The House of G goes upmarket
Most Kiwi women have at least one Glassons item in their wardrobes and the brand has a presence in most New Zealand towns and cities.
But the House of G, as fans nickname it, is undertaking massive changes to keep up with their international competitors, including poaching design staff from Topshop.
Tomorrow morning, Glassons opens the doors of its new store at 312 Lambton Quay, Wellington. But rather than being just another street-level offering stuffed with racks of clothing, this is a megastore; a pairing of the Glassons and Hallensteins brands spread over two storeys, with some very exclusive products.
Change is afoot, and it includes an overhaul of the brand image, a design restructure with the arrival of an international designer, and a brand new luxury line. They're changes, says Graeme Popplewell, chief executive of Glassons Hallensteins Holdings, that are well overdue.
"This world globalisation is here and on our doorsteps," says Popplewell. "You've got Topshop, H&M, Zara and so many others; you can no longer work on the premise that what was really great in the northern hemisphere summer will be great here the next summer, because everyone else is thinking that."
Determined to do something different to everyone else, Popplewell and his team have set out to create a Glassons "identity"; something that is intrinsically theirs, is instantly recognisable, and will stand on its own among the noise of fast-fashion megabrands competing in their market.
Earlier this year they brought trend forecaster and creative director Adam Bryce as a consultant to the brand, and five months ago headhunted Kiriana Petterson from the UK.
Petterson, an ex-Massey fashion student, had been living in London since her graduation, and working for UK megabrand Topshop. Petterson began as an intern in the design department and ended up five years later as design manager for the brand. Responsible for the overall look of the collections, Petterson worked under Kate Phelan, from UK Vogue, and worked regularly with top stylists and celebrities such as Katie Grand and Kate Bosworth.
It was her talent and experience in shaping brand designs that had Popplewell offer her a job back home. Keen to get back to family and friends, Petterson took on the job of design director at Glassons. Not only responsible for the production of the clothing, Petterson is changing the way that the company produces its garments.
"Glassons is traditionally a buying-led company," explains Petterson. "Rather than designing in-house, they have buyers who are reacting to what's going on in the fashion world, and buying in season. We now want to be forecasting fashion and predicting trends rather than simply reacting to them. By moving the structure to designing the clothing in-house instead, we can create a stronger handwriting, and be trendsetters rather than trend followers."
While it will take time for the changes to take effect, Petterson is leading the way with a new boutique-style premium line called edt. Pronounced edit, the small capsule collection is produced in silks and other high quality fabrics, with impeccable finishing and aimed at the discerning customer. "I like the idea that everyone should be able to own a luxury item like a silk T-shirt, and I think we've been able to do that. edt. is a slightly higher price point but it's still really accessible. It's exciting to be able to introduce that to the Glassons customer." Prices range from $50-$90.
Designed completely by Petterson herself and exclusive to Lambton Quay, Newmarket, and the online store, numbers in the edt. range are very limited, with only 70 of some garments being made. "One of the complaints I was hearing was that women love our stuff, but they didn't like it that everyone else owned it, too. The small ranges in edt. allow a bit of exclusivity, so you can be sure you won't see hundreds of people with your same garment."
It's a model popular with chain stores overseas, which look to offer something special to their customers. The most successful brand who does it is Topshop, who show their sell-out collections each season at London Fashion Week to packed-out crowds.
But Popplewell is adamant that they're not copying the UK brand. "We don't want to become Topshop - that's exactly what we don't want to do, " he says. "You have to take notice of that, but you have to have your own handwriting as well. The really important thing is to be aware of starting to develop your own brand identity. Trends are trends and you need to keep an eye on them but it's important to put a twist on it. We have to provide a product that the New Zealand customers connect with."
"It's a huge deal to completely change the way you run a business, " he says. "It's very trial and error. I have a huge amount of experience in terms of how Topshop works, but Glassons and the New Zealand market is completely different. It's a massive challenge but we've got the base and the platform there."
Petterson is in the process of building a design team in order to eventually fully design the entire Glassons clothing range in-house. "Won't be designing every piece at Glassons yet, but that's in the pipeline, " she says.
Until then, she's on the hunt to hire new design talent, so heads up, fashion graduates - she's looking for you.
- © Fairfax NZ News