CHRIS­TINE AND VERE SHARMA WITH CHIL­DREN ANNA-LISE SHARMA, LIAM SHARMA AND EMILY MILLER-SHARMA

Fashion Quarterly - - Profile - OWN­ERS OF DE VERE TEX­TILES; RUBY; LIAM; MODERN MAN­NERS

In 1988, Vere and Chris­tine Sharma — the for­mer with a back­ground in fash­ion and tex­tiles, and the lat­ter with ex­pe­ri­ence in buy­ing and re­tail — started their own tex­tile busi­ness, De Vere Tex­tiles, out of their then-home in Devon­port, Auck­land. Ini­tially fo­cused on im­port­ing and sup­ply­ing fabric to cus­tomers both in New Zealand and off­shore, the hus­band and wife team would, over the course of the next 20 years, branch out into fabric pro­duc­tion and the im­por­ta­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion of man­u­fac­tured gar­ments to their lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional clients. In 2008 came the com­pany’s foray into re­tail with the pur­chase of fledg­ling New Zealand la­bel and then-client, Ruby. To­day, De Vere is a mul­ti­fac­eted busi­ness span­ning both re­tail and cor­po­rate uni­forms, with ca­pa­bil­i­ties in de­sign, fabric and gar­ment pro­duc­tion, lo­gis­tics and dis­tri­bu­tion and re­tail store sales and op­er­a­tions.

Suf­fice to say, the Shar­mas can’t do it alone. Thank­fully, a ded­i­cated staff of 75 helps to keep ev­ery as­pect of the busi­ness tick­ing over — among them, three of Vere and Chris­tine’s five adult chil­dren.

The el­dest, Emily Miller-Sharma (34), is gen­eral man­ager of Ruby and de­signer for sis­ter brand Liam. 27-year-old Anna-Lise Sharma started out as Ruby brand man­ager in 2013 after two years spent work­ing in PR. She re­turned to the family busi­ness in 2017 fol­low­ing 18 months im­mersed in Lon­don’s fash­ion and re­tail scene, and now heads Ruby’s mar­ket­ing and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment side. As well as spear­head­ing streetwear la­bel Modern Man­ners, which was launched un­der the De Vere um­brella in 2015, youngest sib­ling Liam Sharma, 22, man­ages Ruby’s so­cial me­dia chan­nels and has been proac­tive in cre­at­ing and main­tain­ing the brand’s in­flu­encer re­la­tion­ships.

Sound like a recipe for a whole lot of squab­bling? There’s no hint of it when the sib­lings are asked to talk up each other’s strengths. “Anna-Lise is in­cred­i­bly strate­gic with im­pec­ca­bly high stan­dards,” says Emily, who also ac­knowl­edges the “mis­chievous ideas” her brother Liam brings to the ta­ble, and how con­nected he is to what’s hap­pen­ing in the world and how the brand’s cus­tomers are reacting to it. Anna-Lise has sim­i­lar praise for Liam (“he’s per­sua­sive, charis­matic… a dig­i­tal-first thinker”) and for her com­bi­na­tion of cre­ative and com­mer­cial nous, de­scribes Emily as “the jack and master of all trades”. Liam char­ac­terises his sis­ters suc­cinctly: Emily is a “boss babe” and “de­sign queen”; Anna-Lise his men­tor.

Mum, of course, knows it’s not smooth sail­ing 24/7. “Sib­lings can have real trig­ger points for each other and this needs to be kept pro­fes­sional to main­tain a healthy work­place,” says Chris­tine, who, as Ruby’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, over­sees new stores and busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties and of­fers sup­port when­ever and wher­ever it’s needed — whether as a sound­ing board for the man­age­ment team or an ex­tra pair of hands to stick bar­codes on gar­ments. Her kids re­fer to her var­i­ously as “the soul of the com­pany” and “the glue that holds ev­ery­thing to­gether”.

With such a large family (Vere and Chris­tine have two other chil­dren, New York-based fash­ion de­signer Jared, and Ryan, who was pre­vi­ously Ruby’s in-house ac­coun­tant and now runs Blue­bells Cak­ery with part­ner Karla Good­win), strict work-life bound­aries are es­sen­tial to keep­ing the peace. Anna-Lise ex­plains that work-re­lated con­ver­sa­tion is banned at home, “which is hard when there’s some­thing stress­ful or ex­cit­ing go­ing on”.

“It’s easy for a family din­ner to de­volve into a work con­ver­sa­tion,” con­firms Emily, who in ad­di­tion to con­cep­tu­al­is­ing and over­see­ing the cre­ation of each Liam col­lec­tion is kept busy with fore­cast­ing and bud­get­ing, pur­chas­ing and pro­duc­tion, and staff man­age­ment, train­ing and re­cruit­ment. “You want to share with your family what’s go­ing on in your work life,” she con­tin­ues. “But when they’re part of that work life they can have their own agen­das and per­spec­tives — they’re not neu­tral com­men­ta­tors.”

Emily adds that the stress nat­u­rally com­pounds when the whole family is op­er­at­ing un­der pres­sure, but this is just tes­ta­ment to the fact that they all care so deeply about what they do. Ac­cord­ing to Anna-Lise, it’s also what makes them un­stop­pable. “When we’re met with a se­ri­ous chal­lenge we band to­gether and work seam­lessly.” Vere — of­fi­cially man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of De Vere but known to his chil­dren as chief ne­go­tia­tor and vi­sion­ary — con­firms that work­ing day in, day out with mul­ti­ple family mem­bers is not with­out its chal­lenges. “But I love to watch their pas­sion, drive and en­ergy, and what we as a family can achieve. I’m proud of how our busi­ness has evolved and will con­tinue to in these chal­leng­ing times, and that comes from us singing off the same song sheet,” he says.

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