Looks from ELLIS’ debut collection.
If you’ve looked for feminine clothes with a touch of boho online you may have come across Ellis and Friends, the popular local online store which stocks some particularly pretty labels. The store was established in 2014 and its success has meant design director Ellis Hong recently created an ELLIS label which is ethically produced in New Zealand and perfectly complements the other womenswear curated under the Ellis and Friends brand.
We chatted to Ellis about where the concept for the store came from, her new ELLIS label and why it’s important to her to produce her label ethically in NZ.
Tell us about Ellis and Friends and why you created it?
Ellis and Friends is an online-based clothing store that carries women’s designer labels from Australia with one US label, For Love and Lemons.
I decided to start E&F after realising I was spending all my spare time poring over other online stores looking for “that perfect piece” that I would imagine and style in my head. I wanted to curate a space that I’d personally turn to myself for garments that fitted these visions hoping that other girls would also share my tastes.
Now with the launch of ELLIS label on the side, I’m physically able to turn the above into reality share my designs with others so that’s just an added bonus!
How is your personal style reflected in how you buy for your store?
I’ve always loved transitional pieces for their ease and ability to take you from day to night just by throwing on a jacket or slapping on some heels. I think the bohemian aesthetic really allows for this because the style is naturally so effortlessly casual but has a touch of femininity and glam. This relaxed vibe is what I really draw from when it comes to buying. I always think “is this easy? But could this also be luxe?”. It’s finding the balance.
Ethical fashion has become much more important to consumers over the past few years, what makes it important to you as a person and brand?
Well I’m human too, so I share the same views and concerns as the ordinary consumer. I think we’ve all become more aware of the importance of knowing where everything comes from and what we’re supporting from what we buy into. It’s because of this that we wanted to keep a close knit on everything that goes on behind our brand. We want to maintain fair labour and provide transparency for our consumers so they know where their money is going.
Looks from ELLIS’ debut collection.
Basing your store online is a great way to reach more customers while keeping costs down, do you see yourself establishing a retail store for Ellis and Friends in future or staying online?
Though online has its pros, we realise that we can’t always provide the same offerings a retail store can. For instance, consumers can’t try on items they see online, we can’t provide them with the human experience of physically browsing our stock, and it bars us from building face-to-face relationships with our customers. It’s for these reasons that we try to do pop-ups and markets as much as we can. So yes, we have thought about opening a permanent retail store. But at the moment, we’re wanting to focus on one thing at a time, and right now it’s getting our name and label out there.
What do you think good customer service means in online fashion retail and how do you go about providing it?
Customer service is everything when it comes to online fashion retail! Being online means you have to be on call all the time. Competition is tough and if you aren’t able to provide customer service, consumers are just one click away from getting it somewhere else. We try to respond to our customers as quick as possible via all our communication channels, so that they know they’re able to reach us wherever and whenever to their convenience.
What inspired you to create your ELLIS label?
We realised there was a niche gap on Ellis & Friends that we wanted to fill. This gap was the lack of basic pieces that customers could keep long-term and rotate with existing wardrobe staples. From here, we identified pieces that were missing from our store offerings, designed and produced them, then finally decided to reveal these to the market.
Ellis Hong, design director of Ellis and Friends.
Do you have a muse for your label and who do you see the Ellis woman as?
We turn to a few muses for inspiration, but we always alternate depending on what mood we’re looking to convey in upcoming pieces. But generally they all share the same factors – they’re easy, relaxed and effortlessly luxe. So rather, we’ve designed a muse of our own who we often refer to as the ELLIS woman. She’s a girl who loves the sun, travel, interiors and all round relaxed vibes. Oh, and clothes of course!
Why is it important to you to manufacture your label in New Zealand?
We think it’s good to have an understanding of the whole process from sampling through to production. Also, being a small NZ-made business ourselves, we think it’s neat to be able to support other local businesses and know exactly where our budget is going. Plus, it makes it easier to liaise with your supply chain, which lets us ensure our designs are perfect before distribution – something that might not be as achievable with overseas production.
Where do you see the future for Ellis and friends?
We’d love to build a culture in NZ where girls could immediately relate to our easy bohemian vibes and come to us for inspiration, shopping and styling ideas.
We’re of course also looking to steadily produce more ELLIS pieces going ahead. Hopefully girls love our clothes as much as we do!