BLKonBLK - - Harman -


Grant Fell : Let’s start at the be­gin­ning, where did you two meet? Jessica Gru­bisa: We met at White­cliffe. I was at White­cliffes a year be­fore Madeleine… Madeleine Harman: Yeah that’s right…jg: She was the hot new kid on the block when we met! GF: So you were in dif­fer­ent years? JG: No, we were in the same year but I had al­ready done my first year at White­cliffes and Madi had done a year at Elam Art School. GF: Ah, I see. So you formed a friend­ship, you were bud­dies? MH: Pretty swiftly, yeah…jg: I thought, “You look al­right!” and she thought, “You look al­right!” MH: Our friend­ship re­ally hap­pened in our fourth year. JG: We were al­ways the ones still there at like 4 o’clock in the morn­ing. GF: Still work­ing? JG: Yeah, suck­ers for pun­ish­ment, I think. GF: Did you start col­lab­o­rat­ing on projects while you were still there? MH: No, we were po­lar op­po­sites re­ally; Jess was wild and out there and I was all neu­tral tones… Rachael Church­ward: I re­mem­ber think­ing that then. JG: You did make clothes out of paint, though.mh: I made clothes out of paint. Which was crazy… GF: How did you do that? MH: Ba­si­cally I poured it so it be­comes like a film and paint has a lot of elas­tic­ity, which be­came the whole idea – I was look­ing at the con­cept of skin and wear­ing skin. GF: Like tights that you could slip into type of thing ? RC: I re­mem­ber hear­ing about that and think­ing I should get a skirt or some­thing for a shoot but I was wor­ried about tear­ing or break­ing it. MH: I did pants and a shirt you didn’t so much need to slip into them, you could pull them up and put them on like nor­mal. GF: So you were friends but not col­lab­o­ra­tors, what made you hook up then to do this, to do Harman Gru­bisa ? JG: The way I re­mem­ber it, is that lit­er­ally I had been think­ing about it for a while, the idea of hav­ing a part­ner be­cause fash­ion de­sign and ev­ery­thing that sur­rounds it is ac­tu­ally in­tense so I al­ways thought that two would be bet­ter than one. It is an in­tense process so you need some­one else to bal­ance it – all the great­est hits have two writ­ers! Then one day I lit­er­ally looked over at Maddy and thought, “I could do that with her!” MH: Same, it was like an ‘a ha’ mo­ment! JG: Then one night we were work­ing late again, I had my com­puter at school and we were watch­ing some­thing like Sex & The City or Gossip Girl , it was about 2am and we were like ‘shall we do this to­gether?’ MH: It was like, if we were go­ing to do this then we should do this to­gether. GF: Yeah, Jess I re­mem­ber you talk­ing about the po­ten­tial part­ner­ship be­fore it hap­pened as well. And then Maddy you went to New York? MH: I went to New York… GF: Why did you go there? MH: I got a schol­ar­ship, I won an award which was a schol­ar­ship through univer­sity here. It wasn’t like a year of study, it con­sisted of an over­seas trip. So I went to the Sates and I was there for over two months so I de­cided to get a visa - ef­fec­tively I went from Auck­land to New Jersey where the univer­sity is. Then I went to Paris and An­twerp and a bunch of places with the fash­ion group at the univer­sity and then moved into New York city and worked in the city un­til the end of that year. GF: And then you went over there to meet up with Maddy if I re­call Jess? JG: I went over for a hol­i­day and to see Maddy and was there for a whirl­wind two weeks. She was work­ing at a place called Trend Union. MH: When I was in Paris I met a woman called Lidewij Edelkoort who is a world-renowned trend fore­caster and ended up work­ing in the New York of­fice. She is very ab­stract, not like re­search or com­mer­cial… GF: That sounds like a good place to learn about fash­ion? MH: Yeah, it was re­ally in­ter­est­ing! She would work with re­ally im­por­tant peo­ple so I was meet­ing with peo­ple like the Macy’s de­sign team, Ken­neth Cole, all of the big con­glom­er­ates, it re­ally was quite fas­ci­nat­ing…jg: Ac­tu­ally, here’s a story for you. I went in to one of the trend fore­cast­ing ses­sions while I was there and they were show­ing a bunch of images and a Black Mag­a­zine photo came up! I think it was the Thom Kerr shoot of Codie Young in the grave­yard, that kinda gothic look­ing shoot. MH: We felt proud, images from

