Model firm relocates

18:49, Jan 31 2013
CHANGING FACE: Owner of Purfex Glen Wilkin-Holland, 56, with a collection of mannequins that will be used in the New Lynn window display, organised by Lopdell House Gallery.

The hand-crafted and intricately detailed Purfex mannequins are leaving their Rosebank factory and relocating to a new home in New Lynn.

Business owner Glen Wilkin-Holland, 56, says it's time Purfex downsizes and refines its range.

"When my partner Fraser died in 2008, it was difficult to manage without him," he says.

"That's why I'm downsizing a bit. There's only going to be one other fulltime worker, so it'll be a boutique home business."

The Purfex factory was established in 1938 and began in the basement of founder Austin Purdy's parents' house, where he devoted hours repairing and fixing old mannequins for shop fronts.

Many of Mr Purdy's sons helped develop the business and Mr Wilkin-Holland joined in late 1970 after graduating from Avondale College.


"I was sent here by the Labour Department.

"I had long hair, lots of makeup and jewellery, and the department said ‘this is an artistic job, it's made for you,' and years later, I ended up owning it," he says.

Mr Wilkin-Holland worked for Mr Purdy for 10 years.

"His sons had gone overseas and I was working here with Austin.

"He was a character, and a driven man. He really liked what he did, much the same as me," Mr Wilkin-Holland says.

The business went into receivership in 1997 and Mr Wilkin-Holland and partner Fraser Moreton purchased Purfex in 1998.

They had about 15 fulltime staff working in the factory.

Purfex specialises in life-like mannequins made from hand-laminated fibreglass, and tailors' forms, which are constructed from layers of cheesecloth and calico, so material can be pinned for designing and draping.

Purfex make to order, and a range of mannequins can be chosen on the website, starting at about $500 and going up to $1200.

A range of outlets including museums, churches and clothing stores benefit from the crafts of Purfex.

"If you walk along Ponsonby Rd, over half of those shops that have tailors' forms in them are from Purfex," Mr Wilkin-Holland says.

"We deal with everyone from Smith & Caughey's to Postie Plus and The Warehouse."

The factory closed on January 25 and began operating in Mr Wilkin-Holland's New Lynn home on January 29.

To mark the closure of the factory, as well as the end of roadworks in New Lynn, Lopdell House Gallery is organising a series of window displays featuring Purfex mannequins decorated by local artists in shops around the area.

Activities including body painting and a sewing cafe will be held on March 9 to celebrate the completion of the area.

Lopdell House Gallery director Lesley Smith says the event will mark the regeneration of New Lynn.

"I hope the event will attract people back to the area," she says.

Western Leader