Born in Christchurch, Steve Dunstan grew up moving around New Zealand from Manawatu to Hawkes Bay, but now calls Auckland home.
Dunstan grew up with a passion for skateboarding and snowboarding and this introduced him to fashion in the early 90s. After finishing highschool in Auckland, Dunstan travelled to Queenstown on a Vespa with his skateboard and snowboard. “I had never been there before deciding to move there for the winter. I started following the endless winter and travelled to the US in the NZ summers to pursue my snowboarding career and dream,” he added. On his journeys, he met many people through the industry and had many great experiences including jumping out of a helicopter for a Sprite TV commercial, jumping moving cars and being in a Japanese feature film. “In the midst of this carry on the opportunity to start Huffer as a company and brand became real on April 1st 1997,” he said. He co-founded Huffer with Dan Buckely who is no longer involved with the brand. His passion for snowboarding and skateboarding heavily influenced Huffer’s first collection which was waterproof, breathable outerwear and still has an impact on the brand’s designs today.
Dunstan wanted to create something that gave an identity that represented a way of life. That also had expression, freedom, was slight rebellious, appreciation for environments being urban or outback.
Now, Dunstan is the Brand Director, the majority shareholder and has a number of other shareholdings including an executive director that he works with closely daily.
“I am lucky to be able to be close to new market opportunities for Huffer. It being new retail, Australian wholesale expansion or potential new international distribution opportunities,” he said. He is also responsible to build the brand and develop communities in conjunction with these strategies while maintaining and building a strong brand awareness in existing marketplaces. “This means that I get to travel a lot and to be honest if I am in the office for a long period of time, I am not really doing my job correctly,” Dunstan explained.
Huffer now has six stores in New Zealand, including one outlet store. They have been selling into Australia since 1999, but now have two new stores in Sydney, one in Newtown and Bondi coming soon. Dunstan is looking to expand even further with another two stores in Melbourne within the next 12-18 months.
“We developed a dedicated Australian strategy about 18-24 months ago and committed resource and focus to the market and we are now starting to see some exciting growth and opportunity. Retail for Huffer is an amazing branding opportunity that develops experiences, especially in new markets like Australia where we can speak the brand and educate the market through these experiences. This has huge upside for our wholesale opportunities as retail develops strong brand awareness and engagement for the market.”
America is next on the hit list for Huffer. They have traded there before and have invested in relationships and knowledge of the marketplace. Jumping across the hemisphere requires an in-depth product and production plan alongside a dedicated brand plan. “The US is a large market and it takes more effort and resource so we need to build our business to take that step which we are currently doing,” he added.
Being local, Dunstan is proud to be from New Zealand and is constantly inspired by people and by their cultures and communities. “The effect of NZ influencing me and Huffer is more so the undertone and attitude of the brand more than applying 'New Zealand' on everything that we do,” he said.
After 19 years on Queen Street, Huffer has moved to Britomart along with their office upstairs that houses a team of 24.