half way around the world there in a trend ses­sion… GF: Trendsetters! Ha ha…so while the two of you were in New York did the con­cept of Harman Gru­bisa grow? JG: We tried to think of a name…hm: We ac­tu­ally talked about the pos­si­bil­ity of do­ing it there, of do­ing it in New York. JG: Yeah, we talked about that re­ally se­ri­ously. But it would have been a big decision to make. GF: So why did you come home Madi? MH: Ummm…i got mar­ried… (laughs) GF: That’s a pretty good rea­son … MH: Yeah, I came home and got mar­ried and Jess was go­ing to take a job at…jg: Alice Mccall in Bali… RC: Oh, that one … MH: There was to­tal tur­moil at that time, be­tween com­ing home, Jess maybe go­ing to Bali, I was of­fered a great job in New York and we just talked and thought, we are in our twen­ties, we are never go­ing to do it un­less we do it now and we had even talked about get­ting fund­ing that we felt sure we could get if we did it right so I just packed up and came home. RC: I think it is prob­a­bly much bet­ter that you are do­ing it from here. You have fam­ily, friends and a huge support net­work right here whereas if you are do­ing it in New York you don’t have that at your fin­ger­tips. MH: Yeah, and when you start out like this you have to pour ev­ery­thing into it. We have no money, nei­ther of us are tak­ing a wage, lit­er­ally ev­ery­thing is this for us at the mo­ment and we’ve made a lot of sac­ri­fices. We are at a huge point of risk in terms of debt but at the same time, if we were in New York it would be a lot scarier and prob­a­bly a lot more dif­fi­cult. There would be no fall back. RC: There would be no Jess’ Nana to help you with pro­duc­tion. JG: And hope­fully this doesn’t sound big-headed but there is a groundswell of new, ex­cit­ing young de­sign­ers here so if peo­ple like us don’t stay here and do it, what is the fu­ture of NZ fash­ion? GF: Ex­actly, love that view­point! JG: It’s re­ally hard, though. Some­times you just get so stressed out and tired. You just want to go out into the street where there is no one and just scream you know? GF: So where did the brand start, you were both back here, what did you come up with first, the name? MH: We ac­tu­ally did an in­tense business plan that took us months and months and months, a cash flow and all of the stuff you should do first. JG: Yeah, we started there…mh: And, we got su­per duper chal­lenged by peo­ple, men­tors and ad­vi­sors – on our name, on our mar­ket­ing, on our re­tail plan. To get the money to start this business we had to jus­tify ev­ery sin­gle thing, ev­ery de­tail, ev­ery­thing we are go­ing to make for the next three years. GF: Per­fect! JG: We were heav­ily chal­lenged on our orig­i­nal business model. It was pretty ex­haust­ing. GF: So ob­vi­ously you got your business model into a place that you felt good about it? MH: Yeah, to­tally. JG: We were pushed into a bet­ter idea to be hon­est. MH: A harder idea. JG: Ba­si­cally bit­ing off a lot more than we had an­tic­i­pated. GF: Did that in­clude reap­prais­ing your tar­get mar­ket, I think we were quite sur­prised when you told us about that. RC: Oh no, I was ac­tu­ally re­ally pleased that you are go­ing for an older mar­ket than we thought you would. A younger mar­ket doesn’t al­ways have the spend and they can move quickly from trend to trend but an older woman is a dif­fer­ent story . JG: We would be happy if a mother and daugh­ter came in and both bought pieces, there are pieces a daugh­ter could wear for sure. GF: So you got your business plan fi­nalised and got ap­proval for in­vest­ment, and