Hey, Kathryn Wilson. How's business?

New Zealand’s first lady of footwear looks back on 20 years of entrepreneurialism, brand building and being inspired by Beyoncé

Fresh off the back of her crowd-pleasing, 20th anniversary showcase at NZFW: Kahuria, we step into the world of Kathryn Wilson to kick off our brand new series, How’s Business?

Hey Kathryn Wilson, how’s business?

Hello! Fun, challenging, rewarding.

In your 20 years of business you’ve surrounded yourself with strong and successful female business leaders. Who are some of the women who’ve influenced your business the most?

This will be a long list of cheerleaders! I’ve been supported and guided by so many awesome women, many of whom have been pivotal to my decision-making and growth plans over the years. In terms of influencing the business I would start with Caroline Sills, who nurtured me for 15 years as a shareholder and mentor; Dame Rosanne Meo, who interviewed me for an AMP scholarship in 2002 and, 10 years on, helped me collate an advisory board for strategic planning. Dame Julie Christie, who I met when I was a finalist for EY Entrepreneur of the Year and has since become a sister-like mentor to run ideas past and keep me striving for bigger and better things (while having a lot of fun along the way). Then the muses who have influenced the design and aesthetic of the collections – Silvana Schenone, Cecilia Robinson, Lizzie Leuchars, Kylie Cooke, Boh Runga and, of course, our creative director Julia Ford, who has worked alongside me for 12 years on the design and marketing vision for the brands.

You established your business in the early 2000s when New Zealand labels like Juliette Hogan, Hailwood, Huffer, Twenty-seven Names and Stolen Girlfriends were also starting. What do you think are some of the attributes that have contributed to your businesses’ longevity?

I would say naivety, bravery, determination, and definitely a lot of optimism. I am really grateful to have launched at a time when there were so many great designers starting on a similar journey in business. Also, a great stable of established NZ designers who had already pioneered the way for us in a respected industry.

Tell us about your first ever New Zealand Fashion Week show

I first showed at New Zealand Fashion Week in 2010, to 1000 guests on the opening night. We were the first shoe brand to host a catwalk show at NZFW, and I remember Mum helping set up the venue saying, “Gosh, Kathryn, that’s a lot of seats… do you think anyone’s going to come?” It meant a lot to me personally to present our brand to the media and wholesale buyers. There were 80 people in the front row who had helped me get to that point, and I thanked each of them with a hand-written note and a pair of custom-made shoes, in their size. We created an opening video with Garth Badger, Boh Runga, and Red 11, styled by Ange Bevan, who was someone I had always looked up to creatively. The next day, there was coverage of the show on the front page of the NZ Herald, and we picked up buyers in Hong Kong, New York, L.A and Australia.

Describe the impact that New Zealand Fashion Week had on your business once you started to take part

We are always excited to be part of the celebrations at New Zealand Fashion Week. It’s often the only time throughout the year that the industry comes together in one place to support and celebrate each other’s work. We have showcased to crowds of up to 2,500 guests, collaborating with musicians, dancers, choreographers, stylists and models who bring our products to life and create memories of the brand for our customers. Since participating in NZFW we have experienced an uptake in wholesale orders, retail and ecommerce sales, and have been able to share fun, energetic content via our social platforms post-show.

Read the full article by Fashionz (FNZ) here

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