Kelly Coe on the Secret to Augustine's Success

Ahead of NZ Fashion Weekend, Augustine founder Kelly Coe talks style, shoes and creating a successful brand

Augustine founder Kelly Coe. Picture / Supplied

Ahead of her sell-out show as part of NZ Fashion Weekend tomorrow, we asked Augustine founder Kelly Coe about what it takes to run a successful business, gaining a loyal following and maintaining a work/life balance.

Tell us a little about the collection you’ll be showing this weekend?
We’re showing five brands this year so it’s going to be a jam-packed show designed to entertain the audience from start to finish.

We are showing Augustine’s summer collection, which arrives in store two weeks after the show; Charlo Summer which will have just landed in store; Stella Royal Summer which will see plus size models take to the catwalk; Hey Monday shoes which will be launching two weeks after the show and our new label, Amaya, which will only just be launching a week prior to the show when we open our new Wellington store. There’s a lot happening.

What can people expect from the show?
I believe our customers want to see more than just a fashion show with models walking down the catwalk, without smiles or accessories for 10 minutes. They want an experience, they want to be part of the Augustine world for the 40 minutes of the show and they will be expecting colour, bling and excitement.

We will be delivering just that — we’ll have hip-hop dancers, glitter falling from the sky, helium balloons, models covered in glitter, floral headpieces 40cm high, music videos on the big screen, amazing music and some giveaways thrown into the crowd.We want this to be the show of the weekend which everyone will be talking about for days ... it’s going to be so much fun!

WATCH: Insiders Share Their Fashion Week Memories

The show sold out before public tickets even went on sale, a record for NZFW — your fans are so passionate and loyal. What do you think is behind that? |
Yes, we sold 700 tickets within hours, before it went public, which is very humbling and exciting. I love how loyal our customers are in a world where they have so much choice in fashion labels. It is delightful they continue to choose us each season. I think the fact they feel like they are a part of the brand and part of the community which is Augustine — that is what makes it so successful. We have never tried to be the ‘‘cool’’ high-end brand; it’s never been about being in the cool magazines and having overseas bloggers sit front row at our shows. It’s always been about the customers and they come first.

Our front row will be filled with our customers and staff and that’s the way it should be. It’s a show for the customers and it’s relatable, and that’s why it works.

What do you have planned next?
We are about to launch shoes, which seemed like a natural progression from clothing as I was always being asked where my shoes are from on my Facebook posts. It was a lost sales opportunity, pushing customers to other stores to buy them. We are also launching our new label, Amaya, at Fashion Week, which is a new direction for us in simpler, clean lines and a very timeless collection. It will sit alongside our bright and colourful labels in our stores to offer pieces for the slightly less flamboyant customer. We have also just opened our Wellington store so we will be putting a lot of time and energy into that. We always have something fresh, new and exciting in the pipeline and keep pushing the boundaries to be relevant and new.

READ: Augustine Dipping a Toe into Footwear

You love colour — and pink! Tell us about your love of colour, and where that came from?
Haha, yes, I own a lot of pink, I am all about blush pink tones at the moment. I’ve always been drawn to colour, in clothing, home interiors and travel. Colour makes me happy, it is interesting and exciting. It makes people happy seeing colour; it’s uplifting and mood-changing.

There is way too much black in New Zealand and that is so obvious at an event like Fashion Week. But not at our show! I am confident there will be a sea of Augustine colour in the audience. I’m a strong believer in the power of colour — wear a colourful print dress for a day and see how many compliments you get; that doesn’t happen in black.

What are your top tips for spring dressing?
Wear colour! So simple. Spring is the time to start embracing some soft colour palettes in knits and tran-seasonal pieces. You can start to lose the layers and wear softer chiffon pieces. I love wearing floaty chiffon dresses with metallic sneakers. Floral prints are always popular and so relevant in spring.

What are the top five beauty products you swear by?
Tricky question as I am one of those people that switch and change products so often. But a great self-tanning mousse is so important coming into spring, I use J Bronze dark mousse. Hair extensions are a must for me as my natural hair is very thin - I get mine done at Loxy’s in Ponsonby. A good shampoo and conditioner is also so important - I love Kerestase Nutritive Shampoo as it makes my hair feel and smell amazing.

Concealer and mascara are so important when you have a baby and get up a lot at night. I have a lot of concealers which I blend together, and L’Oreal lash architect mascara is amazing – it makes me look far more awake than I am! I have about seven lipglosses on the go at any time and hate being without it. I have a great one from Estee Lauder; I like a soft peach colour. And finally perfume, for which I have an addiction. I don’t shop for clothes so I replace that with perfume, I have so many and just mix and match everyday. I love to smell nice, haha.

How do you try to keep a balanced lifestyle and stay fit and healthy? 
"Try" is the key word here as that really is all you can do when you are a working mum. I run four to five times a week. I would love to go back to gym classes but just don’t have the time. I eat healthy meals but then I treat myself to lollies and chocolate and wine as well. I will have a healthy dinner then a wine and chocolate for dessert.

As for a life balance, I work school hours mostly so that I can see my kids after school and take them to their after-school activities, I watch their swimming lessons and gymnastics classes which is a luxury of having our own business. We also ensure we have a date night every few weeks as we love eating out, although the conversation always involves some business as well.

What are you reading, listening to and watching at the moment?
I don’t read anymore. I find by the time I get to sit down at night I just want to relax and watch TV and my brain is too fried to read. I am addicted to Netflix though, I just love watching TV with no ads and getting emersed into another world for an hour. Have watched Suits, Homeland, Shameless, The Killing, Designated Surivior and now I’m on to The Blacklist.

What’s your morning routine?
Not sure it’s a routine as much as a sprint. My daughter Havana wakes at 5am so [husband] Nathan entertains her while I get an extra hour sleep as she wakes in the night still. We then race around making lunches, getting uniforms on, brushing teeth, I get about 20 minutes alone/with at least two kids visiting wanting something, to shower, do my hair and make-up and choose what to wear. Then I do school drop off and get to work about 9am. It’s a team effort and Nathan is amazing with the kids. He went away for a week for work a few weeks ago and I actually nearly died doing the mornings without him.

Who are your role models or mentors?
My mentor in business has always been Nathan - he has such a great business mind and is creative as well as business minded. Sounds cheesy to say he is my mentor, but there would be no Augustine without him. As for a role model I just don’t have one. There are plenty of ladies in business, fashion and arts that I admire and think are doing amazing things, but they aren’t my role models. I think in order to create your own path and niche in the world it’s often easier not to have a role model. Just do your own thing and do it well.

What are three business tips you would share with someone looking to start their own company?
 Be unique and have a product or an angle that is fresh and new.

 Love your product and believe in it 100 per cent or it will never work.

 Walk before you can run and never give up. Ever.

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