Jenny Drury, founder and designer of Ketz-ke. Image supplied.
Ketz-ke is celebrating its 15th year in business this year with the playful local brand a favourite of many Kiwi women. Founder and designer Jenny Drury launched Ketz-ke back in 2006 with her vision to offer boutique streetwear with feminine styling and a distinctive creative edge that she felt was missing from the market at the time. Jenny had gained a great deal of knowledge from over 20 years in the fashion industry and early on she defined Ketz-ke’s joyful spirit and colourful aesthetic. It was a hit with New Zealand women who loved the designer’s confident use of colour, cool-casual silhouettes and distinctly Ketz-ke prints.
Fast forward to 2020 and Ketz-ke is stocked in 91 stores throughout New Zealand and 20 in Australia with a loyal fan base who snap up the brand’s pieces each season. Jenny has created a vibrant archive of wearable pieces that offer customers fun pieces to wear that are affordable and versatile. In recent seasons she has brought back some of those popular styles from previous collections such as the cut of the 2008 Valentino Dress which reappeared in 2019 as the Empire and Athens Dresses and the 2015 Humbug Pant which remains a staple of Ketz-ke’s ranges to this day.
The brand’s journey has been made sweeter by Jenny’s sister Brenda Wilkinson joining the business to collaborate on design. The designer duo have been so successful together that they created a sister label for Ketz-ke called LEO + BE which launched in 2017.
We caught up with Jenny to find out how she’s celebrating Ketz-ke’s new milestone, what her advice is for those who want to get into fashion design and what her favourite pieces are from Ketz-ke’s vibrant archive?
Congratulations on celebrating 15 years in business this year, how are you marking the milestone?
It’s been a journey that’s for sure – oh how the time has flown! We have been feeling very nostalgic recently and have been sifting through our archives, reminiscing on past styles, funny memories and incredible backdrops from the past 15 years. To celebrate we have been encouraging our Ketz-ke fans to get involved and share their favourite pieces from years-gone-by and asking for feedback on what they would love to see brought back. All of this customer engagement has inspired us to create an Anniversary Collection – a collaborative range that our customers feel like they have been a part of bringing together. It is still in planning stages so watch this space!
Take us back to 2005, what was the original plan and vision for your brand and how has it evolved since then?
We set out with the same intention that we have today – to offer boutique streetwear with feminine styling and a distinctive creative edge, all at a competitive price point. Making sure that we are catering to all types of women and ensuring they feel amazing when they wear a Ketz-ke piece has also been a big part of what we’ve done over the past 15 years. We also always wanted to create pieces that were fun! The bold prints we use have become somewhat of a signifier of the brand and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Having said that we are always looking ahead to make sure we are challenging ourselves and bringing our customers something that excites them each season, so there is a constant evolution in that.
How do you balance the creative and business demands of your role in your brand?
Providing garments that are stylish, easy to care for, comfortable and flattering on a range of figures (all at an affordable price-point) is no easy feat. You really have to push the envelope and think outside the box when it comes to design. We often look to art, music and at what’s trending in the wider fashion landscape to inspire us with each new collection, but we also redesign previous top-sellers in fresh new fabrics and prints as we know our customers have loved these in the past. I think while it’s incredibly important to stay true to your own individual style and aesthetic, you also need to keep the needs of your target market in mind – the clothes need to be liveable and functional for the women wearing them. At the end of the day, it’s these fantastic women that keep our business going and therefore meeting their needs remains the central focus to not only our design process but also our general business operations.
Ketz-ke looks from 2014 (left) and 2012 (right).
Fashion has changed a lot in 15 years, what are you currently focused on for your brand and where do you see its future?
