Keeping Up With...

Carolyn Keep

Chick Chat - The Power of 3

Chick chat, it’s a thing.

We do it while we walk, we do it over wine, we do it on the phone…and so I thought I’d spread it to the web, well my website and Insta at least.
(Obviously the following chick chat is the PG and ‘slightly geared towards inspo purposes’ version as opposed to the yarns, the guy goss, and the life dramas that we ‘discuss’ from time to time!)

This is a chat with 3 girls I originally met in a ‘professional capacity’ but now, am incredibly grateful to be able to call them dear friends. You may recognize their names as I wear a whole lot of their duds, and proudly.

I am constantly amazed at women who get out there, action their dreams, do it with style and grace and a laugh while life and its chaos is happening around them. I love that we are living in a time of ‘empowerment and recognition for women’ where it’s encouraged to support, and cheer on, as opposed to compete. This is what ‘Chick Chat’ is all about.

I may be wrong, and I won’t speak for others but based on observation of the special women around me, I think women all struggle with the same things, we all long for similar things for ourselves for our families, for the future…Overall I’m in adoration at women who support each other for REAL, not just on social media but on the street, at dinner, at work, out in the mess of life and I still believe there is room for even BIGGER movement towards building each other up and cheering each other on. Yes it’s currently a conversation with momentum; let’s continue to action it.

Here’s how these 3 have done it, for themselves and for each other.

Introducing Chicks that with their powers combined, can take care of you from head to toe!

 

A = AMBER WHITECLIFFE 

 

J = JESSICA GREETHAM

 

N = NICOLE SCHOEFISCH - REBSTOCK

Here's to a Q & A...aaannnddddd go!

What did you want to be when you grew up? What made you get into fashion?

A - I wasn’t ever one of those people who knew exactly what I wanted to do when I was at school, but once I figured out that fashion was where my skill set and passion was, it was the most exhilarating thing. I feel so lucky to have found a career that I enjoy!

J - I wanted to be an airhostess, then a lawyer, then a fashion designer, and then I went back to wanting to be a lawyer. One day dad asked me if I really wanted to argue other people's cases, which I then realised I didn't (cause lets be honest, I ain't up for that and dishonesty haha) so went back to chasing the goal and dream of being a fashion designer.

N - I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer and bounced between the two. I had never even considered the fashion industry until I was about 22 years old, part way through my Law/Commerce Degree. I loved shoes but I couldn’t see how I could turn that into a career as I had absolutely no experience in the fashion industry and didn’t think I was capable of running a business. There was one morning where I woke up and something kind of clicked and I thought “there are other people out there doing this, running their own businesses, there is no reason I can’t. You don’t just get born with a wealth of knowledge, you have to learn it”. So I quite literally sat up in bed, took out a pen and paper and started trying to sketch and just told myself I was going to make this happen.

 

In an industry that is highly competitive, what made you reach out to each other and work together?

A - When you solely run your own namesake business like the 3 of us it’s nice to have friends in the industry that are going through the same thing, we kind of use each other like sound boards for ideas and frustrations! Our brands have all benefited from the collaborations and our friendship has grown because of it!

J - I met Amber while I was studying and took on an internship placement with her for 4 weeks, after that she offered me a part time job! I met Nicole through her best friend who told me I should get in touch about her footwear - her email to introduce us to each other was literally "Jess, meet Nicole. Nicole, meet Jess. I'm too tired I'll let you guys chat hahaha". We borrowed Nemesis and Medusa (a couple of Niclole’s styles) to shoot with a spring range I designed for Amber Whitecliffe and after that shoot, we had a pop up in Ponsonby at the same time and the rest is history really (ie. IT WAS FATE haha!)

N - Amber and I met by chance as we were doing a pop-up at the same time at Ponsonby Central. I had a few styles that Amber thought could work well with Bridesmaids dresses and her general customer base. She kindly offered to stock a few of my styles which was a big deal for me as I had just launched my brand. It ended up working really well as Amber’s customers responded really well to my product and Amber and I have quite a similar way of practicing business.

 

What are you most proud of yourself for? 


