Designer Profile: Liz Collins of Chalkydigits
Designer Profile: Liz Collins of Chalkydigits
We find out more about Liz Collins, the designer behind lifestyle clothing brand, Chalkydigits.
How did Chalkydigits come about?
I was living an outdoors life in Wanaka and really wanted to get my hands on some functional, well-made clothing that looked cool and couldn’t find any so decided to charge ahead and make my own!
What were the challenges you had to face setting up your own business?
Trying to do it all, learn it and be it all and keep up the momentum and motivation without getting burnt out. After hitting a wall, I had to just get back up and keep on going.
What are the keys to your success?
Determination and tenacity, never giving up, believing in the dream and staying passionate and true to my values in the face of challenges, which still come up!
What advice would you give others starting out on their own?
See above! Also, have a really good idea of what you hope to achieve, your target market and the structure of your business: what your ideal role in the business would be. As a business owner, most of my time is taken up managing the business as opposed to creative expression, which I didn’t expect.
Why is it important to keep manufacturing in Christchurch?
So many reasons! We can keep a really close eye on the quality of our manufacturing, and the workplace conditions in the factories. Also, many of our manufacturers were instrumental in the start up of Chalkydigits so remaining loyal to them is important. Keeping it local has many benefits, such as maintaining a low environmental impact and keeping kiwi’s employed. In the wake of the earthquakes, we feel glad that we are contributing to the economic recovery of Christchurch. It just feels right.
Why is creative expression an important value for Chalkydigits?
We want to be original and unique and keep our famous Kiwi Ingenuity alive. My background is in the creative arts and I always knew my future would include creative pursuits. It’s more fun!
What is your approach to clothing?
No fuss – we don’t buy into the trends of the season therefore our clothes are not disposable as fast-fashion is. We want our designs to be fun and functional, honest and inspiring and endure for years to come.
Are you still involved in the day-to-day running of Chalkydigits?
More so than I expected though my great team of staff fill in a lot of the gaps. It’s hard to keep my nose out of the details as Chalkydigits is just a part of who I am – I still try and escape in my caravan whenever I can though!
Do you export? If so, where and how has the brand been received?
We have a handful of stockists in Australia though this is an aspect of the business we want to expand. Overseas people love our gear, even though its got a real kiwi flavour, so we are keen to get it out there, it’s all about having enough hands on deck to pursue all the opportunities available.
The environment is a recurring theme – how do you incorporate your love of the land into Chalkydigits?
We don’t need to incorporate it as such, as valuing our environment comes as naturally as breathing to us; it’s the source of our rejuvenation and inspiration for our designs, our desire to preserve our endangered species and our commitment to using natural, sustainable materials and maintain manufacture onshore. I feel lucky that I can translate this love of our land into my business as it makes all the hard work worthwhile.
You recently spent two weeks volunteering on Codfish Island tracking and monitoring Kakapo, how did this come about?
During our experience on the South Island Robin project with the Fiordland Conservation Trust we were lucky enough to meet a kakapo and I was blown away by their crazy character and the amazing work going on to save them, plus the stunning natural environment. So when they asked if I was keen to help out, I jumped at the chance. It was physically hard work but so satisfying to make a difference and get involved. The passion and dedication of the staff was inspiring and makes me feel good about conservation in New Zealand. The kakapo is an amazing creature and deserves to have a place in New Zealand’s future.
Any projects on the horizon?
We are currently running a project to raise funds for our endangered kokako, which is one of our most beautiful songbirds and is only left in a few pockets of the North Island. We are selling a limited edition chalkydigits-designed kokako badge from which all proceeds go towards assisting their survival in the Kaharoa Conservation Estate. It’s humming along really nicely so we’re really pleased.
We have lots of other projects we want to get underway, though because we are so small and our resources are limited we have to be creative about how we go about it. We are just really grateful that we have the support of those who share our values and love our clothing because they make it possible for these fabulous projects to get off the ground. We feel good about giving something back AND we get to share the love.