Fashion has come a long way since we started out and is continuing to develop and change at such a rapid pace. I think keeping up with the times is one of the most important things and growing and adapting with your customers. We have an excellent network of retailers that are really the backbone to our business, but also having a strong online and social presence has been a massive focus for us recently. Not only has it allowed us to connect with our Ketz-ke fans on a strong, emotional level, it is also a great tool to collect feedback and communicate key information and offerings. I think the way things are heading, personalisation is going to be more prevalent than ever. Giving customers real-time assistance to make the shopping experience as seamless as possible, but also providing products that are highly tailored to their personal needs will be the future of fashion.
What is it like when you see women in Ketz-ke? Do you still get a buzz off that 15 years on?
It’s definitely still a buzz for me! Especially over the past few weeks when we have been sharing old favourites from the archives on our social channels. We have had so many customers also sharing pictures of their most-loved Ketz-ke pieces from their wardrobes – some 10 years on! I think the most rewarding thing is hearing the back-stories behind their purchases and the way these women describe how incredible they feel every time they put these pieces on – you can’t put a price on that!
How do you describe your personal style and how does it influence your designs?
My personal style is very effortless with an edge. I always like to stay up with the game to help the design process. I love creating classic pieces that will effortlessly slot into any woman’s existing wardrobe. Prints play a large role in shaping our collections and this is often how a collection will begin… with a great print. A lot of our styles have evolved from past seasons and remain timeless, reflecting what our customers have loved and want to see more of. We always aim to be showing new designs, fabrics and colours while making sure that these designs are wearable for all types of women.
Designer Jenny Drury wearing Ketz-ke.
What have been your favourite collections to date and which pieces are go- tos in your wardrobe?
It’s too hard to pick a favourite! I get just as excited about each new collection as I was for the last and as I am for the next. I do love all the signature style tops in our collections, which are a mix of prints and knits. These styles are easily worn back with denim or a great black pant – our favourites are the Fold Pant, Sav Pant and Humbug Pant. I must say that one of my personal favourite shapes is the jumpsuit, I can’t get enough! I have been designing these for quite a few years now and often have one in each collection.
How do you find working with your sister Brenda?
It was probably the best decision I ever made to have my sister join me in this amazing journey. There are no arguments and we are very quick at decision making between the two of us. I’m sure we have saved hours over the years from just being straight to the point with each other (no feelings hurt here!). We think the same yet we still both have slightly different views on what we like. When these are brought together, a new collection is born!
How do you describe the Ketz-ke women and what do you think she is looking for from your brand?
A lot of Ketz-ke shoppers have been with us right from the beginning which is amazing. We all generally have busy lifestyles, so the pieces we design have a bit of fun to them, whether it be the print, colour or a fabulous sleeve detail. A lot of our looks can easily go from day to night, with just a change of shoe and lip. We don’t like to complicate things too much, but the Ketz-ke woman definitely likes to be noticed!
Ketz-ke looks from 2009 (left) and 2015 (right).
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that you keep referring back to as a designer
Failure is only for those who stop trying!
What is your advice for anyone who wants to become a fashion designer now
Do your homework before you start out. Know who your competitors are and know who your market is. You need to be realistic and know that things will go wrong but it is the way you handle these that will make you successful. I read this article once and it has always stuck in my mind…
“You can’t play a game of bowling without knocking down the pins. What do you do after they fall? Sit down and cry? No, you set the pins back up and play again. Setting the pins back up is just a part of the game. When problems arise in business, this just provides you the chance to set the pins up again. As an entrepreneur, you most likely have what it takes to complete the game. So don’t be afraid when the pins fall. You can set them upright again”.
Looking to the future, how far ahead do you plan and what makes you excited about the future?
We generally work two seasons ahead, but we are always thinking and plotting new ideas for future collections as they come to us. I am excited to see how things pan out not only in the NZ fashion industry, but the wider international landscape, especially with everything going on right now. Now more than ever, we have noticed how fiercely loyal our customer base is and we are incredibly grateful for their ongoing love and support. Bring on the next 15 years we say!
Ketz-ke looks from 2017 (left) and 2014 (right).