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Phoenix on the rise

Big things are ahead for local label Phoenix Cosmetics.

Big things are ahead for local label Phoenix Cosmetics.

Phoenix Renata had a big year in 2005. She turned 21, welcomed a daughter into the world – and launched a business.

Phoenix Renata

But for those who know Renata, that wasn’t surprising. Starting her own cosmetics brand was always a dream, and after leaving school early to pursue a career in the industry, she worked in fashion, film and television. But it was a job as a make-up artistry tutor that gave her the confidence to take the leap, even without any formal business training.

Six years on, Phoenix Cosmetics is well and truly on a growth trajectory. The brand is expanding into Wellington, Tauranga and Dunedin, and its first overseas store is set to open in Melbourne, which Renata says is fitting given it’s the fashion capital of Australia.

While establishing Phoenix nationwide on a small budget had its challenges, Renata says she simply ensured the core brand and shop model were rock solid.

“As long as the model was good to begin with there’s no reason why it shouldn’t succeed somewhere else,” she says.

“If you have really good customer service and really good product, and you’re offering it to people who actually want it and need it in the right location, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t succeed.”

A key part of that model is designer Annah Stretton, who serves as both a mentor and business partner.

“It started off with me doing her make-up for shows,” says Renata. “She approached me with the opportunity to open a store with her in Pukekohe and it progressed from there.

“She’s got the experience, she’s got the knowledge and she’s done all the hard groundwork so I feel really privileged to be able to work alongside her and grow my brand with her brand.”

Six of Phoenix’s 10 stores are joint ventures with Stretton, including the Birds of a Feather retail venue in Hamilton, which incorporates a variety of labels much like a department store. It’s a warm, welcoming space for customers, she says, complete with coffee and cake.

“It’s really interactive – make-up artists give second opinions to customers on outfits they might be looking at and vice versa.”

Renata says the ‘store within a store’ setup works because their markets are very similar and the brands complementary.

“Everything that we do is really beautiful. It’s not hard, edgy and funky, it’s about romance and glamour,” she says

“I just want women to not be intimidated when they come into the shop and to have a really relaxing, pampered experience.”

Renata, who’s passionate about art, photography, history and all things creative, draws inspiration from the cosmetic boutiques of the 1930s.

What sets Phoenix apart, she says, is the fact that it’s the only independent retail cosmetics brand in New Zealand. In addition to its product range, it offers beauty school lessons, workshops, and make-up services for occasions from school balls to weddings; the artists at the three Auckland stores are often booked up weeks ahead.

Phoenix launched its newest collection – the Art Deco Dollface range – at Fashion Weekend in September. Although it was only the second such show for Phoenix, it’s caught the eye of local glitterati, with Shortland Street stars Faye Smythe and Kimberley Crossman among those who took to the stage as models.

But it’s still early days for the company; Renata has big plans to take it international, starting with Australia, the UK, and eventually the US.

Luckily, she’s never shied away from the hard yards.

“It’s not work for me, it’s my passion,” she says.

“There’s never a day when I wake up and don’t want to come to work.”