NOW YOU SEE HER

Hello, Turet Knue­fer­mann

Fashion Quarterly - - Contents -

The cen­tre of at­ten­tion isn’t a place de­signer, re­tailer and busi­ness­woman Turet Knue­fer­mann is used to be­ing in. “I think I’ve al­ways been a bit un­der the radar,” she says. “I’ve never re­ally pro­moted [her Knue­fer­mann and TK la­bels] heav­ily, espe­cially us­ing my­self, de­spite the name.”

In­deed, in an ‘al­ways on’ age in which those be­hind fash­ion la­bels are ex­pected to push their own im­age al­most as much as their col­lec­tions, the chic 45-year-old — who this year cel­e­brates an im­pres­sive 13 years in busi­ness — has main­tained a re­mark­ably low pro­file. There’s no selfie-heavy, ex­haus­tive so­cial me­dia pres­ence or overly af­fected per­sonal brand to see here — not be­cause she’s against that par­tic­u­lar ap­proach, but be­cause be­hind the scenes (or be­hind a sewing ma­chine) is where she prefers to stay. “I could lock my­self in a room for days and just drape fab­rics and make things — that’s my happy place,” she says.

The past cou­ple of months have seen Turet step out of her com­fort zone a bit, though she’s been pretty happy to do so. In July, she was named the Mercedes-Benz Presents de­signer for New Zealand Fash­ion Week 2018 — a pres­ti­gious ac­co­lade that recog­nises and cel­e­brates de­sign­ers who are ded­i­cated to in­no­va­tive de­sign, unique style and high-qual­ity ma­te­ri­als. It has thrust the Knue­fer­mann la­bel, and the woman her­self, into the spot­light.

Her new role as the pub­lic face of her brand has taken some ad­just­ing to, but she’s cer­tainly not com­plain­ing. Af­ter more than a decade of hard work, a bit of recog­ni­tion is a nice thing to have. “It’s ob­vi­ously amaz­ing for brand aware­ness in terms of new cus­tomers, but it’s also been re­ally great hav­ing long-time cus­tomers come into the store say­ing, ‘Con­grat­u­la­tions, I’m so happy for you.’ It’s ac­tu­ally been re­ally lovely.”

It’s those long-time cus­tomers who have been in­te­gral to Turet’s busi­ness over the past 13 years. From Pon­sonby so­cialites to butt-kick­ing CEOs and busy mums (and often all three in one), the la­bel has had a devoted fol­low­ing from day one of women who ap­pre­ci­ate time­less, ver­sa­tile and sexy pieces that work just as well for Mon­day-morn­ing meet­ings as they do for Fri­day-night drinks. “I’ve al­ways been about clas­sic shapes and fab­rics that stand the test of time,” says Turet. “It’s not un­com­mon for me to get calls or emails from clients say­ing, ‘I’ve still got that piece you made 10 years ago and I still wear it all the time.’”

Turet puts her solid un­der­stand­ing of her cus­tomer’s needs down to hav­ing al­ways been hands-on in ev­ery as­pect of the busi­ness. As she ex­plains, “To re­ally know some­thing, you’ve got to do the time.” Her fash­ion ca­reer started back in her broke stu­dent days (she stud­ied lan­guages and com­put­ers), when the then party girl would whip up pieces to wear on nights out. “Peo­ple would ask where I got my out­fit from and be­fore I knew it, I was mak­ing clothes for friends and friends of friends.” When one of those sup­port­ers opened a re­tail store, she asked Turet to make a few pieces to stock, and when those pieces sold out, she made a few more, “and just kept mak­ing them”.

In the early 2000s, Turet met her hus­band and cre­ative part­ner, pho­tog­ra­pher Danilo David, and af­ter two weeks of dat­ing found her­self on a plane head­ing to his home coun­try of Brazil for what she now de­scribes as a life-chang­ing and ca­reer-defin­ing trip. “It was mind-blow­ing in so many senses,” she says. “[Brazil] has the in­cred­i­ble his­tory and old-world­li­ness of Europe, but in a re­ally fresh way, and the weather’s re­ally hot, so the fash­ion lends it­self to that type of cli­mate. The women are bronzed and glam­orous, and wear ear­rings and heels and short, tight dresses; the men are re­ally pol­ished and re­fined — that clas­sic beige pants and white shirt with the salt-and-pep­per hair. It was just beau­ti­ful.”

A LIFE­TIME OF STYLE

Turet also fell in love with the re­tail side of Brazil­ian fash­ion, in­clud­ing its stores’ “mas­sive court­yards with wa­ter­falls and palms”, and the way cus­tomers were en­cour­aged to take their time and pe­ruse the racks with a cof­fee or glass of cham­pagne in hand — some­thing that wasn’t re­ally be­ing done in New Zealand at the time. In­spired, she opened the now-iconic TK Store on Pon­sonby’s Brown Street in 2005, im­port­ing not only gar­ments and ac­ces­sories from her new favourite coun­try, but also its wel­com­ing re­tail prac­tices. Ini­tially, she stocked only a small se­lec­tion of her own pieces, but de­mand quickly grew. Within five years, the ma­jor­ity of gar­ments on the racks were Knue­fer­mann and she was work­ing on the shop floor by day and mak­ing gar­ments at night. “That’s when I started to take it re­ally se­ri­ously and be­gan ex­pand­ing into knitwear and other gar­ments,” she says.

