When she was 14, Desiree Turner wanted to go to a dance. She wanted something new to wear, and with the help of her mother, she was soon behind the needle making her own skirt. Two years later, having got good enough grades to skip her final year of high school, Turner began studying fashion design at Massey University in Wellington. After a stint at Rembrandt Suits, a wedding and the decision to start a family, Turner decided that she wanted to be a stay-at-home mother, and started her business. “I then had to find more and more ways to embed myself in the fashion industry, by meeting as many people in the industry as possible,” she told Apparel.
That was eight years ago, although the brand didn’t actually start until a few years into the business. “In the beginning I was doing made to measure items and a few one offs to sell at markets and on Etsy,” she explained. “The brand then began when a local store saw some of my items online and asked to put them in the store.” This season Désirée Clothing will be stocked in The Look in Hamilton, High Street Boutique in Tauranga, Loyal in Churton Park and Hebe Boutique in Masterton.
The name ‘Désirée’ is French and means ‘to be desired,’ although it wasn’t Turner’s first name. “For the first week of my life my name was Amber. Then somebody made some silly comment about the name and my mum changed my name to Desiree. I figured it was the perfect name for a fashion label, and it was fate that my name got changed!”
At the moment the majority of her business takes place through e-commerce channels, with much promotion being done over social media. “Social media has been fantastic for getting the word out there about the brand and also helps me to find potential stockists,” she said. “E-commerce is becoming more of a focus as it is a great way to deal directly with the consumer and to be able to sell in areas where we don’t have a stockist.”
Almost all Désirée items are made within the greater Wellington region, but occasionally a few things will be made in Auckland. Some items are made in-house in the Wellington workroom and the rest are sent to outworkers, who are mothers working from home running their own small businesses. “I haven’t wanted to take on a full-time staff member just yet because that is a lot of responsibility and pressure,” Turner said. “I really don't want to let stress and pressure ruin my love of the business.”
A pop-up shop has been high on her list of plans for a while now, but she is waiting for the right spot to open up at the right time. But even after eight years, there is much for Turner to love about her career.
“It still amazes me when something completely unrelated to fashion will spark an idea in my mind for a piece of clothing. Sometimes it is something someone has said or done, or it is a flower or a river that just starts a chain of thoughts in mind that results in the design of a piece of clothing. This beautiful world and the people around me are my biggest inspiration.”