Nearly 15 years ago I started a small fashion manufacturing company called Styleworks. My working life had always been in the Fashion industry and for many years, before going out on my own, I was a retail buyer for major retail chains in Australia and New Zealand. I always loved working with clothes and my true talent lies in recognising new fashion trends and good commercial fashion. Working as a Buyer for Just Jeans in Australia and Kmart New Zealand gave me the experience of building and styling seasonal clothing under house brand labels. It was whilst working at Kmart NZ I was fortunate to work with Sally Synnott who began Pumpkin Patch. Pumpkin Patch was an integral part of the beginning of my business. They were about to launch a new womens fashion business Studioworks and were looking for a manufacturer to assist in putting ranges together for their new business. We got together and my new business began.
Initially I worked on my own out of my 3rd bedroom at home. I had a desk, a fax-photocopier and a car and dedication. I worked 7 days a week and the business took off. I subcontracted all the parts of the business where I had limited experience. All the patterning, cutting and manufacturing were out sourced around Auckland which meant I spent a lot of time in the car. This worked well as I wasn’t tied down with overheads. It seemed moments later I was also pregnant with my daughter Molly. With Molly’s impending arrival, I decided to take on my first member of staff, Tina Garratt. Tina was employed as a pattern-maker and designer but soon turned into Wonder Woman, a role she still excels at today.
With Tina on board, we decided to grow our customer base. Soon we were making for Farmers, Max and Ezibuy. We expanded our full time staff to include two more members and my new born baby, to handle the increasing work load. We moved to larger premises – an office/workroom on Ponsonby Road. It was here the Redhead label was born. We were working on lots of house-brand labels for major retailers, however and I wanted to develop our own fashion label that we could sell throughout New Zealand. Tina and I put our heads together and put together a range of wearable, imaginative and well priced NZ made Fashion and we liked what we had done. We just needed to come up with a name for the brand. I glanced across the room to see what was common about our small team of girls.
My Mum would have said, ‘there’s nothing common about any of you’, but its true, we all had red hair! Hence the name Redhead!
We hit the road selling it and it took off. Through the advice and guidance of another great friend and mentor I had met whilst working as a buyer, I was able to establish Redhead in many boutiques throughout NZ in the space of a couple of seasons.
I hit my first ‘speed hump’ in this year. It was the year 2000. I had my own business for 5 years and my business partner had decided to leave NZ to live in Australia. He had the run the financial side of the Styleworks and we he left, my partner and I decided to open a new company. We called it Redhead to coincide with our new label. But there were more changes on the horizon. He and I split only months after the launch of Redhead Clothing Ltd. I found myself with a toddler and a business and all the goes with it and it was a testing time. I knew a lot about the sales and the marketing of the company but little of running the financial side and it was quite stressful. Looking back a decade later I wonder how I survived, but I did and I got through it. My accountant helped me enormously as did my team of girls. They were fabulous. They were like family helping me with all aspects of my life.
Redhead celebrates its 10th birthday this year. I am very happy, excited and truly satisfied with this achievement. When asked, how have you got to this milestone? What are the most important things behind this achievement? It’s a mixture of having a great team of girls, having a focused goal and being dedicated to achieving it. You need to mix laughter and fun into hard work and also be aware of change. All businesses change and develop over time. It is important to recognise the changes in the market and react accordingly. The global financial crisis bought a great deal of change. For Redhead, the margins got tighter and it was the time to restructure the business. Over time, we looked at the much of the work we did for the major retailers, the house brand side of the business and we realised we were no longer making any money out of it. The result was that we decided to downsize and concentrate our efforts on our Redhead women’s fashion label. We backed our selves and it has paid off. Redhead now sells to nearly 100 boutiques throughout New Zealand and has launched into Australia. We are taking our growth into Australia slowly so we don’t strain our cash flow.
Redhead is still proudly New Zealand made and the garments are beautifully made. I love looking at our collections. The garments sell themselves from the hangers and that is why the label has been so successful. When other labels were going to China for there manufacture, we decided to stay in New Zealand and work the ‘quick turn around’ method of selling. We work on the fact that fashion is quick and our retailers need to react to the needs of their customers to give them what they want ’just in time’.
We make and offer whatever is hot at the time and our prices are still reasonable. We aim to offer great value for money. With so many labels taking their manufacture off shore, our point of difference is working well. We still market and sell our main ranges a year – Summer, High Summer and Winter, but we top it up with 10 new styles every 6 weeks so our retailers have something new in store all through the year. Fashion is fashion. There should be something new every month to tempt your regular and loyal customers.