con­grat­u­la­tions on that, not that many young de­sign­ers go down that path to start. So your business foun­da­tions are laid, what’s next, did you start sketch­ing de­signs, con­cepts ? MH: We fi­nalised the name, lots of peo­ple didn’t like the name. RC: I think the name is bril­liant, it sounds like a fash­ion la­bel. Why did peo­ple not like the name? MH: Umm, I think some peo­ple just felt is wasn’t very user friendly, like “I can’t pro­nounce it, I don’t un­der­stand it… GF: And Ann De­meule­meester or Alexan­dre Her­ch­cov­itch are easy? JG: I think fash­ion fol­low­ers pride them­selves on learn­ing how to pro­nounce names. Like the first time I pro­nounced Proenza Schouler I think I said Shoaler or some­thing, I die…but now I am never go­ing to say that wrong again. GF: Ex­actly, it is ac­tu­ally a small but not in­signif­i­cant part of fash­ion, for­eign lan­guages, names and pro­nun­ci­a­tion! MH: When it came down to it, that is who we are, those are our names. Some peo­ple felt it was ego­tis­ti­cal, like we want our names above the door but it wasn’t like that at all. Like our de­sign process, ev­ery­thing we do is very much a col­lab­o­ra­tion so it feels like the right name. GF: With the name sorted was it into de­sign? Sketches? MH: Yeah, sketches and mood­boards – images, in­spi­ra­tion. JG: We kind of got the gen­eral flow of what we wanted. Colour­ing, pal­ette was re­ally im­por­tant. We both knew we wanted to do a print. MH: I think be­cause you had been so in­volved in the in­dus­try here from an ed­i­to­rial per­spec­tive with Black and I hav­ing been in New York we have been con­stantly sur­rounded by images, so we had a good idea about the more di­rec­tional pieces we wanted to do, like a midi length skirt… RC: Yes, which I have had my eye on. I keep star­ing at it and think­ing that I want it, purely form a styling point of view there is so much I could do with it . MH: I think Jess and I both had pieces that we kind of, had to do… GF: Then you went to Hong Kong to­gether…mainly to source fab­rics? JG: Yeah, we went to Hong Kong and Guangzhou in main­land China, mainly to source the fab­rics for the col­lec­tion but also to find a hand­bag man­u­fac­turer, and leather sup­plier. GF: How did you sources th­ese peo­ple and places, were you cold call­ing from NZ? JG: Be­fore we left, any­one who knew any­thing about this; fab­rics, mills, sup­pli­ers in Hong Kong or China we had a meet­ing with, we just asked every­body we knew who might know! We did a lot of re­search on­line as well. We went over there, got straight off the plane and went straight to the Hong Kong con­ven­tion cen­tre which was huge and then we just gung-hoed it around and tried to cre­ate some sort of or­der and or­gan­i­sa­tion to what we were do­ing. It was pretty amaz­ing. MH: The only thing we want to man­u­fac­ture in China or even over­seas at the mo­ment is hand­bags and shoes. I worked for An­drea Moore when I first came home. She put me in charge of her ac­ces­sories and it was pretty clear that there is re­ally no one left in New Zealand who can man­u­fac­ture beau­ti­ful leather goods and ac­ces­sories from scratch…and who wants to do fash­ion rather than say up­hol­stery. We put our­selves in a po­si­tion where, we pretty much knew we weren’t go­ing to find a man­u­fac­turer be­cause the min­i­mums we were look­ing for were pretty small num­bers and they had lim­its of like 5000 (laughs) so we went there look­ing for the hard­ware sup­pli­ers, the leather sup­pli­ers we knew we could get them put to­gether in New Zealand. We went to Hong Kong and sourced some fab­rics there and then went to main­land China to this fab­ric fair, a mas­sive fab­ric fair… JG: I think it is the big­gest one in Asia. GF: Did you source all of the fab­rics for this col­lec­tion then, in Hong Kong and China? HM: Most of it, the majority. The print we are get­ting made up in In­dia prob­a­bly and there are a