week from within a real store: “iIt seemed like the obvious next step with the added advantage that we could share the shop workload,” says Brigid McLaughlan.
Each designer works in the store a little themselves so they can keep in touch with what’s happening at retail and meet the customers - may of whom they already knew from the markets. Just three months out but everything is running smoothly - Brigid points out that the designers bring many years’ experience from their individual labels to their new collective.
You can’t mention collectives without referencing Grey Lynn’s Moa. Now 25 years old, Moa was born when Debbie Hindin, Lee Dawson, Tracey Lloyd and Julie Stevens started screenprinting on their respective kitchen tables and at a community artspace.
Julie says that having to make decisions within a collective can be challenging - everyone has a different view and some are more passionate about different areas than others. “You have to decide which aspects of the business are important to you as a member of the collective. But we always come back to our core values: sharing the resource of having a shop, and supporting each other as women who are providing for families.”
Moa has been in the same site for almost all of its 25 years and Julie feels that being a part of the community and being able to employ family has contributed to the 25 year longevity. Although each operates their own brand individually, evolution is seeing the Moa team undergo business coaching for the collective Moa business itself and rededining the aforementioned core values, almost three decades on.
FashioNZ’s Wellington fashion sources report that there isn’t much happening on the ‘collective’ front in the capital at the moment, and Ra from MisteR reports “sadly it’s exactly that type of small business that's disappeared from Christchurch” (post the earthquakes). “Most of the boutique businesses were in old brick (cheap rent) buildings in the city and being small businesses they don't necessarily have the capital to start again - plus there just isn't the retail space available that there once was and at a reasonable price.”
In Dunedin, Sheryl and Hayden McPherson of 'boutique department store' Salisbury Boutique are developing what Sheryl describes as "a larger concept for encouraging refurbishment of character buildings in Dunedin's historic Warehouse District." Sheryl oversees Bond Street's Salisbury House, which in addition to her own flagship (retailing high end New Zealand-made design and fashion products) houses other local businesses, including UNDONE (a boutique, high-end New Zealand design label) and Henry Devereux jewellers. "Central to our business concept is collaborating with and promoting other boutique businesses" says Sheryl.
Of course it's not just in New Zealand that the power of the collective is being rediscovered. Condé Nast website Details.com named designer collective LOOKK as one of its 12 Social Mavericks of 2012. Watch the collective space.
- Julie Roulston