Vicki Taylor from taylor and The Shelter. Image supplied.
Vicki Taylor is the founder and designer of contemporary womenswear brand taylor which she launched back in 1999. Her success in business and the evolution of her brand lead her to create multi-brand retail store The Shelter in 2014 which has become a Ponsonby shopping destination. Vicki is well-known for her hands-on approach and even with her busy schedule she still spends time at her stores helping to style shoppers and offer them her knowledgeable advice.
We caught up with Vicki to find out more about how her brand has evolved, where she sees the future of retail and how she feels about the rise of ethical fashion.
FashioNZ is 20 this year and taylor celebrates 20 years in business next year, how are you planning on marking the milestone?
We are still in planning mode but we will certainly but will certainly be doing something to celebrate our 20 years with our loyal clients and our taylor team.
Take us back to 1999, what was the original plan and vision for your brand?
The vision for taylor as a business has moved forward but our mission has remained the same. taylor is about fostering individual creativity and giving amazing personalised styling experiences that empower and inspire.
The late 1990s was a quite a different time, can you set the scene for us, what were you wearing/listening to/reading in 1999?
The world was more optimistic, we had fax machines for business communications, there was only just the start of the internet, we had no idea where that would lead, or how a website could become anything more than a branding exercise.
Fast forward to 2018 and taylor has five stores in three NZ cities, what have been the major changes for your business and how have you managed growth?
Taylor has steadily grown over the years, we spaced out the opening of our stores and made each store profitable before we took on the next challenge. We are still fully owned and operated in NZ and 90% of our manufacture is done in and around Auckland. Some of the biggest changes have been in the shrinking manufacturing facilities and fashion infrastructure in NZ . With so many businesses moving their production offshore to get better profitability has meant we have a industry with not even 1/5 of our suppliers we had 20 years ago. Also the growth of online shopping has greatly reduced sales volumes in NZ retail stores. These are challenges but they also bring opportunities, so we just need to work hard to successfully manage our business so we adapt to these changes.
How do you balance the creative and business demands of your role in your brand?
I just have to be able to flick between them as my days vary so much, I can start in design and end up dealing with accounts or reading reports and doing stock calculations. I have never really thought about it, it just happens, as you can’t run a business with just one or the other.
Over your career you’ve had a great deal of success and grown a highly reputable brand but how do you personally define success and what does it mean to you? Conversely, how do you deal with failure and what have been some of the challenges of growing your brand?
Success can be judged in so many ways, To me personally it starts with – are my family happy and healthy? Are my team at work all happy and working towards our shared goals? And are my clients enjoying my latest designs and still wearing my previous creations. If I can answer yes with a smile to all of these, then I feel I have been successful. Things that do not work, are not failures just experiments/trials that we learn from and know how to do better the next time.
How do you maintain a personal connection with your customers and how does social media help you to connect with them?
My connection with my clients comes from many years of dressing them, I still love being instore and dressing my clients.
Looks from taylor’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection. Images supplied.
What has been the most disruptive change in fashion retail for your brand since you opened your first taylor store and how have you evolved your business to manage it?
I think the growth in online and the ecommerce side and effortless international shopping has been the biggest change. Remember I started my business when we still had fax machines and dial up! This has been a huge change and while it means lower footfall in shops, it also means greater time spent styling clients who do enter the store and it has also given us the ability to sell to the world. This world of ecommerce has become very active and created a huge change to bricks and mortar retail. At taylor we are fortunate to work with the biggest luxury webstore in the world, where are clothes are being shipped daily to countries we have never visited.
I personally think there needs to be both channels – (bricks and mortar retail and e-commerce) to create a successful client experience. Even the buyers from the big online shopping channels will agree they need their designers to make simple understandable clothes for online. So that need for something different will never be hugely successful on an online platform and there is nothing better than getting clothes that actual fit your figure. The feel and drape of the fabrication and the ability of tailoring a look for the client that is flattering for their individual figure shape and their lifestyle requirements. These still are attributes that cannot be easily replicated through even the most sophisticated computer software. Some companies are trying but they are relying on formulaic dressing techniques, Yet these attributes are very easily created by an actual fashion stylist in a bricks and mortar store and these are still very important purchasing factors to create a great stylish look.
You opened the successful multi-brand concept store The Shelter in 2014, where did the idea come from and how has the store evolved in the past 4 years?
The Shelter is an exciting retail initiative. It keeps changing as different creatives and designers come and become part of the Shelter family. It is designed for the creatively curious and discerning clients who want to be part of a different experience that is rounded to a lifestyle not just a fashion statement. The Shelter has settled into the retail landscape in NZ, and while we do have a lot of local support it is also a stopping point for many discerning international shoppers.
How has being a buyer for The Shelter changed your thoughts on fashion retail and where do you see its future?
Being a buyer for The Shelter has really broadened my knowledge of availability of brands from many amazing corners in the world. It has enabled me to see the professionalism in the international market, and understand the needs of retailers when working on a global platform.
Among the many changes in fashion has been the changing role of fashion weeks, how have you changed your approach to runway shows as a brand and where do you see the future of fashion weeks?
This is hard for me to answer, as I have previously always been a vertical operation (designer through to my own retail) and only sold to my own retail stores.
NZFW – in its early days was held very tightly and they would not allow me to invite the my retail clients – i.e seen as the general public – to my shows, so hence I was not able to participate as it had no meaning or value to show to wholesale buyers who then could not buy my collection while my retail clients who I wanted to show to see the show were not allowed into the venue!
Luckily this has changed nowadays and I have done a few small shows over my years. I think the biggest difference to fashion week in NZ and internationally is there is more to a fashion week than a whole series of fashion shows… the business side of fashion that works alongside the shows is bigger than the shows and this is what makes them sustainable and beneficial to the industry internationally.
Interior of The Shelter at 78 Mackelvie Street in Ponsonby. Image supplied.
There has been an increasing awareness from consumers and the industry about the issues around creating fashion ethically and sustainably which you address in a detailed page on your website in relation to your brand. What factors do you take into account when you personally shop from other brands?
This is an issue I am very passionate about, and the over consumption due to the cheapness and convenience of products across all industries – not only fashion – is what is killing our planet. I will shop consciously at every opportunity, and wish all consumers would do the same. Buy one quality well made item rather than 5-10 cheap fast fix items that you do not value long-term and will easily discard after only a few wears.
How would you describe your personal style and how does it influence your designs and collaborations?
My personal style, is normally a little dark, a little tailored with something oversized or fluid to add some movement.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that you keep referring back to as a designer?
Follow and trust your instinct.
What is your advice for anyone who wants to become a fashion designer now?
The landscape in fashion and technology is changing fast and while designers like and embrace change, be prepared to work very hard and be consistently better than your last collection – every 3 – 6 months. Fashion is a lifestyle not a job.
There are many facets to being a good designer but the strength of your ideas and how you deliver them shapes a brand, what factors play into your decisions to turn your ideas into reality?
Everything you can think of will shape the way you deliver an idea, the more thought put in – the better the design has been worked and the delivery will be more thorough.
Your husband Mark is your business partner in taylor and The Shelter, how does your professional relationship work and how do you separate your personal life together?
As I said fashion is a lifestyle not a job… but it helps he understands the rollercoaster ride we are on and we get to share this journey together.
Looking to the future, how far ahead do you plan and what makes you excited about the future?
We always have a 10 year vision. We work to achieve set goals towards a 3 year comprehensive plan. In today’s world the industry and technology is changing so fast, it is harder to have exact planned pathways beyond that 3 year period.