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Best foot forward: Kathryn Wilson talks juggling 15 years of fashion and entrepreneurship

Kathryn Wilson is arguably New Zealand’s most celebrated footwear designer. She has been in the business for more than a decade, was the first footwear-exclusive show at New Zealand Fashion Week and continues to dominate the catwalk at the illustrious event in present day. Here, she talks the tools she uses to stay on top of her busy working schedule, as well as how she rung the brand’s 15-year anniversary this year.

Wilson is a Massey University graduate whose self-titled footwear label was born in 2003. As of 2018, the footwear brand is stocked in more than 100 local boutiques scattered around country and has a dedicated online following, too.

One milestone that the talented designer has ticked off in her career was being the first footwear-exclusive show at New Zealand Fashion Week in 2010, with this tradition carrying through to present day.

And with this year marking the brand’s 15-year anniversary, Wilson wanted to pull out all the stops to celebrate at New Zealand Fashion Week.

So how much work goes into hosting a show at this prestigious event, exactly? Wilson says there is months of planning – from casting the models, to curating the music playlist, to styling the outfit, to set design, production lighting, a seating plan, a running order of the show, media interviews, the sampling of one-off designs – the list goes on.

For entrepreneurs in the fashion industry like herself, she says it’s all up to the designer to arrange these show details, which is a pretty demanding schedule to keep up with.

“As any New Zealand small business owner knows, there is no typical day! During New Zealand Fashion Week, our priority is the wholesale appointments, showing the W’19 collections to over 50 nationwide stockists who are in Auckland for the week,” Wilson says.

“It’s a busy time where every hour is filled with appointments onsite in the trade space at New Zealand Fashion Week, along with attending shows to support friends who are on the schedule during the week.”


Kathryn Wilson's 2018 NZFW show.

For this year’s event, Wilson also had both the fashion show and a 15th anniversary tribute event post-show to plan. The latter featured an exhibition of photographs and videos of mentors and muses that have had a part to play in the Kathryn Wilson brand over the last 15 years, but she says all the effort that went into behind-the-scenes was worth it.

“This was a great way for me to acknowledge those behind the scenes who make it all happen and also those who have been my biggest cheerleaders over the years,” she says.

As far as being efficient and staying on top of juggling these different demands, Wilson says the Samsung Galaxy Note9 was an incredibly useful tool to have in the height of the craziness at New Zealand Fashion Week, as she didn’t need to worry about bringing a charger.

“The all-day battery life is a life saver during busy weeks where there is no time to stop and plug-in during the day,” she says.

But its desirable features for busy entrepreneurs go further than that. Wilson says the S-Pen that’s available with the phone is a great tool to allow her to communicate her design ideas to manufacturers easily, without needing to use Photoshop or Illustrator programmes on a desktop PC.  

“Essentially, everything can be done ‘on the go’, meaning there is less need for a sit down desk and a quiet office environment,” she says. “Having a terabyte of storage is also a saviour, as we are often working with large graphic files for approving media and artwork via emails and downloads.”

With the Kathryn Wilson New Zealand Fashion Week show attracting an audience of 1000 people and the anniversary tribute event hosting 400 guests, it’s safe to say she celebrated 15 years in the business in style. Dame Pieter Stewart also asked Wilson to give a speech at the opening ceremony to launch the 2018 event, which she says was a memorable moment.

“I was nervous as I wanted to do her proud, but also excited and honoured to be asked to represent the designers of New Zealand fashion industry,” she says.

Overall, Wilson says the highlight of the whole experience was being able to acknowledge and thank the people who have played a part in the brand over the last 15 years, and seen the brand grow to the platform it occupies today.

“It’s a wonderful energy for the Kathryn Wilson team to see the collections come to life on the catwalk and also share in a great celebration with our customers, wholesale accounts and media.”

To find out more about the Galaxy Note9, head to Samsung’s website

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