Rachael Caughley, Caughley

Nestled down Ghuznee Street in the thriving creative heart of Wellington’s Cuba Quarter, CAUGHLEY is an ever-changing hub of independent high-quality fashion, timeless accessories, exceptional shoes, and sought-after jewellery.

Founded in 2015 by Rachael Caughley, the store is home to carefully selected pieces from coveted international brands and emerging designers. “I have no buying background,” Rachael told Apparel. “I think the shop floor is where you learn how to be the best buyer.” After taking up a part-time job at Slick Willy’s in Dunedin during her studies, Rachael fell in love with sales and the front-facing end of the business. “I’ve now had CAUGHLEY for four years, and I’ve learnt so much just talking to my customers on the floor.”

CAUGHLEY is an exclusive stockist in Wellington for a number of premium designers, including Citizens of Humanity, Georgia Alice, and Wynn Hamlyn. Rachael brought Ganni to New Zealand for the first time three years ago and is on the cusp of introducing Berlin’s Frisur and French brand Delikatessen to Kiwi shores. In a city of 400,000, Rachael has made sure she reaches as many consumers as possible. “I literally have 15-year-olds and 83-year-olds shopping with me. Great style is ageless.” Though currently a high-end boutique, Rachael is hoping to stock some lower price point brands in future, including Levi’s, Cecile Copenhagen, and Auguste. “Our clothes are special, made from good quality fabrics with great designs, so they are not cheap. But if you look after them, you’ll never have to buy that piece again.”

Being located in a smaller city allows Rachael to develop a closer relationship with her customers, many of whom are regulars. “It’s a much more curated edit than a department store,” she explained. “You have an assistant helping you, someone that knows the brand, knows you, that has met the designer, and knows the story about the brand.” By looking at products both as a buyer and customer, Rachael is able to maintain an intimate connection to her clientele that in turn fosters good business. “If I post a good Instagram post, I will sell out of something that night.”

As a young business, Rachael has been able to imbue CAUGHLEY with a sustainability ethos right from the start. As a provider of high-end fashion, product longevity is key. “I have dropped a lot of brands over the last four years,” she said. “If I get anything faulty brought back to me, it’s a massive red flag.” Rachael brought out her own range of CAUGHLEY coats after struggling to find a 100 percent wool coat. “I’ve seen $1200 coats that have polyester in them. They will pill the following season and you’ll be wanting to buy another one – that’s not sustainable fashion.” By educating and engaging her customers about the history and traceability of their products, Rachael is able to encourage them to spend a bit extra to ensure they’re buying the real deal.

CAUGHLEY’s online presence has been central to the boutique’s journey. “Our online constantly surprises me,” said Rachael. “The amount of people coming to us online and via Instagram is fantastic.” In future, she hopes to get off the shop floor more often and craft a website that is as high-end as her bricks and mortar store. “I want to post more journal articles, more content online replicating what I love to do in-store – give people the confidence to wear clothes they feel amazing in.” But Rachael’s plans for expansion are moderate, and she is keen to avoid becoming a mass-market store. “We want to be unique and special. But we are always aware of the price point and making beautiful clothes accessible. What I love most about this business is it's always changing and you never have it sorted, you are always learning.”

Looking ahead to the coming season, Rachael forecast a splash of colour and patterns, a trend she is hoping to capitalise on with her own branded clothing. “Sometimes I feel there is a bit of discord between designers and what real women I talk to every day want to buy, so I want the CAUGHLEY brand to be able to cater women walking in off the street.” Alongside a rise in colour, she predicted a corresponding decline in black. “But it will never die for me,” she joked. “Also, skinny jeans are on the way out. But it’s funny, because dealing with the general public, some customers would rather die before they get out of skinny jeans. So we will continue to stock them.”

Designers interested in joining CAUGHLEY’s portfolio should contact Rachael via email at hello@caughley.com, though she suggested a more effective technique. “I get a lot of daily emails, so the most powerful thing you can do is front up in-store with your clothing and force me to look at it.”

For more information, visit www.caughley.com.