Fashion has always been a part of Achilles-Dunseath’s life. As a child she would be choosing fabrics for her mother to make her clothes, then would use the offcuts to practice on the sewing machine making outfits for her dolls. “There are a lot of people out there who said I couldn’t be a designer, that fashion is not a valid career,” she told Apparel. “But my goal isn’t necessarily to be an expert; it’s to express myself, find personal freedom and make a living doing the things I love.”
The impetus for Anyone’s Daughter came in 2006, when Achilles-Dunseath’s daughter ended up in hospital at only four weeks old. This coincided with the fashion company she was working for restructuring and moving from Tauranga to Auckland, leaving Achilles-Dunseath with two preschool children, no job and a mortgage. “It was suggested to me that I just use my own name but Erika Achilles-Dunseath is difficult to pronounce and spell,” she said. “I played around with my initials and a concept for a logo and eventually settled on just the A D and the name Anyone’s Daughter.”
Femininity with a street wise attitude quickly became Anyone’s Daughter’s calling card, described by Achilles-Dunseath as “a laid back yet luxurious mix of wearable pieces with casual sexiness conveyed in the final details, textural contrasts, uncomplicated layering, combined with a moody palette and reasonable price points.”
Anyone’s Daughter is proudly New Zealand designed and made, with the majority of production taking place in Tauranga and Mt Maunganui. Achilles-Dunseath prefers to design rather than manufacture – “I don’t have the patience to sew all day, my sample machinists are bloody miracle workers!” Before designs and patterns are fully finalised and proper specification sheets are made, everyone refers to Achilles-Dunseath’s handwritten notes and hand drawn sketches. If there are any issues, she is only down the road, a key advantage of being locally made.
Anyone’s Daughter doesn’t use large factories, and most of the team work flexible hours, often from their own homes. “I am proud to know all these people personally and many of their families too,” she said. “They are a total wealth of skill and knowledge. I'd be lost without them!”
Social media plays a key role in the way Achilles-Dunseath interacts with her customers and shares information. “Since I make everything in NZ, I have been able to share a lot of behind the scenes info, take people behind the scenes.” Sharing the process is just as important as sharing the product, but don’t tell her that the product speaks for itself – “What a load of crap. It doesn't. More and more people want to know where things come from, how they are made and who made them. The stories you tell can have a huge effect on the way your customers understand your work and how they value it.”
Anyone’s Daughter is currently available online and in selected boutiques throughout New Zealand, Australia and the USA, but Achilles-Dunseath would like to one day have her own flagship store. “I think brick and mortar stores offer customers the opportunity to have contact with the brand more directly,” she explained. “When you’re doing that through shops that are not your own, the experience that the customer gets is limited.”