A - Running a successful business whilst having my son Boston. It’s funny how you just make things work and then you look back and go “how did I even manage that?!” I was literally at work until hours before I had him and then on the way home stopped off at the shop, Jess was like “What on earth are you doing here Amber, go home I’ve got this!” I was back full time when he was 5 weeks old, he hung out rugged up at the shop and I escaped into the changing room to breastfeed and change him every 3 hours-what a mad women!

J - Taking the plunge to launch my knitwear while still maintaining my position at AW! Hard work and heaps of organising, but its worth it!

N - I am most proud of myself for making this happen when I had no real background or upbringing in this area. I think it shows that no matter what your dreams are, you can make them a reality if you are willing to put in the hard work.

 

What are you most proud of each other for?

A - Nicole and Jess design and create products that are so inspiring! They are made to a high standard and are absolutely lustful pieces I just want to own, so it makes it so easy for me to sell their products in my store because I am so proud of their work, and who they are as people.

J - They both have their own brick-and-mortar store! That is seriously a goal in itself -  to have and run a physical retail space. Amber and Nicole are such amazing, down to earth and hard working women!

 N - I am most proud of/admire Amber for her ability to always be true to herself and her brand. Just because someone is doing something a different way doesn’t mean Amber will just follow like so many do. She stays true to what she thinks is right for her brand and doesn’t let others cloud her judgment.

I am most proud of/admire Jess for how quickly she has got a grasp on the industry since launching her brand. She is already being asked for her product by some key players in the market and for that she should be very proud!

Who do you design for?

A - Women who appreciate colour, beautiful fabrics, NZ Made and want to stand out!

J - Women who aren't afraid of a bit of colour and like to swap out a tailored coat for a statement knitwear piece. They're the kind of person who spends their weekends enjoying the outdoors and who loves a good indoor fire!

N - I design for those who prefer more classic and feminine fashion. I would say my designs are more in line with what you would see in Europe as I feel we are lacking that sort of design here.

 

What do you love about fashion and working in the industry?

A - Because a large percentage of my garments are custom-made they are usually to celebrate positive milestones in people’s lives, which is such a privilege and thrill to be a part of! Weddings, reunions, birthday parties, school balls, graduation etc.  The amount of times I have cried happy tears when I get clients wedding photos back is ridiculous but it’s so nice to create relationships with my customers through the process!

J - It's constantly changing and evolving. Everyday is different! Its exciting and fun to be doing something that you love each day.

N - You can dress to how you feel every day. You can’t change things about your life everyday, but you can channel a different feeling everyday. I love the industry in New Zealand because it is smaller and as a result people are more tight-knit and friendly, like us three.

 

What is frustrating about being a designer in NZ?

A - I think the most frustrating thing for all people in the creative industry is that everyone always asks for or expects a discount all the time; you don’t ask your doctor for a discount?? Especially being NZ Made, the cost of materials, wages and overheads are all much higher so margins are therefore already much lower to begin with. I am so proud to be supporting our local industry, producing garments ethically and considering our environment as much as I can, but when customers don’t understand that and assume the reason why our garments are more expensive than chain stores is because we are marking things up, is so disheartening.

J - We're limited with materials here, but you gotta work with what you have and can get! With my hand knits, it can be a bit disheartening and frustrating hearing people say that they can produce the same thing themselves at a lower cost. I've also seen people comment and tag people on images of my work asking if they can knit the same thing.

N - It’s hard because there isn’t much out there to support the fashion industry. If you look at entrepreneurial programmes and government grants, it is largely directed at BioTech companies. On top of that there is a lot of pressure to keep things like sourcing and production local when in reality this isn’t an option for many of us. For example, there is no shoe manufacturing here. Sometimes the Tear Fund and consequently the media can make it feel like a witch hunt. While I acknowledge that in some cases there may be a foundation for that, in many cases it has no real foundation at all and in reality it is just damaging to brands who work so hard and observe ethical practices.

 

What 3 personality traits do you LOVE about yourself?