Af­ter a decade of grow­ing the la­bel or­gan­i­cally, in 2015 Turet worked with friends and brand­ing ex­perts Os­borne Shi­wan to de­fine her out­put — dis­tin­guish­ing the laid-back and week­end-ready TK from the more cor­po­rate and spe­cial oc­ca­sion-wear Knue­fer­mann. That same year, she opened a sec­ond store in the his­toric Kauri Tim­ber Build­ing on down­town Auck­land’s Fan­shawe Street. One of only three her­itage build­ings re­main­ing on the Free­mans Bay shore­line, the hand­some brick prop­erty had un­der­gone a re­de­vel­op­ment by multi-award-win­ning ar­chi­tects Fearon Hay.

A lover of great ar­chi­tec­ture, Turet knew at first sight that she had to have a piece of the sun-drenched, kauri-floored, soar­ing ceilinged space. “The Brown Street store will al­ways be a go-to for our clients, but [Fan­shawe Street] is such a unique spot, and I want to re­flect that with what we stock there — from beau­ti­fully crafted shoes from Den­mark to hand­made per­fumes from

Los An­ge­les,” she says.

The al­ways-put-to­gether glama­zon is, as you’d ex­pect, a big fan of all things stylish and in­ter­est­ing — some­thing she puts down to her Ger­man par­ents’ im­pec­ca­ble taste, and the travel she en­joyed through­out her child­hood thanks to her fa­ther’s job as a univer­sity pro­fes­sor. “When­ever we were in a new coun­try, Dad would make me and my sis­ter study the his­tory and ar­chi­tec­ture of the place be­fore we could go out and ex­plore — which is the last thing you want to do as a kid, but I’m grate­ful for that knowl­edge now,” she says.

For­tu­itously, her par­ents’ love of her­itage and qual­ity, and no doubt a bit of home-coun­try loy­alty too, also primed her for her re­cent part­ner­ship. “Mum and Dad ac­tu­ally had a Mercedes when I was grow­ing up. They were al­ways re­ally care­ful with their choices; they weren’t par­tic­u­larly ma­te­ri­al­is­tic or flashy but a Mercedes was al­ways some­thing as­pi­ra­tional yet prac­ti­cal.”

The brand left such an im­pres­sion that when Turet headed off to univer­sity, she got her­self a Merc’ too, al­beit a “beat-up old sta­tion wagon” that while serv­ing her re­li­ably for 15 years was no doubt a far cry from the im­pos­si­bly glossy, high-spec Mercedes-Benz CLA Shoot­ing Brake she’s cur­rently rolling around in. “Yeah, it’s a bit of an up­grade!” she laughs. “It’s amaz­ing to drive and it’s such an honour to be work­ing with a brand that has such pres­tige — that epit­o­mises qual­ity, re­li­a­bil­ity and style. Those are all things we en­deav­our to do with our gar­ments as well.”

The car’s safety fea­tures are also a big plus for Turet, par­tic­u­larly on days when she’s driv­ing around with a bub in the back. Turet and Danilo’s son Ayr­ton (named af­ter Brazil­ian race-car driver Ayr­ton Senna) is two and “the ab­so­lute hap­pi­ness and joy” of their lives. “It’s funny, be­cause we both re­ally en­joyed our free­dom and were so ma­ni­a­cally busy that we thought we’d never have time to even think about hav­ing kids, but hav­ing him in our lives has been such an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that now I’m like, ‘Hmm, maybe we could have an­other one.’ I didn’t re­alise how cool it would be.”

When asked if be­com­ing a mother has slowed her down as she thought it might, Turet pauses briefly be­fore shak­ing her head. “We’re lucky that we can be flex­i­ble and just fit our lives around him,” she says. “For the first 18 months, I kind of just slung him on my hip and went off to pro­duc­tion meet­ings. It’s full-on, and there’s def­i­nitely less sleep in the be­gin­ning, but you make it work and carry on.”

Call it good old-fash­ioned Ger­man prag­ma­tism, but chat­ting with Turet, whether we’re talk­ing moth­er­hood or busi­ness, you get the sense that knuck­ling down and get­ting the job done has al­ways been her MO. At the time of our in­ter­view, she’s pre­par­ing for her open­ing show at Fash­ion Week, and al­though these days she has a team around her, as well as a net­work of man­u­fac­tur­ers and sup­pli­ers, she’s still putting in as much blood, sweat and tears as she did when she was alone, pulling all-nighters to get stock into her first store.

“Be­ing in­volved in ev­ery­thing is time-con­sum­ing and dif­fi­cult, but it’s the best way to un­der­stand your cus­tomer and get your head around your busi­ness, what things should cost and how long they should take,” she ex­plains of her worka­holi­cish ten­den­cies. “It helps you gain peo­ple’s re­spect.”

If there’s any­one in the busi­ness who’s earned that re­spect — and who de­serves their time in the spot­light, even if it does take some get­ting used to — it’s Turet Knue­fer­mann.

She’s still putting in as much as she did when she was alone, pulling all-nighters to get stock into her first store

Model wears Turet’s Va­nia One-Shoul­der dress.

Turet (right) with the Mercedes-BenzCLA Shoot­ing Brake. “It’s a bit ofan up­grade!”

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