Deborah Caldwell, Creative Director of STORM. Image supplied.
Deborah Caldwell has been the Creative Director of STORM since its inception in 2006, and a year ago she took ownership of the brand to steer it into the future. STORM was originally Deborah’s idea and she pitched it to Hallenstein Glasson Holdings who loved her plan to meet a gap in the market for an edgy yet accessible designer womenswear brand at affordable prices. STORM has been a hit with Kiwi women who love its modern work and weekend pieces that are modern and fresh. Deborah has brought her strengths as a businesswoman as well as a designer to STORM, crafting an innovative brand that drops regular new collections and has amassed a loyal following.
We caught up with Deborah to find out more about how STORM has evolved, how her personal style influences her designs and what makes her excited for the future.
What has been the most disruptive change in fashion since you launched STORM in 2006?
Online shopping. We originally started out as bricks and mortar and we needed to understand and adapt to a completely new and ever-changing business model. Learning about the mindset of an online buyer has been a journey, and a huge opportunity for us to take the brand to a wider audience.
Fast forward to 2019 and STORM has eight retail stores, what have been the major changes for your business and how have you managed growth?
Interestingly, we have downsized to experience growth. I recently read an article where they stated ‘You have to keep moving even if it feels like a downgrade,’ and that is exactly what we have done, in a really positive way. We now have fewer stores and a smaller, but more experienced team. The other huge change is the true focus I can now give the business. I’m working on the business and in the business and am extremely close to the customer. We have the ability to be more nimble and agile, we can respond very quickly to what our customer wants. This is really working for us and we are in a really good place.
Look from STORM’s current collection.
What has been the biggest change over the past year for you as Creative Director?
I think it has been time, headspace and the ability to be able to focus on the product and what it stands for. I have spent time working on our brand identity, redefining and really understanding what we mean to our customer. That’s exciting stuff!
Moving away from seasonal lines to new monthly ranges – was this a consumer driven change or more from a business decision?
It really came about from getting close to our customer. It’s how they want to dress, it’s about newness and inspiration. They want to know what’s coming and we allow pre-ordering of some styles which is really popular. It also allows us to be more flexible and adaptable.
How would you describe your personal style and how does it influence your designs for STORM?
I create things that I want to wear. They make me feel good so I like to share that. I love a great blazer, for me it’s all about the cut and fabrication. Touch is really important too, the fabrication needs to feel amazing. I’m a self-confessed fabric junkie which definitely influences my designs, I love sourcing exclusive prints and lux fabrications. Still love a great skinny denim too!
How do you describe the STORM woman?
STORM represents a confident, cool, modern woman with an inner Rock’n’Roll attitude.
Looks from STORM’s current collection.
How do you balance the creative and business demands of what you do?
Very careful time management. I have surrounded myself with a really engaged and talented team so it is getting easier to take the creative time. It’s about prioritizing the time to be creative as that is what really makes the positive difference in the business.
You’ve taken on a range of payment gateways over the last year with the likes of Laybuy and AfterPay – how have these been received by your customers?
They love it! Giving them payment options so they can purchase the items they love before they miss out of them. We do very limited runs of most of our designs and our loyal customers know that. In a financially challenging time they can still purchase and wear and enjoy it now.
Looking to the future, how far ahead do you plan and what makes you excited about the future?
Creatively about 2-3 months and business wise at least 6-12 months out. Re-connecting with our loyal customers and making connections with new ones is what makes me excited about the future. We have lots on the radar which is really exciting, and a little daunting at the same time!