Designer Spotlight: Vicki Taylor of Taylor & Taylor Boutique

Vicki TaylorAmanda Haxton of Designer Direction talks to New Zealand designer and boutique owner Vicki Taylor of Auckland. Vicki reveals the Taylor brands journey to success and offers some frank advice for budding fashion designers.

The dark exterior of taylor Boutique has had an unassuming presence on Ponsonby’s Jervois Rd for over a decade and will likely remain for decades to come -that’s judging from its numerous dedicated customers – who still return to the boutique in merino knit purchased when the store first opened.

Ten years in retail is a small miracle within the tough New Zealand fashion market but Vicki Taylor, owner and designer of the taylor label, takes the milestone in her stride. She chose to celebrate the March anniversary with an understated champagne and cupcake party with select customers, rather than celebrities and media.

“I’m not into big flashy party type things,” says a modest Vicki, “ I prefer to do it quietly. We’re one of those terribly loyal retailers and some of our suppliers and customers have been with us since we started.”

Taylor Boutique In Store Shelves & Racks“We ran a competition about two years ago and said to people ‘bring in your oldest piece of New Zealand merino’. So we had people, literally, digging through their cupboards and bringing in all these things, and the piece that was actually the oldest was bought on the first day I opened the store.”

New Zealand Merino and locally made product plays a strong part in the identity of the taylor brand, Vicki herself has designed the 100% New Zealand Design & Manufactured logo which is proudly displayed on all taylor garments and on their store windows. And even in tough economic times Vicki won’t consider having her product manufactured of shore.

“I couldn’t make four of something in Asia, and I wouldn’t want to. I’m very staunchly made in New Zealand. We surveyed our customers, and being made in New Zealand was a big deal to them.”

“I don’t like the little blue and gold triangle label with the kiwi on it, I think ‘how tacky is that!’ so we actually designed- hopefully- a classier looking big circle, and have now got about 12 top end design and manufacturing businesses signed up using it. It’s about pulling in New Zealand business’s who are likeminded and proudly New Zealand made.”

Vicki Taylor in storeA career in fashion was inevitable for Vicki, whose father, husband, brother and sister-in-law all work in the rag trade. But Vicki says she won’t be pushing her two young boys into the fashion industry anytime soon, “ I do love our industry, but it should be something you do because you really want to – not because it’s inherently in you. For kids as well it’s not healthy for them to have an infatuation with clothes at such a young age, it’s such a superficial industry we work in, it’s all about making people look pretty” laughs Vicki. “ My dad said to me, whatever you do – don’t go into the fashion industry.”

Taylor Boutique In StoreVicki tried studying the visual arts, but after just one year discovered that her heart lay in clothing and moved to Melbourne to complete a fashion degree. What followed was a highly successful career, made possible by a lot of hard work and determination. After achieving commercial success, as designer for Suzanne Gregory, Vicki made the decision to branch out in 1998 and form the taylor label and boutique. Two years later her husband, whose background is in men’s wear, decided to join her and make the label part of the family.

Two sons, and a second taylor location later, Vicki is now one of the nations most respected designers and a major player in the future of young New Zealand fashion. With an advisory position at AUT university Vicki is known for hiring fashion students, graduates, and aspiring designers. She was one of the first boutiques to stock young labels like SherieYvonne and Jaeha, giving the up-and-comers a opportunity to break into the tough retail market.

Taylor Boutique In Store Mannequin“I have designers approaching me all the time to stock labels,” says Vicki, “sometimes I’ll chase them down. I quite like intellectual design so it has got to be something that intrigues me, if you come to taylor you come for something different.”

Her own experience of tertiary fashion education was in Melbourne at a time when a degree in fashion wasn’t offered in New Zealand. She believes the strong business aspect of her study in Melbourne needs to be integrated into New Zealand Courses “we hated doing the economics and accounting study, but it was probably the most important part of the course. We’re turning out, at AUT and other schools, an awful lot of really great creative people, but we’re not giving them the base to run a business or make their design work in a commercial sense.”

Vicki believes the biggest mistake young designers make is ignoring their target market and designing for themselves. “We would all like to just make things we want to wear, but if that’s not your market it won’t sell. A lot of young designers put together a collection, and they do a really nice job, but they don’t get the level of finish that’s required for the market when you’re going to be selling it for four or five hundred dollars.”

Even with a dedicated following Vicki continues to seek customer feedback and analyse what her customers want. “You have to look at the commercial realities of a business” says Vicki, who believes retail training is an essential starting point for all young designers. “It’s important they can get on the shop floor and actually find out what women want.”

Taylor Boutique Shelf with Shoes

Vicki’s own intellectual designs would unlikely have reached such a level of respect if it wasn’t for her keen sense of business and involvement with the retail aspect of taylor. She now spends much of her time doing business management, human resources and on the shop floor – rather than in her workroom. Vicki oversees every aspect of the business personally, preferring to style her Look Books and merchandise the stores herself rather than hire stylists.

Taylor Boutique CounterTaylor Boutique In Store Close Up

With a young family to consider Vicki is taking any further development slowly, but plans to open a third location in the next few years. “It took me seven years to open my second store, and it’s now been five years so I’m probably just about ready to open another store, when the right place becomes available and feels right. Australia intrigues me but it scares me at the same time, they are a lot harder over there. I will let taylor get bigger but it’ll be when I’m ready and in my own time.”

taylor’s spring collection will be in store in Ponsonby and Teed Street on July 27th.

Photography Credit: Calypso Paoli

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