Two Kiwi Guys and a Chic Niche /

Latitude Magazine - - CONTENTS - WORDS Kim Newth IM­AGES Char­lie Jack­son

From rugby play­ing and build­ing to sell­ing home­wares, the tale of NED Col­lec­tions

A shared flair for home­wares and home dé­cor per­suaded for­mer pro­fes­sional rugby player Brett Mather and de­signer Daniel Webb to join forces in 2015 and launch NED Col­lec­tions, a Christchur­ch-based whole­sale home­wares busi­ness. Their hand-se­lected stock, sourced glob­ally, is now sought af­ter by clients through­out New Zealand.

We are stand­ing in NED Col­lec­tions’ ware­house in Durham Street, where com­pany founders Brett Mather and Dan Webb are proudly show­ing off their lat­est finds from around the world, in­clud­ing gor­geous earthy ce­ram­ics from Viet­nam and rounded planters from China. Rather than keep­ing ev­ery­thing stored away in boxes, the duo have cre­ated an open show­case room fur­nished with ta­bles and shelves to make it very easy for clients to vi­su­alise ‘the fit’ of var­i­ous pieces. ‘We can un­pack and dis­man­tle this space and take it to trade shows to give peo­ple that same con­text; the feed­back we’ve had is that’s re­ally valu­able,’ Dan says.

The story of how this busi­ness came into be­ing is gen­uinely fas­ci­nat­ing. Be­fore find­ing his way into home­wares, Brett spent the best part of a decade play­ing his heart out on the rugby field. High­lights for the mid-fielder in­cluded se­lec­tion for the High­landers in 2008, spend­ing a sea­son play­ing in Ja­pan in 2011, then mak­ing the cut to play for his home­town team Can­ter­bury to­wards the end of his ca­reer, fol­lowed by a five-month con­tract play­ing in France in 2015.

In­evitably, along with the highs there are ca­reer lows. For Brett, one of th­ese came while on con­tract for the Bay of Plenty Steam­ers. ‘I broke my leg and was out for a year.’

Rather than waste the time-out, Brett was ad­vised to find some­thing pro­duc­tive to do. He’d ear­lier started a de­gree in phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion but in­stead de­cided to try some­thing new. ‘In Ja­pan I’d be­come in­trigued by small spaces and how peo­ple could make tiny spaces look so cool. I wanted to learn more about it so I ended up do­ing an in­te­rior de­sign course and found I re­ally en­joyed it. Out­side of rugby, I’d also been in­vest­ing in some prop­erty and do­ing some ren­o­va­tions and just loved the whole process of fur­nish­ing places.

‘I started talk­ing to Dan about what I was up to and how there was this de­mand for fur­nished short-term ac­com­mo­da­tion. The con­ver­sa­tion soon pro­gressed into how we could source ac­ces­si­bly priced home­wares to fit places out.’

Born and raised in Palmer­ston North to en­tre­pre­neur­ial par­ents, Dan moved to Christchur­ch af­ter fin­ish­ing high school. He ini­tially stud­ied busi­ness be­fore mov­ing into jobs in re­tail­ing and mer­chan­dis­ing and then gain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in the build­ing in­dus­try for sev­eral years. Along­side that, he had an in­ter­est in art and de­sign. All of this paved the way to him study­ing ar­chi­tec­ture in Christchur­ch and Auck­land.

‘Ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign is per­fect for me, com­bin­ing that cre­ative side with a pro­fes­sion I re­ally en­joy,’ says Dan, who

In hind­sight, they shud­der at their naivety and how eas­ily things could have gone wrong. For­tu­nately though, most re­tail­ers were open to giv­ing the new­bies a shot.

launched Christchur­ch prac­tice Three­fold Ar­chi­tec­ture six years ago. His de­sign team is to­day based up­stairs from NED Col­lec­tions on Durham Street.

What re­ally kick-started NED Col­lec­tions for Brett and Dan was when Brett got an op­por­tu­nity through a fam­ily friend to travel to a big trade show in China in 2015. ‘I told Dan about it and he wanted in – he was keen to be in­volved,’ ex­plains Brett. ‘With his back­ground in re­tail and busi­ness and my abil­ity to source prod­uct, we re­alised we were a good combo. I went off to China, came back with three or four con­tain­ers of prod­uct and we bor­rowed garages wher­ever we could to store ev­ery­thing. I had a truck and so then went around the South Is­land with sam­ples try­ing to get clients on board to stock our goods!’

