Annah Stretton started her eponymous label 22 years ago on a dairy farm, 10 minutes outside of Morrinsville. Annah was well positioned to give running her own business a go with a background of fine art and a full accountancy degree. The label was first sold to the larger generic fashion companies in this country before Annah established her own vertical chain of stores, Annahs and Annah Stretton, of which there are now 27 throughout New Zealand and Australia. Annah describes her label’s styles as highly feminine and never short of drama. The team loves loads of strong colour and a great floral print. Annah herself admits that Crocs have got to be the shoe she dislikes the most, while skinny leg jeans and pants are possibly the one trend she loves the most - well at least at the moment.
Annah Stretton has a large and varied customer base that has never been determined by age but a love for the label’s handwriting. Her customers are ageless and range from teenagers and their first ball frock, a broad cross section of wedding guests, the business owner wanting a versatile dressing capsule and those wanting day time frocking.
Annah’s advice to young designers is that to be successful in the fashion industry you have to have a good handle on the business of fashion. Fashion, as with any operation, is 80% about the business and 20% about creative content. Annah sees a massive growth in digital coming to the industry. Opening physical stores globally is an exercise in freight and frustration. Annah rightly believes that a great e-commerce friendly, digital site is not negotiable anymore, but a driver of success for NZ designers globally. For Annah, the biggest opportunity as well as challenge in this industry is the pace in which the platforms of operation are changing, driven largely by the digital landscape and the recruitment of great people.
Annah Stretton has thrived because she and her team are constantly reviewing what works and what doesn’t. In particular, the replacement of the smaller physical NZ store with the larger collaborative Birds of a Feather store in Australia has driven a stronger revenue stream for the company and got women off their computers and back into their stores shopping. Birds of a Feather are collaborative stores that have a combination of synergistic partners working together to create inspiring shopping experiences for women.
Annah’s biggest goal for Annah Stretton is to leave a legacy for women in this country that is so much more than just a great frock. She wants to change the outcomes for many women that are born into lives that continue to undermine the very fabric of the society we all live in. The formation of her own Stretton Foundation late last year and the work done through its www.raw.org.nz will certainly achieve this.