Rob Fyfe and Jeremy Moon’s architectural gamble: Why Icebreaker’s big guns didn’t check out their new Auckland HQ before moving in

Icebreaker boss Rob Fyfe is known as one of the most hands-on CEOs in New Zealand. After all, when he led Air New Zealand, he spent one day a month on the shop floor (so to speak) – cleaning toilets, handling baggage or serving drinks on planes. So how – and why – did Fyfe and Icebreaker founder Jeremy Moon decide not to take even a sneak preview into their new corporate headquarters before it was opened?

This week, merino clothing company Icebreaker moved its head office from Wellington into a newly-built complex on Auckland’s uber-trendy Ponsonby Rd.

It’s the same site that used to house the Mini garage – since dismantled, with the Mini business now operating from Newmarket. The site, between Richmond Rd and Mackelvie St features 10 retail stores, two restaurants and a café on the ground floor and (among other things) Icebreaker’s new HQ above.

Architect Jasmax was responsible for not only the main building, but the Icebreaker fit-out, with the brief involving the brand’s link with nature, and the final result featuring rammed earth walls, native timbers, a variety of wood finishes for desks, some recycled rubber flooring and goats’ wool carpet tiles.

  

Building the rammed earth walls, which are a big part of the design of the new Icebreaker headquarters in Auckland

So wouldn’t CEO Rob Fyfe and creative director (and founder) Jeremy Moon have been itching to get involved in decision making around the design and fit-out?

Apparently not.

By the time the rest of the staff moved in on Monday morning, the bosses hadn’t even snuck upstairs (from the newly-opened Icebreaker store below) for a quick peek.

 “That doesn't mean I wasn't tempted," Moon says. "But we have a fantastic team on this led by our CMO Lou Keugler and Jasmax architects.  There was no need for Rob or I to physically inspect it, as we have full trust in those guys.  It’s also more thrilling to see a design spring to life as a finished piece.  It’s like walking from your imagination into reality.”

And the million dollar question, did they like what they got?

“When I first saw the office it felt much bigger and more spacious and calm than I imagined, Moon says. "I love the high quality natural materials including wooden joinery and woollen carpet, and huge commanding windows, so we are flooded with natural light and fresh air. 

"All the internal walls tell stories and people use other walls across the space to share their work, so it’s got a real pulse and sense of energy.  Each meeting room has a different theme so it’s also richly imaginative.”