Growing up making clothes for herself and her siblings, Diane Burkhardt, owner of The Cupboard, has turned an early childhood hobby into a lifelong passion. Burkhardt trained as a patternmaker and grader before joining the team at The Cupboard in 1997. It was not long before Burkhardt launched her own label, eventually taking ownership of the business in 2006.
“Diane is becoming a rarity among modern designer in that she personally creates her garments all the way from conception, through to pattern making and fabric cutting, all out the back of her Ponsonby store in the studio workshop,” said Meredith Hancock, administrator, The Cupboard.
While the store was opened, and established a majority of its customer base in Parnell, a new Ponsonby store has become the permanent home for The Cupboard.
“Our customers are thrilled with our light and spacious Ponsonby boutique, and we know that although it was a big change, we have made the right decision. Having two stores so close to each other did not make financial sense for us,” said Hancock.
The Cupboard prides itself on offering four key services that set it apart from other boutique stores. Ethical fashion which is New Zealand design and made, bespoke tailoring and custom made design, access to personal stylists and designer consultations, and exclusive designs that can not be found anywhere else.
“Our philosophy is to delight, inspire and empower women through helping them look and feel amazing in their own skin.”
The philosophy extends itself to stylish women of all ages, customers who appreciate timeless, quality garments which are handcrafted in New Zealand.
Having been around since 1975, The Cupboard has seen its fair share of changes in the market, and for Burkhardt and the team the biggest challenge has been the impact of the internet on the fashion industry. Virality, and the constant changing of trends has put massive levels of pressure on small, locally owned businesses. The key has been in remaining flexible, and while Diane has shown an incredible aptitude for running all aspects of the business, she is now allowing herself to step back and let others take on some responsibility.
“We wouldn’t do anything differently. It’s all part of learning and we wouldn't be here today, as we are now, knowing what we do, if we had taken a different journey,” said Hancock.
Hancock’s advice to anyone looking at starting out in the retail business is to do thorough research. She explained how you need to be sure what you are offering is something an audience wants, and that you are targeting the right audience.
“Make sure you get your branding right. Things won’t always go the way you want to, and that’s to be expected. As long as you learn from it, you’ve come out better off than you were before,” said Hancock.
While The Cupboard is on board with new online communication techniques, a personal touch or a in-person conversation is always the nicest, and Hancock said many of the customers still prefer to come in and chat.
“The fabric really makes a garment, and as the look, feel and drape of fabrics can never be captured as well online as in person, in-person communication and customer service are still the biggest and most important part of what we do.”
As an established brand with more than 40 years in the industry, The Cupboard knows what it is doing and does it well. Which is why Burkhardt, Hancock and the team are contempt with continuing the highly personal service it provides while still catering to new and wide audiences.