(Interestingly, all 3 girls felt awkward answering this question. WHY as women do we struggle to accept the magical and most epically awesome parts of ourselves? We should be shouting how fabuloso we are from the bloody rooftops!)

A - OK – I like to think I am hard-working and a loving person to everyone around me, stuck on a third…..

(I slapped Amber for not having a third and I can personally say…Ambers third is…Her wicked sense of humour. You can pick this before even talking to her by looking her in the eyes long enough, they have a very mischievous ‘twinkle’ in them!) 

J - Loyalty, I'm a hard-worker and I'm caring.

N - My ability to persevere when things are hard. The balance I strike between being positive and also being realistic. I do what’s right, not what’s easy.

 

You compliment each other incredibly well, and you also stand out individually and on your own, why do you think this is?

A - Great minds think alike! Nicole’s shoes just worked so well with AW designs from the beginning that it has been a long and happy marriage thus far! Jess and I have ben working together for so long now that I think our inspirations and taste are just subconsciously the same. We frequently turn up to work in the same outfit, even down to the same shade of MAC lipstick!

J - I think maybe it’s because of our use of colour (which somehow always manages to work well with each other.) Also because we design different items so betweenthe three of us we have your outfit covered (excluding lingerie and activewear haha!)

N - Firstly, people like to know they are buying from a New Zealand company. Therefore, when you have a shop that is only NZ designed or NZ made, the brand loyalty is more intense.

Secondly, although at face value we all have completely different offerings, our styles are all very feminine so they compliment each other.

 

What do you wish you knew when you started your business?

A - That’s a hard one. I think lessons are best learnt by experiencing them. I try not to look back!

J - That running a one-woman band can be exhausting but it’s also highly rewarding. Hearing customer feedback and seeing people enjoy and wear your designs is amazing! Oh, and to be prepared for late nights with lots of spreadsheets and numbers, with a cup of tea close by.

N - Before you begin, people say things like “oh your business will consume you”, “it’s so hard to build a brand etc.” and you think “oh yes, I know” but it’s not quite the same as really experiencing it. You never quite switch off and when you do it alone, the pressure can sometimes feel overwhelming. It can also be hard when making decisions as you don’t always have all the resources or another person to discuss it with. I will often ask Amber what she thinks about certain designs or marketing tactics as I know she will be completely honest with me and I trust her judgment.

What do you want to be doing in 10 years from now?


A - I know I said I don’t like to look back but I also don’t want to think forward that far, I will be 40 then! Ahhhhh.

(Turns out I slapped Amber here also, and reminded her that 40 is the new 30…I had to. I’m 40 myself in a few years!)

J - I'd like to think that I would've done my travelling and come back to NZ to focus on my knitwear, or even be based overseas! Who knows!

N - I still want to be running the brand, but am hoping it will have expanded significantly throughout the country and possibly overseas.

 

What kinds of people do you look up to, admire, crush on?

A - I admire those people that have nailed the work/life balance! I am working on it though!

I’m always crushing on stylish females; Geneva Vanderzeil, Susie Lau, Anna Heinrich, Whitney Port, Michele Whitecliffe, Amber Pebbles-the list goes on!

J - The people I'm surrounded by everyday - my partner and friends and family! They're all so supportive - we all have very different career paths as well, I find it awesome to hear their work stories (our careers vary from being creatives, teaching, speech therapy and being in the air force!)

N - My biggest role model was Kate Spade who sadly passed recently. Whenever I feel things are challenging I listen to her speaking about how she built Kate Spade and how she was running it out of her apartment waiting for her big break. It’s such an accurate representation of what entrepreneurship is like and it makes you feel like “OK this is a normal experience. Look what she built and where she started”.

People think it’s this great thing where you get to run everything and choose when you work and that it’s all very glamorous but it’s not like that at all when you start. You use what you can. You store things at your house. Yes you can choose when you want to work but the work is not going to get done if you aren’t working all the time! You often think, why pay someone to do this when I can do it myself and you have to have that kind of mentality. If you want to be successful, you have to put in the hard yards and that’s just the reality.

Thank you ladies for your time and your thoughts!

Love Caro x

 

Posted: Sunday 17 June 2018


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