few dif­fer­ent silks from lo­cal sup­pli­ers but we also want to en­sure the print we get done is ac­tu­ally ours and doesn’t start ap­pear­ing some­where else, you know? Be­cause it is our first sea­son it is very im­por­tant to us. GF: A killer print can de­fine a range quite eas­ily…so the next part of the process, pat­tern-mak­ing, cut­ting, get­ting sam­ples done? A ma­chin­ist…was that when it be­came more real, a fun part? Did you feel that you had enough knowl­edge to over see that? JG: Yeah, def­i­nitely… MH: We were fine with that part of it. We kept it sim­ple and worked with one pat­tern­maker and one ma­chin­ist. We were pretty com­fort­able with it all but I think pro­duc­tion is a new game! I think with pro­duc­tion both Jess and I…well, nei­ther of us re­ally want to put our hand up for pro­duc­tion (laughs) it takes a spe­cial kind of per­son but at the same time as de­sign­ers you need to be very aware of this part of it. RC: I have met quite a few of the pro­duc­tion man­agers, pro­duc­tion peo­ple who work with He­len Cherry and Work­shop, Zambesi, Karen, Kate etc and they are usu­ally re­ally amaz­ing women. They know how to get you there, it’s their job. MH: We will be fine we def­i­nitely have enough knowl­edge of the process and we are start­ing off quite small. RC: Ex­actly it is not like you have to pro­duce hun­dreds and hun­dreds of pieces straight away. GF: I’m im­pressed at how or­gan­ised you have been in terms of imag­ing the col­lec­tion; a look book with a qual­ity team, a cam­paign at the same time, that’s good plan­ning. What about re­tail, how far down the track are you with that? JG: Orig­i­nally we thought we were go­ing to be whole­sal­ing to start but it is not the ul­ti­mate route we want to take, it is not go­ing to be the big­gest

cheque for us at the end of the day and we want whole­sale re­la­tion­ship where there are exclusives – so you could only buy a par­tic­u­lar bag at a par­tic­u­lar store. Right now on­line, our own on­line store and then fol­low­ing on from that our own store, our own re­tail space. MH: I think it’s also about con­trol­ling your own stock so that we can put some­thing into store when we want be­cause it is go­ing into our own store. Plus, Jess and I have de­cided to go straight to sea­son. Ev­ery­one else is on win­ter right now, and we are just get­ting to win­ter, we will go straight into sum­mer. Oth­er­wise, we started in Fe­bru­ary, but it would be a whole year be­fore we saw any money com­ing in the door. It just means we can ex­per­i­ment, see who likes what and what they don’t like, and see in­come ear­lier – rather than be­ing limited by an or­der and then scram­bling to make it hap­pen. RC: Yes, that sys­tem is based upon hav­ing so many stock­ists that you have to have an or­der and pro­duc­tion sys­tem fur­ther and fur­ther ahead. This way, you can make some sam­ples and stocks and if no one or­ders a look or what­ever, you don’t have to waste money mak­ing it up. JG: Go­ing through the business plan process we were chal­lenged a lot about this sort of thing; “Yes, your prod­uct is great, you are fab­u­lous, it all looks good but what are you go­ing to change, what are you go­ing to of­fer that is dif­fer­ent?” And we said we could change the ex­pe­ri­ence. We do think our prod­uct is great, we love the clothes we are mak­ing but we have thought a lot about the on­line ex­pe­ri­ence, how we are go­ing to work in re­tail in fu­ture, en­gag­ing our au­di­ence and I think there is al­ready an ex­pe­ri­ence there from start to fin­ish… GF: For sure, I am aware of a cou­ple of those projects bub­bling away in the back­ground! Do you have a brand state­ment? MH & JG: We de­cided on ‘beau­ti­ful above all else’… GF & RC: Beau­ti­ful! Thanks Jess and Madi!!



Space Mesh bomber, Space Mesh bell skirt , Shine skivvy and Af­ter­noon Mule in nude, all by Harman Gu­bisa

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