In hind­sight, they shud­der at their naivety and how eas­ily things could have gone wrong. For­tu­nately though, most re­tail­ers were open to giv­ing the new­bies a shot. ‘We kept chip­ping away, mak­ing con­tacts and then in 2016 went to a trade show in Auck­land,’ says Dan. ‘That was very suc­cess­ful; the growth we got from that was phe­nom­e­nal. We were in­tro­duc­ing af­ford­ably priced prod­uct that was new to the mar­ket at that time.’ Be­ing a cou­ple of fresh faces with an un­re­hearsed yet di­rect sales style prob­a­bly counted in their favour too.

As well as China, NED Col­lec­tions sources stock from as far as Viet­nam, Bali, In­dia and Africa. The key word here is ‘col­lec­tions’. Rather than fo­cus­ing on prod­ucts in iso­la­tion, con­sid­er­able care goes into se­lect­ing items that will work well to­gether in a home con­text. ‘That’s what we’re try­ing to repli­cate in our ware­house space,’ says Dan. ‘It shows peo­ple how they can use what we’ve sourced for them.’

There is cer­tainly some­thing very sat­is­fy­ing in the cu­rated, LED-lit ware­house dis­play in front of us to­day, rang­ing from wil­low bowls, sea­grass bas­kets and hardy can­vas bag lug­gage to hand­wo­ven woollen rugs, beau­ti­ful lit­tle vases, felt stor­age items and funky planters.

Trends in home­wares move fast and there are al­ways risks in try­ing to read where the mar­ket is go­ing. Brett, who leads the sourc­ing and im­port lo­gis­tics side of the busi­ness, tries not to get too hung up on pass­ing fads. ‘Gen­er­ally, we try to source prod­ucts that use nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als and we aim for a neu­tral colour pal­ette. Of­ten, our prod­ucts have quite an earthy feel. There’s a real retro edge to our new spring range. Ev­ery­thing is go­ing curvy, in­clud­ing the planters. Our mir­rors are all cir­cu­lar too!’

The pair reg­u­larly at­tend over­seas trade shows that may span an area 20 times the size of Horn­cas­tle Arena and yet, in Brett’s own words, ‘99.8 per cent of it is junk’. It takes a pa­tient man with a dis­cern­ing eye not to lose faith that some­thing of value will even­tu­ally emerge from a sea of ter­ra­cotta frogs, golden chairs and other bric-a-brac. ‘It takes days to get through th­ese shows and you’re con­stantly

Rather than fo­cus­ing on prod­ucts in iso­la­tion, con­sid­er­able care goes into se­lect­ing items that will

work well to­gether in a home con­text.

walk­ing, but I know our style and what we like.’

Their lat­est ce­ramic col­lec­tion was spot­ted by Dan, a keen pot­ter, at a bou­tique trade fair in Viet­nam. ‘I could see th­ese lit­tle pops of colour so went and ex­plored it and to­day this range is one of our best sellers.’

When not away with Brett on a buy­ing trip or busy work­ing at Three­fold, Dan can be found man­ag­ing NED Col­lec­tions’ in­ven­tory and pric­ing. Also sup­port­ing the grow­ing busi­ness is ware­house wiz­ard Kaleb, and three other staff tak­ing care of pho­tog­ra­phy, so­cial me­dia and IT. It’s not just re­tail­ers beat­ing a path to their door but also home stagers, in­te­rior de­sign­ers, florists, ar­chi­tects and ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign­ers. Mem­bers of the pub­lic also ac­cess their wares through var­i­ous stock­ists.

There are nat­u­ral and grow­ing syn­er­gies be­tween the home­wares and ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign brands. Of­ten Dan’s ar­chi­tec­tural clients grav­i­tate to NED Col­lec­tions’ ware­house. When Three­fold Ar­chi­tec­ture was com­mis­sioned re­cently for an in­te­rior de­sign project in Merivale, Brett and his brother were also called in to do the fit-out, right down to the car­pets, drapes and tiles.

‘It’s an area we are mov­ing into long-term; we are mul­ti­func­tional and can de­liver spaces that are dif­fer­ent and cool and we think there’s value in that,’ says Brett.

Mean­while, NED Col­lec­tions is poised to grow a pres­ence in Aus­tralia too and is cur­rently work­ing hard to es­tab­lish a firm foothold there by Christ­mas.

ABOVE / NED Col­lec­tions’ founders: Brett Mather and Daniel Webb. OP­PO­SITE TOP LEFT / A co­her­ent and con­sis­tent vi­sion drives Brett and Daniel’s de­sign ethos. OP­PO­SITE TOP RIGHT / Round mir­rors are in vogue right now, as are nat­u­ral neu­tral tones. OP­PO­SITE BOT­TOM RIGHT / Se­lected with care: a per­fect ‘go-any­where’ choice for peo­ple on the move.

ABOVE / Brett and Dan have learned to trust their in­stincts and good judge­ment. It is what de­fines the NED Col­lec­tions dif­fer­ence.

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